My son is still very sick and I haven’t slept much, or I would write about this a bit more…but here is an email I wrote to Bob Lefsetz in reply to his post about a NYTimes story I was quoted in the other day.
From: Zoe Keating
Subject: Re: New York Times On Streaming
I’m totally asking for it by replying, but how can I resist? Plus my toddler is throwing up every hour, so there is no sleep tonight.
As the artist featured in this NYTimes article, I feel horribly misrepresented and I have to straighten out a few things.
I got into the commenting-on-Spotify business last year when it seemed that no one was questioning all their marvelous marketing materials. I felt like it was my civic duty to point out that:
1) the streaming payouts are stacked against unlabeled artists (ie. majors have a stake and get a share of the ad revenue)
2) Psy-style uber-popularity is not the only model out there. The millions and millions of streams needed to makeup for sales are not ever going to be a reality for non-mainstream music, but that does not mean anyone should throw in the towel.
I decided to go the unlabeled route when my brand of cello music didn’t spark much excitement in the people I appealed to (unless I added vocals to it, said one exec). The first year or so without my tech-job-cushion was rocky, but I’ve found the economics of no-middlemen to be good. I’m not mega direct-to-fan like my friend Amanda Palmer but I’m not struggling by any definition. It takes a lot of work but I can support my family on music, take them with me on tour and don’t worry much about money. I don’t feel a need to be any larger. Actually, I don’t see how I can be much larger…. when I’m not sleeping or being with my son, every second is spent on making and performing music or doing music biz. But I’m truthfully, extremely happy and thankful, exactly where I am right now. (The MUSIC I’m never satisfied with that though….always iterating, tweaking, expanding, iterating, iterating, iterating).
I don’t want to be an anomaly. I want others to get into this place too. If you’re fringe, do it yourself! I started posting my earnings online not to whine but because I realized that few people, even artists themselves, seem to have any facts about how the money actually works.
Without the internet my unlabeled career would not be possible and I’m very bullish on the future. I’m not against streaming by any means. I’ve put my music wherever someone might hear it….including onto filesharing sites (gasp). That said, companies do not have our (artists) best interests built into their business plans. Perhaps not maliciously…. they just might not know what our interests are. I feel it my responsibility to educate these companies as to what we need…in order to make the music industry work for everyone, high, mid and low.
If we don’t like the world we live in, it’s up to us to either change it… or change our perception of it. Beyond contributing music, I feel like can’t do much about pointless wars, or climate change, or mass shootings, or all the other huge issues in the news every day, but I feel like I might be able to do something about this tiny little streaming thing. I’ve been engaging with these issues with the goal of encouraging digital music services to incorporate the needs of artists, not just record labels. What are those needs? Linking of avid listeners with artists for concert tickets, merch, music purchases, etc; crowdsourcing tours; providing listener stats and location data, maybe even emails; your idea here, etc, etc. Lift all the little boats. If this quixotic strategy doesn’t work, then I guess I’ll have to change my perception instead.
I was disappointed in the NYTimes article….like I’m often disappointed in the press. A 30 minute interview full of nuance squashed down to one sentence taken out of context and used to prove some other point. I know, I know, I’m naive. I’ll keep trying.
Thanks much, Zoe
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- canada-isnt-real said: Really great reply! I always enjoy hearing your take on the streaming thing, haha.
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