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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Music war looms

7 September 2018

Music, everyone loves it and those who trade in it stand to make a huge amount of money from it.

The traditional business model for making money out of music has been for recording studios to sign up promising new acts, fund their albums, throw some promotion their way, hand out some payola to radio stations then sit back and wait for the money to roll in.

Okay, things have changed a bit over the years but by and large, this has been the simple path to riches, if you're a recording label.

As a result of this, we've seen some huge names get involved in the music publishing industry. EMI, WMG, Sony and others, to name but a few.

But things are changing and I pick there's probably going to be a war in the very near future, as the old school and new school duke it out for their share of the riches.

In the old-school camp we have the traditional music publishers (such as EMI, etc). In the new-school camp we have the likes of Spotify and other streaming companies which have replaced music retailers as the interface between product and consumer.

Spotify and its ilk are not stupid. They can see the opportunity that now presents itself for getting rid of the middle-man and signing up artists themselves. Bypassing the record labels means that a huge chunk of the profits formerly taken by those labels could be redistributed to artists and the streaming company alike.

What's not to like?

If, as at least one speculative report suggests, Spotify were to start signing artists directly, I'm pretty sure the recording labels would not take such a move lying down.

I could see the old-school labels rapidly withdrawing streaming rights from Spotify and moving to set up their own equivalent streaming services.

From a consumer's perspective, this would be both a good and a bad thing.

On the one hand, a price war could ensue as each side tries to woo the public with unbeatable offers. On the other hand however, it could fragment things to the point where being able to listen to all the music you wanted could require signing up for several different streaming services.

Will Spotify take the initiative and start signing artists?

To be honest, I really don't know. As an "old fart", I'm not really up with contemporary music trends and have probably already bought all the music I'm likely to buy. Although the wife spends a lot of her day plugged into Spotify, I'm not sure she'd bother if if she had to sign up to several different streaming services and she'd probably go back to getting me to rip her favourite tracks onto her phone.

Which raises an interesting point...

If you kill the ease and convenience of a service such as Spotify, what will that do to piracy rates?

Like so many people my age, I have the entire works of The Beatles on vinyl. I have, therefore purchased a life-long right to listen to that music without further payment (at least in my opinion). How pissed off was I therefore, when I discovered that virtually all The Beatles' tracks had been removed from YouTube?

It was so convenient to have a playlist of my favourite tracks (via YouTube) on the computer so that I could listen along while I worked. Now... they're all gone!

So what will I do?

That's easy... I'll just load up a USB drive with MP3 files of those tracks and use them.

The irony?

Well instead of getting a share of the ad-revenues that they *were* getting from my YouTube listening, the owners of The Beatles' copyright now get nothing --zero, zilch!

Hey boys, you might want to change your socks... there's a lot of blood on those ones already!

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