Are The Black Keys right to hate on Spotify?
The band has been notoriously testy about streaming services like Spotify that offer scant revenues to most artists, and created a stir when they announced they’d withhold their new album “El Camino” from streaming.
Drummer Patrick Carney escalated the beef yesterday, calling Spotify head Sean Parker “an asshole” and saying, “I honestly don’t want to see Sean Parker succeed in anything.”
Carney went on, “I like to make money. If it was fair to the artist we would be involved in it,” and said he imagines that if Spotify’s subscription model becomes popular enough, iTunes will roll out a rival service that will pay higher royalty fees to artists.
On one hand, it’s hard not to feel for Carney: Musicians just aren’t making the kind of money they were 20 or even 15 years ago. On the other hand, you can’t fight the tide of technology any more than you can turn back time.
An email this morning from music analysis company Musicmetric shows that The Black Keys are the second most pirated artist playing this year’s Coachella, right behind Snoop Dogg. The company analyzed illegal downloads through BitTorrent and found The Black Keys beat out Radiohead as the second most downloaded artist playing one of the US’s biggest music festivals.
The implied argument is that music fans will use the internet to listen to The Black Keys in the most economical way possible (i.e. free) and that they should be happy to get something from Spotify rather than nothing through illegal BitTorrent downloads.
Spotify became the number-two revenue source for digital music in Europe last year behind iTunes, and Carney’s comments came after Parker predicted at SxSW that Spotify would actually generate more money for the music industry than iTunes over the next two years.
In one way, Carney sounds like the SOPA curmudgeons who want to force content back into the genie bottle of old-fashioned mediums. The reality is that movies and music—everything, really—is going into the cloud, and there’s no turning back. But at least he seems open to the idea of a more profitable cloud: “The idea of a streaming service, like Netflix for music, I’m totally not against it. It’s just we won’t put all of our music on it until there are enough subscribers for it to make sense.”
[Correction: an earlier version of this article listed the email cited as having come from Spotify's PR.]