A recent interview with the CEO of Spotify spurred a major music industry controversy: billionaire CEO Daniel Ek said his streaming service enables more musicians to “live off their art” while artists themselves argued that streaming royalties aren’t enough to live on, especially while touring is on pause because of COVID-19. Legacy artists, such as R.E.M., clearly resent how streaming has impacted a royalty model that worked well for them.
We want to focus on what’s missing in this conversation. Platforms like Spotify have opened up opportunities for musicians to share their music commercially, who never would have had that chance under the previous format. The ‘golden age’ of the music industry isn’t a model we should be praising or replicating. Rather, let’s continue to create new means for access and diversity in artistry. The ability for musicians to devote years to create a masterpiece album, backed up with powerhouse promotion, is a privileged status accessible to very few artists.
Let’s celebrate what technology has given us, and expand on it. Brands, especially, can help up-and-coming musicians bypass traditional industry gatekeepers by sharing their platforms. Brands that elevate new artists create value for their consumers by delivering relevant, curated music discovery. Authentic collaborations will be key here, and brands should leverage the full range of the music spectrum to find the right fit for their brands’ style.
Innovators will be rewarded, as we saw with Erykah Badu’s Quarantine Concert Series, broadcast straight from her Dallas bedroom. Brands, who previously sponsored tours and stadiums, should collaborate with artists to reinvent what fan engagement looks like in our new world of digital-first social distancing. Think beyond virtual live shows; young adults covet access to artists’ personal interests, tastes, and spaces, and to create connections beyond anything we’ve seen before. It’s high time the music industry embraces its ‘new normal,’ that artists rise to meet it — and that brands continue to support innovative means of connection between artists and audiences.