I think the main problem with the music industry is that it is refusing to innovate. It has had to deal with a massive drop in record sales despite a resurgence in vinyl sales, but the industry is attacking the likes of YouTube instead of working with it. You don’t see the advertising industry attacking ad blockers; they are looking for alternative methods to market and advertise instead. The music industry’s backlash against free streaming goes against what the consumers want. It’s really vitriolic, too. Consider Thom Yorke, who compared streaming services to stealing art ‘like Nazis during World War II’ at the end of last year.
Jay Z’s Tidal’s monthly charge (£20) is too high – especially in a market in which Spotify is already criticised for charging too much – and its curated content is terrible. When I tried the free trial, Pharrell Williams’ curated content was in German and Britney Spears’ biography included details of her breakdown! And it’s arguable whether there’s any difference between Tidal’s lossless audio and the high-quality Ogg vorbis files used by Spotify.
What people find more grating is that it’s the really successful artists who have a real problem with streaming services. Emerging artists tend to appreciate getting their music out there. Then, there’s the likes of Apple, which is pushing major music labels to force streaming services like Spotify to abandon their free tiers, which will dramatically reduce the competition for Apple’s upcoming offering. But you can’t just take away streaming services just because the biggest record companies don’t like it.
There are artists who are being innovative. I don’t mean the likes of Beyoncé, whose ‘visual’ album Lemonade was given an HBO world premiere screening before becoming exclusively available on her husband’s streaming service. That wouldn’t have worked if she wasn’t such a big star already. I think Frank Ocean, who released his second studio album on Apple Music along with a physical fanzine, has discovered his artistic value and using it to innovate. I also like what FKA Twigs is doing by creating outside of her music. Her album and EPs are artworks in their own right, meaning consumers appreciate the physical over the digital.
Fabian is co-founder of Bang Tidy Music, which is due to relaunch mid-September www.bangtidymusic.co.uk; www.twitter.com/bangtidymusic