I’ve been talking to guitarist Marc Ribot lately about the ways in which cultural policy, or lack thereof, challenges the creative music community of which he is a shining light—about musicians and venues being essentially priced out of downtown Manhattan neighborhoods they helped put on the map through cultural achievements. (If you want some background on those issues, try this Youtube clip of a City Hall demonstrationfrom 2007.)
I’ve also been listeningto Ribot’s CD, “Live at the Village Vanguard” (Pi), which should make many Top 10 lists, and through its inclusion of bassist Henry Grimes and its allusions to the legacy of Albert Ayler, speaks of the legacy Ribot taps.
But Ribot’s music and his activism is wide-ranging in its considerations and its reach. As president of the Content Creators Coalition (c3), he is conducting a study of the economic impact of Spotify and other streaming services on their artist members.
Which led to the following post by Ribot’s to The New York Times online opinion pages, titled: “If Streaming Represents the Future of Music, Then My Own Future is Looking Grim.”
If streaming represents the future of music, then my own future is looking grim.
In its first year of streaming on Spotify, my band Ceramic Dog earned 112.80 euros in Europe and $47.12 in the United States from our album “Your Turn.”The album cost over $15,000 to make. By contrast, CD sales on earlier albums netted us between $4,000 and $9,000.
Now, maybe the market knows best, and the world is in fact better off without artists like me. I make no claims for my own work, but people need to understand what that means for the culture. Indie artists may only constitute 38 percent of market share, but they represent well over 90 percent of working musicians, and a great majority of works released.
Spotify likes to say that they are already paying 70 percent to rights holders. However, this does not mean that their model is sustainable for artists. If the type of music I make is no longer sustainable, you can kiss most jazz, classical, folk, experimental, and a whole lot of indie bands goodbye.
Photo by Roberto Serra – Iguana Press/Getty Images