Talking Heads Frontman on Streaming Services: 'Our Future as a Musical Culture Looks Grim'

David Byrne questions future of streaming led music industry.

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Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has written a blog post for the Guardian newspaper about the impact that streaming services such as Spotify have had on the music industry. As Byrne notes (via NME), these services could have significant negative impact on artists’ revenue streams in the future: "The amounts these services pay per stream is minuscule - their idea being that if enough people use the service those tiny grains of sand will pile up. Domination and ubiquity are therefore to be encouraged. We should readjust our values because in the web-based world we are told that monopoly is good for us. The major record labels usually siphon off most of this income, and then they dribble about 15-20% of what's left down to their artists." He also notes that artists cannot sustain themselves exclusively on the income from streaming services, and that the system is particularly hard on new artists: "In future, if artists have to rely almost exclusively on the income from these services, they'll be out of work within a year. Some of us have other sources of income, such as live concerts, and some of us have reached the point where we can play to decent numbers of people because a record label believed in us at some point in the past. But up-and-coming artists don't have that advantage - some haven't got to the point where they can make a living on live performances and licensing.

"What's at stake is not so much the survival of artists like me, but that of emerging artists and those who have only a few records under their belts (such as St. Vincent, my current touring partner, who is not exactly an unknown). Many musicians like her, who seem to be well established, well known and very talented, will eventually have to find employment elsewhere or change what they do to make more money. Without new artists coming up, our future as a musical culture looks grim. A culture of blockbusters is sad, and ultimately it's bad for business. That's not the world that inspired me when I was younger. Many a fan (myself included) has said that 'music saved my life,' so there must be some incentive to keep that lifesaver available for future generations." What do you think? Do you agree with Byrne’s prognosis? Are you a musician whose revenue stream has been affected by Spotify? Let us know in the comments.

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Definitely better than piracy. Best if they look into directly signing with streaming services rather than letting record labels take a cut. Also good not to shame fans doing it legally whether they like the method or not. I listen to torch music and spotify to be decent, and if they don't like that I'll go right back to stealing
    We already know a lot of today's music sucks...Thanks David! ..... How about fixing this and giving us a Talking Heads reunion!
    He's not saying that today's music sucks, he's saying that musicians don't have a chance with the current structure of online streaming services.