I’ve been thinking more about Google/YouTube’s new music streaming service terms – the ones that require your whole library, that require 320bps source, that require five year terms, and so on. I wrote about it last week, talking about how Google is letting the old labels dictate away crowdfunding rewards and the like.
But I’ve been doing more thinking since that. It’s been churning in my brain. And I’ve realised the five-year term, the 320bps requirement, and whole library thing have a combined intent.
And that intent is to take away literally every last music sale you might make. As in, every last music sale.
It’s not presented as such, of course. I think they want artists to think of it as radio that pays. But two of the big streaming service problems have been 1. quality (smaller concern) and 2. stability of material (huge concern). All the television streaming services, for example, have been plagued by shows getting yanked on and off and moving around. Customers find that annoying.
Meanwhile, you have the label involvement, discussed before. They were, from all reports, pretty tightly into this new set of terms. And one of the big problems for the labels the last several years has been the rise of indie artists. The crowdfunding/long-tail model has given indie artists something more to live on, ways to make money outside of the label ecosystem.
This solves both sets of “problems.” Think about it:
Google will have everything you do for five years, listen-anytime, at functionally CD quality. They’ll have everything, and they’ll have it first, at optimal quality. What’s that mean?
It means Google/YouTube Music service members will have no reason to buy any goddamn thing from any artist which is on the service. No more early-access advantages to entice crowdfunding backers. No more deep tracks on albums to discover. No more alt-takes, no more remixes, no more mailing-list exclusives – Google will have it all. Not exclusively, of course! But they’ll have it.
If I’m reading this right, then even if you hold out on them – you don’t upload some tracks, in violation of the agreement – if and when somebody else does, and they identify it as yours, they’ll add it to the service automatically. Tell me I’m wrong (even though I’m not) because that’s what this sounds like:
So even if you don’t explicitly deliver us every single song in your catalog if we have assets and they are fingerprinted by content ID to contain that music then it will be included to the subscription service…
— Zoë Keating’s Google rep., in conversation with Zoë
Which means there’s no more reason to buy anything from you. No reason for anyone to deal with you at all.
Five years is a long time. There will be no long tail – at least, not for you. It’s all going to them. Five years is also plenty long enough to keep you locked in once you figure all this out. And five years is more than long enough to try to make this the new standard.
That’s the point of this whole contract. To take everything else away, and thereby, to reinstate a kind of 1971, one managed by making both unlimited internet distribution and piracy completely irrelevant.
I have to say – it’s brilliant. It end-runs around the post-scarcity environment entirely, by co-opting it. The pirates and illegal uploaders will make sure your entire catalogue is up there, even if you hold out, and it’ll be included whether you like it or not – it’s genius!
Meanwhile, they’re “giving the music away” so you can’t make any money on it, stopping you from being able to reward patrons and backers so you can’t make any money there either, and tossing you a sharecropper’s pittance in ad revenue as a reward. And even that is a pittance you can never hope to make on your own. You don’t – and can’t – have the numbers.
It’s a plan that takes away the entire internet/indie route as they understand it. It’s to make them – both the old labels and Google, in alliance – the only viable path. It’s a plan to make it so that once again, you have to go through them.
And we all know what that has always meant, don’t we?
Run. Run like hell.
This is Part Eleven of Music in the Post-Scarcity Environment, a series of essays about, well, what it says on the tin. In the digital era, duplication is essentially free and there are no natural supply constraints which support scarcity, and therefore, prices. What the hell does a recording musician do then?