The great gear shift in digital music—the one that took us from Napster piracy, through iTunes, to the enormous, on-demand library of Spotify—took little more than a decade.
We all live in Lester Bangs’ basement now.
I’d just moved to the US when Spotify appeared, almost out of nowhere. It felt different, looked different. What was this European revelation? Music online was a hard market, and streaming was even harder, in part because the labels like it that way. But Spotify outflanked its rivals, sometimes in good ways. It also bullied artists. It was part of a class that arrived with a pile of investment cash to burn as it elbowed its way into a market and then, on top of the mountain, installed itself as a new middleman.
Now it’s like an old glove. It doesn’t really fit me any more, but it’s comfortable and I know it. But it’s worn away in all the places that feel familiar.
Today, Spotify’s under a different kind of pressure. A kind that won’t just go away.
The change came when the platform dipped into publishing. It branched out into podcasting. It started rolling up the industry as much as possible. It paid Joe Rogan $100m to capture his audience, since when he has made googoo eyes at all kinds of rightwing ideology, brought in guests who issue misleading claims about covid, and promoted ivermectin. Disinformation expert Renee Diresta went on Rogan’s show: she says the audience hated her.
So Neil Young started a new sort of pushback: Spotify is free to do what it wants, but artists aren’t obliged to help it make money. You don’t have to be a platform for everything, and you don’t have to be on every platform.
Everyone has their opinions. Daniel Ek has guidelines.
Me? I stopped giving it my money. There are better options.
• “Two thirds of publishing is about failure”
• Don’t try to be a publisher and a platform at the same time
• Lester Bangs from the trailer for Creem: America’s Only Rock n Roll Magazine
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