Is there a fair solution? And does it matter? Historically, musicians who weren’t among the top pop stars were never well-paid – isn’t that just the way it goes if you decide to make music your calling? Like writers and fine artists, most of them will never make a living doing exclusively what they love doing? Is this griping equivalent to Metallica’s complaint about Napster – viewed by many as the moaning of a bunch of fat cats who were out of touch? Were recording artists simply spoiled for a few decades and now those days are gone? Even Wagner was always in debt and slept with rich women to get funding – so nothing’s new, right? I know quite a few fine artists who teach – presumably to make ends meet and to allow them the freedom to do what they want. But I don’t see hordes of band-members getting comfy spots in universities anytime soon.
The larger question is that if free or cheap streaming becomes the way we consume all (recorded) music and indeed a huge percentage of other creative content – TV, movies, games, art, porn – then perhaps we might stop for a moment and consider the effect these services and this technology will have, before “selling off” all our cultural assets the way the big record companies did. If, for instance, the future of the movie business comes to rely on the income from Netflix’s $8-a-month-streaming-service as a way to fund all films and TV production, then things will change very quickly. As with music, that model doesn’t seem sustainable if it becomes the dominant form of consumption. Musicians might, for now, challenge the major labels and get a fairer deal than 15% of a pittance, but it seems to me that the whole model is unsustainable as a means of supporting creative work of any kind. Not just music. The inevitable result would seem to be that the internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left. Writers, for example, can’t rely on making money from live performances – what are they supposed to do? Write ad copy?