Tom Dunne's Music & Me: Luka Bloom was right, and Spotify should pay more 

Tom Dunne's Music & Me: Luka Bloom was right, and Spotify should pay more 
Luka Bloom bravely decided not to release his album via Spotify. 

Luka Bloom nailed it: Spotify is no craic.

It’s doing what Record Companies used to do – exploiting your music - but is doing it without the charm. The foreplay is gone. There’s no offering to buy you a drink with your own money, telling you how great you are but naming someone else’s songs. You just wake up in bed with them, penniless and exhausted.

This should not come as any great surprise. ‘Business’ has been exploiting the ‘show’ for a very long time. This, I suspect, is no accident. It became illegal to own a man and everything he produced, but if you could get him to sign a contact saying “I am good with this,” Bob became your uncle, and lifelong income stream.

And it never really changed. The first contract offered to us by Virgin records was like a land grab. Had we signed it they’d nearly own my children.

Amongst its many clauses was one stating that if intelligent life was ever discovered on another planet we were signed to Virgin on that planet too, and at a lower royalty rate.

The upside was making music. The downside was it was like asking your ma for pocket money for the next five years. When we signed they arranged a London show but refused to pay accommodation. That would have cost £200. We slept on a friend’s floor.

The next day Virgin took us for lunch. It was sushi. Iggy Pop was there. It cost £400.

We learned from this. Accommodation was the ‘tour support’ budget, which was small. Meals however were the ‘entertainments’ budget which was vast. And, better still, It might be Something Happens having the meal, but it could well be Phil Collins paying for it.

Abuse followed. In the US, eight weeks into a three-month tour we had to bring some competition winners to dinner after the show.

Everyone was tired and homesick. In my fugue, I ordered from the lower ends of the food and drinks menu.

I realised I might have over stepped the mark when the waiters had to set me up at a separate table for my main. It was half a very large cow and half a very large lobster.

Then my drink arrived, on a service trolley. It was a huge bowl, with a raised centre piece that was on fire. “You know this is a drink for eight people?” the waiter said.

I was mortified. What must those fans have thought? The record company just laughed. We all drank the cocktail, fans included. I think, or I hope, it helped break the ice.

There was too a sense that this is all a bit crazy and who knows, it may not last. And it didn’t.

We came away from our record company with more good experiences than bad. We are still friends with most of them. I don’t think many artists will say same the same of Spotify. The streaming numbers look amazing but the income isn’t.

And those who stream that album will probably not now buy it, and that hits small independent labels really hard.

As a result a large number of smaller artists are now refusing to allow their albums stream. And Spotify CEO’s Daniel Ek’s tone deaf advice to them to just record more music isn’t going to help.

Examples abound. Luka Bloom reckons his brilliant new album, Bittersweet Crimson, cost him the guts of €30K to record and can see no sense in allowing it to steam.

Streaming won’t support him and it won’t enable him to record another, so why bother?

Australian singer song writer Emma Swift who has just recorded an inspired new album of Bob Dylan covers called Blonde on the Tracks is taking a similar tac.

She tweeted that it was a moment working as a waitress for $3 an hour that she resolved not to give her art away for free.

But is the baby going out with the bath water? Emma’s version Queen Jane Approximately would become, I think, a steaming hit, were it available. It isn’t.

If you want it, you need to go to her Bandcamp page and buy it. Emma will post it out. This is cottage industry at its finest but is it really a good way to go?

Wouldn’t it be better if a steaming service, like say, Spotify, connected Emma and Luka to a huge audience and paid them fairly? A bit of charm wouldn’t go amiss either.

Go on, Daniel, get a round in.

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