My band averages a million streams each month on Spotify, for which we are paid three-tenths of one cent per stream: $3,000 for one million streams, on average, per month. Most of this money goes back to Sony Records, because they own our master recordings. As a part owner of Spotify, Sony receives part of Spotify’s share, as well. It’s a pretty sick deal… for the corporations. It sucks shit for artists.
Platform capitalism is bad. These people have figured out how to scale artist exploitation to a degree that would’ve been unfathomable to the most cynical record exec of the nineties.
And now they are coming for the authors of books, by suing the Internet Archive to ensure that books become like Spotify music: theirs, not yours or ours, to own. Owning media is now an act of countercultural defiance.
Our guitar player Jon (Sweet Pea) Siebels and I used to go to Poobah Records in Pasadena, California when we were in high school (let the record reflect that this was a decade and a half before the retro vinyl boom we were just total nerds) and buy albums put out by independent labels that had a good track record of not letting us down. Believe it or not before we became a radio rock band we were buying vinyl put out by alternative tentacles, subpop, k records, sst, kill rock stars to name a few.
Unfortunately one of my brothers (he’s sober and living well now) developed a bit of a drug problem and sold all of mine the minute I left to go on my first tour but Sweet Pea still has his. Big, beautiful, tangible works of visual and audio art that can be held, smelled and played. A personalized museum of treasures that mark and give shape and color to memories. Go ahead call me pretentious I’ll wear it like a badge. Those records are precious. You can hardly say the same for a user interface. Ease and convenience will continue to rob us of the spiritual experience of art until we realize that’s what it’s doing and say: Enough.
The Internet Archive’s Open Library operates with an owning and lending model, like a traditional library. That means big publishers, who are the platform capitalists of print media, want to see it destroyed. They do not want you to be able to take digital books out from a library. They don’t even want you to own digital books. They want to move you to subscription services like Spotify, Netflix or Amazon Prime, so they can count on your monthly tithes to CEOs and shareholders coming in… forever.
This is bad for musicians, artists and writers on a business level, but the deeper implications are truly terrifying for art and its preservation. We’re handing art over entirely to the profit motive. We’re leaving truth to the whims of a financialized, speculative economy, and giving censorship powers to CEOs.
Any authors who think this is a good idea should talk to some band guys (hi!), or to the comedians who have had their stuff censored and pulled off the platform without explanation, about their experiences with Spotify–a company that has made backroom deals with major record companies, giving them an ownership stake in Spotify and a place at the trough.
If you think for a second that big publishers and tech platforms are concerned with your fair pay I have a cd to sell you. These models are set up to benefit bosses not artists and the ramifications for the public are Orwellian. They will surveil your reading lists, dude. That’s what these companies do. They get you to pay them to collect your data.
It’s long past time for media ownership to be recognized as an essential right. The Internet Archive and all other digital libraries and archives must be protected, and people need to see this ludicrously unethical suit by big publishers for what it is: an assault on art and truth and its protection for posterity.
We’re thrilled to welcome Max Collins of Eve 6, a valued colleague and brother in arms in protecting freedom of expression. Solidarity is a silver lining in this time of peril. Also, here’s Eve 6’s new song, “Mr Darkside.”
11 August 2022 8:50pm GMT: edited to include a reminiscence of collecting vinyl.