Perhaps all the stinging criticism from the likes of David Byrne, Thom Yorke and Neil Young finally wore them down. At any rate, for whatever reason, Spotify claim they are looking past plain old filthy lucre, as they seek to create new ways to bring new modes of triage for musicians whose earning capacity has dipped precipitously since the halcyon earning years of the late seventies, eighties and nineties. Partnered with BandPage, who seem to be a group of aging boomers with experience in promotion and management allied together to create a centralized platform for musicians to utilize their on-line presence better, they hope to bring on a new decade of decadence.
Not at all an odd couple, Bandpage and Spotify’s main men, President Jeff Amann and CEO. J. Sider, have taken Byrne’s essay in Wired very much to heart. Whether they took it too personally or not may be beside the point. The point, from Byrne’s influential point-of-view, however, was that musicians need to learn to be more pragmatic and get to know more about a number of business strategies available to musicians in spite of the wounding reality of an era of free downloading. The former Talking Heads’ leader’s message is mostly positive vis-a-vis the future of music and musicians, provided they change their relationships with large old-school recording companies. “With production and distribution costs being so minimal,” he told the Daily Telegraph, “you can survive on the small scale, whereas before you needed to get up into the big leagues to survive.’”
Yet very few artists have either the talent, energy or ruthless greed to act out such fantasies. Thus the hucksters at Bandpage and Spotify will revert back to customs from Vaudeville and Tin-Pan alley days. Atypically selling ‘VIP experiences’ to fans right off their Spotify profile pages, which allows preferential access to exclusive concerts, fan club meet ’n’ greets, birthday treats, Skype chit-chats and limited-edition ‘exclusive’ merchandise.
Pop singer Ariana Grande, dance star Porter Robinson, and Country & Western artist Miranda Lambert are already making use of this new perk on their profile pages. Fans can pre-order Grande’s new album for $9.98 with the bonus of an online stream to one of her concerts. For a fee of $39.99 fans can meet Robinson during his upcoming tour. And for $25, you can get an exclusive ‘original’ Miranda Lambert t-shirt and beer-cooler bundle. The American band Tea Leaf Green only charge fans $200 to collaborate on one of their own songs with its drummer and producer, while The Stone Foxes charge a bargain $30 for fans to watch soundchecks and meet them on their next tour.
Looking at the big picture, the showbiz weekly Billboard put it this way. Nielsen Surveys found there could be potential incremental revenue of $450 million to $2.6 billion if artists, managers and labels offered a better set of products and experiences to fans in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland, with more countries to follow. And along with BandPage’s partnership with Spotify, its rival Topspin was bought out by Beats who were, in turn, sold to Apple.
Finally Yorke, Young, and Byrne are finding even more allies in bands like Alice in Chains and the Blue Music Group who have both asserted a wish to remove their catalogs from all streaming services. Removal from Spotify’s profile service may hurt bands in the short run, but, as BandPage itself has shown, enterprise can be the mother of invention.