Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Black Keys' Patrick Carney Criticizes Spotify and Sean Parker; Does He Have a Point?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 2:49 PM

So Nashville resident and Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney — who frequently plays the role of the Keys' mouthpiece a bit more than frontman Dan Auerbach — recently sat down for an interview with Dave Kim of Grand Rapids' 97.9 WGRD. You can stream the whole thing at that there link, but there's a little chunk of the chat in which folks seem to be taking a particular interest. You see, in addition to talking about making and losing fans, playing with and without glasses and life on the road, Carney had some pretty blunt critiques of streaming music service Spotify and Internet mogul Sean Parker. Parker, of course, serves on Spotify's board of directors, and was also that dude from Napster and Facebook and Justin Timberlake's acting.

MTV — beef-mongers that they are — mostly latched onto the fact that Carney referred to Parker as an "asshole." And yeah, sure, he did. But it was all part of a larger point he was making. At SXSW, Parker prognosticated that Spotify will eclipse iTunes within the next two years. When that came up, here was Carney's response:

"Because he’s [Parker] an asshole. That guy has $2 billion that he made from figuring out ways to steal royalties from artists, and that’s the bottom line. You can’t really trust anybody like that. The idea of a streaming service, like Netflix for music, I’m totally not against it. It’s just we won’t put all of our music on it until there are enough subscribers for it to make sense."

Carney continues: “Trust me, Dan and I like to make money. If it was fair to the artist we would be involved in it. I honestly don’t want to see Sean Parker succeed in anything. I imagine if Spotify becomes something that people are willing to pay for, then I’m sure iTunes will just create their own service, and they’re actually fair to artists.”

The claim interviewer Kim makes is that it takes 66 plays on Spotify to generate the same amount of revenue as one 99-cent iTunes download. Last year — around the same time that Creamster Adam Gold's cover story on the new landscape of the music industry ran — Gold posted an interview with an official Spotify spokesperson. Here was the rep's response when asked about how Spotify plays would benefit the artists themselves:

Spotify now generates serious revenues for rights holders; since our launch just three years ago, we have paid over $100 million to labels and publishers, who, in turn, pass this on to the artists, composers and authors they represent. Indeed, a top Swedish music executive was recently quoted as saying that Spotify is "currently the biggest single revenue source for the music industry in Scandinavia."

Spotify is now also the second single largest source of digital music revenue for labels in Europe (IFPI, Apr 2011). Billboard reported in April that Spotify territories saw an average digital growth rate of 43 percent last year. By contrast, neighboring countries (without Spotify) saw only 9.3 percent digital growth.

If you want to see a pretty interesting comparison of Spotify payouts vs. iTunes downloads, this guy posted some information. According to that guy, "Spotify (unlike some other music services) would like to operate by paying artists a percentage of revenue rather than a set rate per stream." That means the amount can vary from month to month, and how much a songwriter is paid directly relates to how much revenue Spotify generated that month.

Anyway, it was well-documented that the Keys opted not to offer up their latest, El Camino, on Spotify and other streaming services. They're in pretty good company, as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Metallica (surprise), Peter Gabriel, AC/DC and others have done the same. But as Spotify continues to generate more revenue, will artists see bigger payouts? Will Spotify, as Parker claims, soon eclipse iTunes, thus prompting artists like the Keys to loosen their grip? Or will Spotify flounder, leaving Parker to look like the money-grubbing asshole Carney claims that he is?

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