There’s a first mover advantage.
That’s right, let Spotify stream your music early and you get a check or stock or both. Wait until the downside of the curve and you get bupkes.
So let this be a lesson to all of you Luddites out there, the best way to leave money on the table is to refuse to play, to refuse to embrace the future, to insist on the past trumping the future, and I’ve never known that to happen.
The Beatles could have been leaders. But now it’s all about the cash, that’s what moves the Fab Four. And this time their reluctance to take action is to their financial detriment.
This is big news, but not for the reason you think it is. I mean sure, it’s a validation of streaming services, but you just had to use YouTube to know streaming was not only the future, but already here. But this is the first time it’s not about now, but tomorrow. Yesterday and Today? No, Tomorrow Never Knows. But what we do know is that the Beatles are going to get paid every time someone listens to their music in the future. RSO may have released the “Sgt. Pepper” soundtrack and sold tonnage (and gotten tonnage returned), but how often have the Beatles been paid when their old vinyl records were spun? Or those eighties CDs? Never.
But now they will.
It’s like getting a retirement account without opening one. And sure, the Beatles may be past Social Security age, but all the young acts who are often dumb will now be taken care of in their later years, not only by publishing rights, songs played on the radio, but by streams.
So the game is completely different.
I don’t expect the media to do hosannas for more than a week, if that. We’ll see the usual press releases about the number of tracks streamed, the percentage of the respective services’ volume that was the Beatles, what that might be worth, but then crickets.
You see, once again, the music business is the canary in the coal mine, far advanced beyond not only movies, but news. The film business is Balkanized, you can’t get everything in one place. Furthermore, try getting an accounting based on how many times people actually streamed your show on Netflix or Hulu. Hell, the deals themselves aren’t even structured that way. In the film business it’s all about now, in music it’s all about tomorrow.
And every day the newspapers and news sites have to reinvent the wheel. Who wants yesterday’s papers? Almost no one. Whereas if you write a classic tune, people want it forever.
Or do they?
We’ll find out how long the Beatles’ legacy lasts. Certainly longer than the rest of the classic rock titans. The twenty second century? The twenty third? It’s amazing how greatness is plowed under, Steve Jobs is already in the rearview mirror. But John Lennon and George Harrison have been dead for a while and their influence is still being felt. That’s the power of art. You may conceive it in an instant, execute it in an hour, but when done right, it lasts.
So where does this leave the rearguard?
We still don’t know how popular the Adele album is. We can crunch streaming numbers and see the impact of everybody else’s album, but… We might find out that “25” is not as popular as we think. It might hit streaming services and turn out to be a dud. We get real time statistics always, telling us what’s being listened to and not. Major Lazer & DJ Snake had the most played track in Spotify history with “Lean On,” but it’s got a fraction of the traction in mainstream media that “25” has. It could be bigger, or almost equal.
The data generation is all about truth, about facts. And in the arts, it’s hitting music first. Hype has already been decommissioned. That’s why acts like Beyonce and Eric Church and so many more are putting out their albums with no advance buildup. Because they know it’s irrelevant. The only thing that matters is if people listen.
It’s a long road, well, in honor of the Beatles, let’s call it a long WINDING road. It took fifteen years, but we’ve finally got solidification in the music sphere. Disruption is on hold. Piracy has been quelled. We’re all on the same page. And this is a good thing.
Are there battles yet to be fought?
Of course. Publishing on Pandora. Accounting transparency.
But progress is being made. Kobalt is leading the charge on transparency and when the boomers retire and their children take over light will reign, because the younger generation does not believe in duplicity, but honesty. Let the best man win.
And let the best streaming service win.
Which one will do.
And before long, they will all be at CD/FLAC/high quality. All those bozos bitching about sound will shut up. As for Neil Young…he didn’t get the memo, he who lives in the past is doomed to be a sideshow, if they get ink at all. Anybody want a Pono?
Haven’t heard much about that one recently.
But Spotify’s in the news.
And Rdio failed.
And Tidal will fail or be sold.
And Deezer’s IPO was canceled.
We’re on the verge of further consolidation.
But that’s got nothing to do with music, that’s all about business.
And Brian Epstein was one of the worst businessmen of all time. But he achieved the ultimate goal, he made the Beatles stars, the biggest of the modern era. To the point their moves still make headlines today, to the point that people still want to listen.
Will the world stream the catalog en masse tomorrow?
Not so much, no matter what anybody says.
But in the future, when you get a hankering for “A Hard Day’s Night” or “I Want To Hold Your Hand” or “Come Together” or…
It’ll be just a click away.
They call that the on demand economy.
That’s where we now live.
The Beatles know.