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I love music. I appreciate the labour that goes into it, the immense talent it demands, and the grind that goes into maybe one day being heard by an audience larger than your immediate family.
So with this being said, it’s impossible to ignore the effects that the ever-changing industry are having on the pockets of our creatives who are already struggling. New Zealand musicians have never had an easy run of it, but these days it’s not even an economically viable full-time gig for most, with coffee jobs paying for studio time and tours barely garnering a return. When did we decide that music should come for free? That someone’s passion isn’t even worth $16.99 at The Warehouse? Well buckle up kids, because I am about the guilt the fuck out of you and hopefully convince you to throw a couple dollars at the your humble musician.
There can be no denying that we’re blessed to have so many music streaming services at our fingertips, most of which can be accessed for free. There’s Spotify free if you can tolerate the ads, 8Tracks if you enjoy having other people creating millennial-friendly playlists, Pandora if you like to live dangerously, Apple Music if you’re a fan of the high-profile curators, YouTube if data usage isn’t a problem, and SoundCloud for all the budding DJs. As a result, CD sales have only continued to plummet and even the resurgence of vinyl hasn’t been enough to bring things back to where they once were (oh, and P.S., digital downloads are also dying a slow, painful death).
“But I thought those companies paid the artists?” I hear you hootin’ and hollerin’… well, it’s not quite so simple. What artists get out of each service varies. Apple Music have promised royalties, but thus far only followed through with about 60 per cent of them (hands up who else agrees that Tay-tay’s are the first to go out each month!), Spotify have an equation more complex than a Level 3 calculus exam, and SoundCloud have recently found themselves embroiled in a number of lawsuits for not paying anyone ever (dicks). Yes, one could argue that this kind of thievery is nothing new, that we’ve been doing it for years, but did anyone really own enough blank cassettes to do any real damage? I for one existed for three happy years on one side of a cassette containing a mashup of the Spice Girls, Boyzone, Green Day and commercial breaks (never was very quick on the old “stop” button). The struggle is real, and not even in some ironic first world problem way—it’s a real life shit storm.
So in light of the aforementioned corner we’ve backed our most talented into, how do we go about changing it? God knows we students won’t be sacrificing our hard earned government dollars on a weekly trip down to Slow Boat Records or JB Hi-Fi anytime soon, so what options are we left with? Well, I offer two proposals. The first operates in a similar way to an ideal welfare state wherein we support our most vulnerable first. Before you go searching for that new Kiwi artist’s album online, sacrifice a couple bottles of Fat Bird and hit up the Flying Out online store instead. Tossing up between a new Kanye album and some nobody’s EP? Pick the nobody first, and continue to do so every damn time.
My second highly researched one-man-select-committee option suggests taking a more experiential approach by making an effort to get along to more live shows. If you can afford to spend $500 on three days sinking piss and doing lines at R&V, then you can afford $20 to scoot on down to Meow on a Thursday night and catch some sweet tunes. Sure, these solutions aren’t perfect, but until you can show me a better alternative I think we should agree the give them a crack.
On a happier note, it seems we’ve reached a bit of a crossroads regarding music ownership, and I have a totally psychic feeling that the tides are about to turn. The rate of change is slowing and the people with real influence are finally starting to put the pressure on. But until then, let your fellow student and music lover leave you with this—stop being such a tight arse and go buy your mum a CD to put aside for Christmas (I hear Sol3 Mio have a fresh one in the pipeline).