Black Collar Workers




It would appear as if Century Media has company: Metal Blade has pulled all of its artists off Spotify. At first I thought they were employing the strategy of pulling newer albums while leaving catalogue, until I realized that the older albums I was seeing on Spotify from Unearth, Behemoth, etc were actually released on other record labels.

Look, I’ve spent enough time arguing Spotify’s virtues (read by the folks at Metal Blade, I’m sure) and I don’t feel the need to re-hash those arguments. If Metal Blade and Century Media feel they can get better payout rates from Spotify by withholding their goods, hey, great for them, and I sincerely hope they DO get better rates. But I can’t imagine said rate increases would be enough under any imaginable scenario that they’d make up for losses in sales of music ownership (CDs, MP3s) that have been increasing over the past decade.

What this is really about is looking at the future and facing it head-on: will sales of recorded music increase, or even stay where they are now? I can’t see any sane person answering “yes” to that question. Pulling out of Spotify is almost like delaying the inevitable… key word “delaying,” not “stopping.” You can’t stop progress, and you can’t stop the 20+ million people (last I checked, probably more now) that have signed up for Spotify in the U.S. who all believe that it’s worth $10/month or free with ads and low quality audio. Unless every label pulls out of Spotify all at once, which is not gonna happen.

With that in mind, what will all records labels be doing to counter the loss of revenue that’s been growing over the past decade as sales of recorded music decline? Will they bury their heads in the sand and pretend that streaming services don’t exist or will they adapt and diversify their business models? Spotify and the like are here to stay. Labels are going to need to consider other sources of income to stay alive. Evolve or die.

Make no mistake about it: Spotify is a huge deal. The bigger music industry development since Napster. This is not hyperbole. Just wait until Facebook launches its new music services with Spotify, MOG and Rdio integration. Spotify is the best and most popular service of those three, and Metal Blade artists will be left out in the cold while other bands reap the benefits of the massive social networking platform.

I love many of the artists on Metal Blade (and Century) and I’m bummed for those artists that they won’t be getting exposure via Spotify that their cohorts on other labels are getting. It sucks for them, big time, and it’s not fair since they basically have no say in the matter. Want to stream Behemoth, Unearth, The Red Chord, Black Dahlia Murder? Too bad… now you’ve either got to buy a CD / MP3 or, as will most certainly happen in the majority of cases (especially younger music fans), be driven to pirate releases by those bands. That’s what kills me… the most viable / easiest alternate to Spotify is piracy. At least Spotify pays something. Not that I’m advocating piracy, I’m just reporting on what I see in people I know, people I talk to, and comments and emails from MS readers.

In any case, now that Century Media isn’t the only metal label holding out from Spotify (it’s worth noting that both CM and MB are still on MOG and Rdio, by the way) it’ll be interesting to see if other metal labels follow. Century is technically a bigger label than Metal Blade worldwide (I *think*), but Metal Blade prez Brian Slagel is so widely respected (with good reason, IMO) that I wouldn’t be surprised if others followed his lead —  he’s almost like a godfather to the metal scene at this point, at least in America. No disrespect meant towards Century’s anonymous high-ranking official who responded to my posts; I simply don’t know how he is perceived in Europe or anywhere else because I don’t know the guy personally and I’m not there.

I’d welcome a public response from Slagel, but Slagel is a classy gent who I have a feeling would rather stay out of the public eye, especially when it comes to this matter. Still, invitation’s always open.


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