Well, there are many reasons why I chose to use streaming services such as free Internet radio (via Android apps, iTunes, or WWW), as well as paid On-Demand streaming services such as Napster. By the way, I understand that millions of people prefer Spotify as their choice streaming service (mostly because of the free portion of their service); I’m not trying to convince you to switch from Spotify to using something else; but I would like to give you some food for thought. Please read my article on Spotify here. Just about all streaming services, and mobile apps with curated music/radio feeds contain built-in tools that allow us to share music with friends, children, grandchildren, and on social media and blogs. Lastly, services like Spotify and Napster are widely popular, legal and fun to share oldies music. But the most important reason, is that artist get paid for each music that is played on your device. Artists get paid even if you’re using Spotify’s free accounts. This is of particular importance to our old school artists, such as doo-wop groups, Motown sounds, disco queens and kings, etc. The reason being, in this day and age our favorite old school artists are not being advertised the way the should be; because of this their music is not being played. Not only are our beloved classic music in danger of being lost and forgotten, the artists are not getting paid either, because there’s no plays, and because many fans still have not adapted to the new business model of legal subscription streaming.
You know, there are some that talk big about “supporting Black business,” yet a lot of those same people refuse to pay $10 dollars a month (sometimes even less); or even to make the extra effort to use legal and free services like iHeart radio/Spotify who will pay artists, instead of solely using YouTube; to support their favorite Black/Latino artists (but I won’t go there). Keep in mind, I’m not trying to suggest that YouTube is illegal, but there are several huge issues. First is user uploaded content, which a significant portion of them ARE illegal. The only reason YouTube still exists, is because of the “Safe Harbor” laws. The second issue is, its setup is such that many artists are not getting paid. YouTube is not categorized in the same way as an actual streaming service, like Spotify. The service itself is not designed to function as a “music service.” You understand what I’m trying to say? And I have not found any proof that their new “ad free” service is paying for music videos without ads/or ads that are illegally monetized. People don’t think of these things ’cause they just want to listen and share. There are a lot of things involved when it comes to the business of music and movies. Do you realize that even your cable provider pays royalties on the music channels they offer, just so that you can sit back and enjoy them for free? Many of those channels offer some great Black music 24 hours a day.
All we have to do as fans to fix this, is to save our favorite golden oldies on services like FREE Spotify; AND and or others like them, thumbs up them, 5 star them, and share them. That’s it! You didn’t even have to spend a dime! By doing this, said artists will get not only get recognition, but they will also get credit and paid for each and every single play, from each and every device/IP address around the world. Doesn’t matter if it’s your computer, smartphone, television, Sony PlayStation, Roku box, or Blu-Ray player. Very much the same way that Hulu, and Netflix streaming works. It doesn’t matter what streaming service you chose to use, it doesn’t have to be Spotify or Napster, as long as the services you use are legal. If you chose to listen to music via internet radio with your computer, that site/feed keeps track of how many people/IP addresses are connected so that the artists/songwriters get paid. It’s just a matter of personal taste and preference. However, be mindful of many of the online reviews about Spotify. Many bloggers automatically dub Spotify the best because of it’s free accounts, but in reality there are plenty of services better than Spotify in their functionality. You should also know that bigger streaming companies w/subscriptions pay the artists more fairly; which also gives you the added bonus (or privilege rather) of downloading tons (sometimes unlimited amounts, like Napster) of your favorite artist’s music for off-line enjoyment. We are in essence paying for the unlimited license to listen to as much music our heart’s desires, legally! Live internet radio works a little more differently; however, I won’t get in to that. The important thing to know is that artist get paid fairly from well known live stations as well; for example, 106 lite FM, 103 KTU, Hot97, etc. The only problem with live stations is that their ecosystem does not allow a way for listeners to help preserve the music that is played. At least not yet (but we’re getting there).
You can even use totally free internet radio such as iHeart Radio or Pandora and accomplish the same thing (and you don’t have to pay a dime). Reason being is that licenses for music played have been paid for via external ad placements, internal affiliate ad revenue, subscriptions, paid album placements, sponsorship(s), and various marketing. So, you see it’s not exactly free, but it’s free for us to use. Please keep in mind that streaming radio is not the same as “on demand” streaming; whereas you pay to download and play what you want to listen to, whenever you want it. There are also many other benefits to paid subscriptions such as, Napster allows you to save unlimited music in your playlists (Spotify does not offer this); unlimited radio skips; and control the variety of music played on each radio station. Most free services don’t offer unlimited skips, as it would be too expensive for the service to pay for all the music you don’t like; and if they do offer unlimited skips, the playlist offered would have a very small pre-selection of music (usually about 1-2 hours on average). All you have to do is sit back, enjoy, and thumbs up the songs you like and listen to, this is how you show your appreciation for your beloved old school artists. By thumbs upping your music, it tells the service you’re using to not only keep said music in it’s library, but play/purchase more licenses for other songs like it; giving you the opportunity to possibly rediscover even more music you’ve forgotten about. Thumbing up could also help prevent a playlist station from playing repeated songs. Sometimes we have to depend on each other to help us rediscover music, by way of social media, blogs, and SHAZAMing music we hear from traditional radio, or TV specials. In turn, we can share THAT music with our friends on social media to help them rediscover music they’ve forgotten about (not to mention saving each other tons of money and foot work). It is important to understand that if we cannot find a particular music we like on said streaming service, we need to write them, email them, or fill our quick online forms to ask them to include that artists in to their library! This will help to keep our history; and how you can continue to enjoy your childhood memories (again and again) with digital sound! Guys, the reality is that eventually the only way you’ll be able to get physical CD’s or albums of music will be via collector websites, and collector mail order magazines (which do not have a high turnaround rate, which means you’ll be seeing a lot of the same shit). Now, I know that die-hard vinyl lovers may disagree with me. Yes, I understand that more vinyl records are being sold since the popularity of streaming, however, I believe that this is simply because people are now exposed to more varieties of music via streaming, apposed to only listening to the repetitive music being played through traditional radio stations. Secondly, there’s now an awareness that vinyls have now become collectors items. Which means you’re paying more for limited additions and imports. Also understand that when it comes to oldies, many of the music you hear on streaming will be hard to get or out of print. Thirdly, people that come from the 70s generation on down often have sentimental attachments to music on vinyl. Vinyl adds to one’s entire nostalgic experience. So, it makes absolutely perfect sense that more albums are being sold. Most young people today do not see vinyl, or CDs for that matter attractive, and have no emotional attachment. Understand that Albums WILL be obsolete within the next couple of generations, just like 8-tracks. If your favorite streaming service doesn’t have the license for a particular album you want, you can purchase it on Amazon or GooglePlay, they both sell DRM free music downloads, and both have a good collection of rare and obscure music. Even Apple is now creating Android apps in light of their new streaming service; that should be of some indication to music fans just how huge music streaming is. No longer do we have to worry about buying bigger storage space. Very few retailers will carry albums & CDs simply because they will become a headache for most retailers (unless they’re a specialty shop). In fact, I predict that eventually REDBOX will go away too in the future, once more people figure out how to use Netflix and HULU.
Having said the above, I would really recommend that all of us try our best not to use YouTube as a main source for playing music regularly (for now at least); when we can use totally free Spotify/internet radio and help our favorite old school artists get paid; because the record labels may or may not be monetizing all classic song/artist on a YouTube channel (and let me tell you, a lot of them are not). There is just no possible way of validating each YouTube channel; I could imagine the trillions of plays (collectively) (perhaps it has even made the quadrillion mark, as YouTube is so very popular) that are not being tracked by record labels, ASCAP, SoundExchange. Understand that although YouTube has something called “Content ID,” this only works if the authorized studio has uploaded a copy of the copyrighted work, and unfortunately a lot has not been uploaded. Also understand that the copyright holder has the right to shut down a YouTuber’s illegal monetizing altogether; but that also means the artist(s) is not getting paid either. So YouTube is a very complex animal. And I know fans just want to play and enjoy, but we should have a basic understanding of what’s going on in the music industry.
Sometimes the infringement will be found within a day or two; sometimes it takes years for YouTube’s “Content Aware” to find illegal works uploaded. Sometimes videos are posted with the wrong information on them; so even if Google was paying for the artist, the wrong artists may be getting the credit for it. So far, I have not found any solid evidence that Google is paying royalties for copyrighted videos with/without ads. These are huge payouts that are lost to the forgotten artists, that all could be prevented by us, and we don’t have to spend a dime (although, I highly recommend getting a subscription service because there are many benefits to having one, in addition the more paid subscribers that exist in the streaming world, the more our beloved artists get paid (on a residual basis) at a very low cost to subscribers). Those of us who can remember that far back, think back in the days when so many Black artists were cheated by their record labels; artists such as New Edition, Toni Braxton, Little Richard, LL Cool J, Prince, even George Clinton; we are indirectly doing similar to what the record labels did to them. The only artists that seem to be benefiting from YouTube are the current artists. I realize the only thing that could correct this (without Google/YouTube becoming like Spotify, spending more than 50% of their revenue in royalties), would be to disable all content with audio music/sound effects in it. However, that would also mean that any videos with intros in them would be either denied upon upload, or existing videos would have their entire audio disabled. This really confuses me a lot, because historically the music industry has always been known to be brutal when it came to making money; yet it appears they don’t give a shit about classic music; they’re only focusing on “who’s hot.” It’s obvious that classic music is till valuable, otherwise they would not exist on YouTube (and I do mean “out of print” music as well). I know a lot of people love YouTube (I do too), but please consider what I’ve just written. We all have the power to help rebuild a failing music industry, with out spending any additional money, and a slight change of habit. What is considered a very much part of our history, has been abandoned by an industry that only looks at “what’s new,” not realizing they can still make money on history, if you present it in the right way. But the reality is, I guess it’s everybody’s fault. I don’t think we can entirely blame the music and film industry for this mentality.
What About Services Like SoundCloud & MixCloud?
Those sites are totally different animals altogether. However, license wise, they are the same deal as with YouTube. Both SoundCloud and MixCloud are primarily specialty sites that contain customized remixes of both current and classic music put together by the perspective DJ. Again, like YouTube, it’s virtually impossible to know offhand what the license situation is for each song/mix you’re listening to. Usually there will be no indication of type of license, or even the artists used in the mixes. In fact, you don’t even know if the song you’re listening was uploaded by the actual DJ that mixed it. So having said that, if you see that SoundCloud or MixCloud has an available download for a particular song, DO NOT SHARE THE DOWNLOAD!! The reason simply being, you don’t truly know if the DJ that uploaded it has the license to offer it free for distribution. Just use it for personal use (meaning play it for your own enjoyment). Now, if the remix is soooo HOT and you must share it with a friend or Facebook etc, share the link instead, and NOT the actual download. This way you share no legal responsibility for infringement. When in doubt link it.
You’re using SoundCloud/MixCloud and services like it, with the faith that the individual DJ that uploaded the material has taken care of the licensing for ALL music used in the music mix (beforehand). Now, since the listeners have no legal obligation (other than promising not to vandalize their shit), I say listen all you want! It’s a no brainer. Don’t drive yourself crazy. There’s actually a lot of nice “never before heard, custom music.” However, just continue to be mindful that, the only way to be sure that your beloved artist get paid is to use mostly Spotify, iTunes, Napster, iHeartRadio, Pandora, etc.
Older seasoned folk, who love their classic music around the world need to start using digital technology more. I understand the whole nostalgia of owning a cassette and or turntable; but the digital world plays a very important role in the survival of classic music and it’s artists. Plus you get the benefit of listening to your favorites at superior quality. If you have high speed, I’ve found some of these free radio stations transmit as high as 192kbps; that’s as close to CD quality your going to get for internet radio. Not to mention that the transfer protocol software has improved significantly over the past few decades. Actually, even 128kbps sounds damn good too. The quality is so good, there really isn’t that much sound difference btw 128 & 192; unless you have one of those expensive Bose systems; then you’ll be able to hear more crispness and more subtle instruments you may not have noticed before. This is your opportunity to expose your children and grandchildren to real music, culture, and history.
IMPORTANT BLOG READS:
- “What Are The Differences Between the 3 Major Video Streaming Services?”
- “Legal Streaming vs. Torrents: The Dawn Of A New File Sharing Era!”
- “Before The Music Dies (2007)”
- “Where Are All The Black Bloggers At? Where Are The Black YouTube Movie Reviewers?”
*Updated April 7, 2017*