By Xavier Tumminello, Head of Communication & Brand at Bridger
A few days ago, an ad caught my attention. A major global streaming service was offering the opportunity to listen to 100 million tracks (almost the entire world’s musical heritage) at no cost, ad supported. Something felt wrong.
Legal music streaming platforms were launched more than 15 years ago. They have largely contributed to the recovery of our industry, after piracy had taken control in the 2000s. Allowing listeners to enjoy music on a legal platform financed by advertising was then a suitable solution. Everybody won from this new deal, and it slowly but surely secured a deep change in listening habits towards paid subscriptions.
Since then, the debate about the value of music has been raging. Everyone agrees that the artists’ remuneration from streaming is too low, governments have even entered the discussion, campaigns like #brokenrecord were launched, new models of remuneration such as “user centric” or “fan powered” emerged, all showing a will to change from many in the industry.
This advertisement shows the inconsistency of the music business. Free unlimited offers undervalue music and artists’ work; they keep the pirates’ message alive. What other examples do we have of unprofitable businesses who continue to offer their services for free?
The music streaming revolution took place before the VOD revolution and yet we could take inspiration from what is happening there. Netflix and Disney+ have launched subscriptions partially financed by advertising. Partially. Not entirely! Subscriptions will still be paid but they will be just a little cheaper to be more affordable for some households. Advertising will compensate for the discount on the subscription price, but in no case will the subscription be for free, as too many music streaming platforms still offer.
The music market is now fully dominated by streaming platforms, and it’s time they stop giving music for free. Ad supported has proven unviable. As long as such offers are available, we won’t be able to offer fair pay for artists nor switch to a mature market. We will continue to have the feeling that we are living on the edge.
There’s something wrong with the world today
I don’t know what it is
Something’s wrong with our eyes
We’re seeing things in a different way
And God knows it ain’t his
It sure ain’t no surprise, yeah
Living on the edge
(Aerosmith, Living on the Edge)