Less-Than-a-Penny Lane

This will be a music and philosophy thread. We’ll go with “songs about thinking” as an attempt toward a general theme, but feel free to stretch it…if it makes you think, post it. Or if it prevents you from thinking, which can also be a desirable state of affairs (and a popular one), post it.

We had a recent post here on the ad populum fallacy, and lately I’ve realized its power as I looked at options for playing my (all-electronic) music collection. I’d been vaguely aware that in the last few years the popularity of streaming subscriptions such as Spotify or Apple Music is soaring, but while searching for options to play a music library I own, I was coming up short.

Other than a freebie account on Spotify to try it out (the recommendation algorithm is quite good) I haven’t used the streaming routes very much. But I’ve been noticing people at work commenting on my beloved pink iPod nano as though I’d brought a typewriter in. (Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a music typewriter.)

I thought it was incidental. Wasn’t I staying up to date by converting to an all-electronic music collection? I’m down with the downloads, right? Nope… buying an mp3 or other e-music file is already beyond passé.

Am I irreversibly marked as an old fogey? Is “fogey” still a word? Is there any hope of still being a cool kid at musical midlife in 2019? Read on…

First, I should note that there are a few modifiers to the anathematic practice of purchasing music. Vinyl still has caché among the young’uns who like the idea of “retro” and pops, crackles, and skips as enhancements the sound engineers intended.

CDs are still circulating in the name of late lamented sound quality by artists such as Neil Young. Although I greatly esteem Mr. Young and his work, I hope he’ll remember…lossless music don’t need him around, anyhow. Try it yourself

Maybe it’s the lack of attachment I keep hearing about with millennials and Gen Z. Renting music instead of owning. No commitments, and if an artist offends they’re off the list and maybe even out of Spotify.

(Wasn’t rock and roll all ABOUT offending at one time? Did Tipper Gore have it right with the warning labels?)

So where does the ad populum come in when streaming music? I learned that the major services use a pro-rata artist payment system. In plain English, the streaming service puts all the monthly subscriber money in a big pot and divvies it out to their artists based on who got the most streams that month.

Where am I missing the logic for paying the artists I don’t listen to and neglecting the ones who soundtrack my days? Recent highly popular artists on streaming platforms include Drake (who?), Ed Sheeran (oh, the guy on that GoT epi), Shawn Mendes (who?), Camila Cabello (um, who?), and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-But-We're-Looking-At-You-Beliebers.

The artists I listen to include a lot of classic rock (AKA "old shit") and some newer contemporary ones; however, actual streaming revenue will bequeath them only a submicroscopic fraction of my pecuniary support at a payout of $0.00437 per stream. (That’s 4/10 of one penny, in case you don’t want to do the math.)

At this rate, an artist needs somewhere around 350,000 plays to earn the equivalent of US minimum wage for the month.

Welcome to Planet Ad Populum, kids. The original Band-Aid's moniker may have been better chosen than we knew.


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