Law in Contemporary Society
Users all over the world currently consume music through intermediaries; whether you stream or purchase the music, you’re interfacing with a third party such as Spotify or iTunes instead of acquiring music directly from the creators. This is due in large part to the licensing relationships the artists will have with record companies. But with the majority of music consumption now occurring through digital downloads and streaming, the need for these intermediaries becomes less and less necessary. So why do we allow these record companies to determine how we interact with the artists? And how viable is a direct Consumer-Creator relationship in the music industry?

Even if record labels may have historically provided functions to artists in terms of exposure and marketing, the current landscape allows this to happen without them. Regardless, the system persists. Instead of considering what alternatives could have been implemented, it may be more productive to focus on the current reliance on these corporate entities, and what methods may provide a way to cut out any unnecessary middlemen. To this end the actors (namely, the consumers and artists) must be viewed as bad men: how will they act based off of the consequences of their actions?

If we begin by observing the individual artist, we find there is no incentive to opt out of signing to a record label under the current regime; the vast majority of artists will not be able to make enough money to survive solely off of their income from music. This is exacerbated further when they compete with artists backed by these labels. Even if they may have more control over their product, the labels nevertheless can give them greater access to studios, engineers, and producers that can push them to mainstream success. However, modern artists utilizing platforms such as SoundCloud and similar distribution networks may be laying the groundwork for circumventing labels. There has been an increasing trend in music for artists that have been unsigned to self-promote through internet forums, and then follow up with a single song reaching millions of plays. Although this does allow breakout artists some chance of success without having an intermediary coming in, it invariably brings in offers from record labels that are often too large for these artists to turn down, even if the long run consequence will limit their artistic control.

This is further complicated by the relative standing of an artist. If a major artist (on the level of Paul McCartney or Kanye West) made the decision to become completely independent and only allow their music to be bought directly from their site, they very well may stand to gain quite a bit both in terms of profit and freedom. But most artists aren’t Kanye West; they lack the years of goodwill necessary to stay profitable with such a model. The flipside of this is artists specifically catering to niche tastes; artists such as Roc Marciano and Mach Hommy have expressed their disdain for streaming services and instead choose to use the model described above. In one sense, this has been highly successful for them; even though their albums are priced anywhere from $100 to $1000, they tend to sell at least a thousand records from their highly devoted fans and thus can live solely off their music income. But this is less a solution than it is simply another category of artist that would benefit from this system. Most artists are neither international superstars nor do they possess an intense underground following; most fall somewhere in the middle, where the direct selling method is less effective. If an artist cannot achieve critical mass in either the quantity or quality of their fans, then direct sales are unlikely to allow them to pursue music full time. Artists that are not meant to be at the forefront of anyone’s listening would fall behind; artists that make music too niche for most listeners are put in an awkward position where even if it receives critical success and acceptance, there is no way to properly monetize. Many artists currently in this position find themselves on independent labels where the structure tends to have two or three artists as the headlining artists bringing in money for the label; this revenue in turn is used to fund studio time and other production costs for all signed artists. But without attachment to these larger acts through these labels, more niche artists may find their pursuit of a career in music wholly unprofitable.

The consumer also is not incentivized to change their behavior. The current system allows what appears to be an incredibly convenient form of consumption- more music then they could ever hope to listen to for the price of 9.99 a month. This issue of convenience here presumes that there was an option presented to the consumer, and it wouldn’t be implausible to say the current system was forced on users without a clear alternative having been presented. But this also discounts the fact that the majority of music consumers are generally far more passive in their consumption than is necessary to create a sustainable audience. The bubble of music critics and other tastemakers may give certain artists more critical acclaim, but critical acclaim does not translate to the largest audiences; Celine Dion did not become the best-selling female vocalist of all time because of glowing reviews in the Village Voice. To ask these passive listeners to move on from the current system would require some push from a larger institutional force; most listeners are simply not that invested in their music consumption to change their behavior.

The only circumstance in which the public would reasonably change their behavior would be if the larger artists came together and boycotted the current streaming-heavy system; however, no such movement truly exists. And without the artists leading the charge on this issue, consumers will have no reason to doubt the need for a middleman providing them with their music.

The most important route to improvement is a strong edit to make sentences shorter and simpler. You have many words taking up space and doing no work, as well as some tangles you need to straighten out.

Substantively, the argument is fine so long as the near term is the only relevant timescale. The present arrangements have been around for less than 4,000 days; their lifespan is probably nearing noonday. The erosion of the previous post-Edisonian forms of the music business is now complete. But these current approaches to the creation and distribution of music are as completely tied to the "platform" architecture as other modes of communication that too will change again as the platform model collapses.


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r3 - 12 Apr 2018 - 16:39:18 - AmmarMonawar
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