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Cloud music boom: everyone wins, except the creators

Let them eat vinyl

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Hurrah! Research company ABI has predicted a boom in paid-for streaming music services benefitting a long list of winners. There's just a few groups in the loser column... including the artists who make the music.

ABI predicts a compound annual growth rate of 95 per cent, leading to 161 million subscribers by 2016. Services companies such as Spotify and Rhapsody are poised to scoop the spoils. However, creators will find it tough.

"It will be more difficult to make a living by selling recorded music," says ABI. The research company reckons poverty is the price worth paying to see the boom through. "Record labels and collecting societies should not overplay their hands when it comes to royalty issues. If consumers do not have convenient and affordable legal alternatives, they will simply enjoy their music by other means."

That's an important point – and one that creative artists who value their own work may take issue with. Two-thirds of internet users don't engage in any form of piracy, providing artists with a good reason not to give their stuff away for free. Yet if the "other means" continue to be risk-free – and even tacitly endorsed by governments when they place advertisements on pirate music sites – then the artists are left with some stark choices.

Creative artists who really do value their own work naturally shop around for the best deal from an intermediary. If one label can't offer it, they'll go to one who can. If a collecting society strikes a bad deal, they'll reason that they're better off without the collecting society.

How ironic that an internet revolution we were promised would free the artist from exploitative corporations simply enslaves them instead to large internet companies instead.

They can expect little sympathy from the chattering classes. Ian Hargreaves, heading the third review of the legal frameworks in the past five years, the "Google Review", recently spoke sarcastically about the "starving artist" and claimed "some of my best friends are creators".

Pass the chablis. ®

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