Considering the intersection of recording royalties and streaming, during the pandemic

Posted on: May 11, 2020

“I’d heard Debussy’s‘La Damoiselle Élue’ several times over the years, but a recent [recording] of the prelude, by the young Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, made me listen anew,” writes Alex Ross in the May 4 issue of the New Yorker. “ ‘Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus,’ a 2018 work by the Australian composer Liza Lim … can be heard on a new recording by Klangforum Wien, on Kairos…. During the weeks of quarantine, homebound music lovers have been depending more than usual on recordings and streaming music. The likes of Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube have doubtless profited from the surge, as have major labels and superstar artists. But the paltry royalties doled out by the streaming services will not save the working musicians who have lost income during the shutdown. The virus has exposed more clearly than ever the vicious economic logic of the streaming era, which favors monopolistic consolidation and consumer convenience over an equitable distribution of profits across the musical ecosystem…. If the performing arts are to retain a place in our society, we will have to rethink how we value them—economically, culturally, politically.”