“Waiting for platforms to become profitable is to endorse a dysfunctional system”

In January 23, the Swedish online music giant, Spotify, announced disappointments regarding its profitability and the dismissal of 6% of its workforce. The collapse of Deezer’s stock also shows the reluctance of the markets (to put it mildly) in the face of the economic model of music streaming. Paid music streaming platforms do not hide it: the system is not profitable for them.

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For the vast majority of artists, and that of independent labels, the system is just as unprofitable, even disastrous depending on the sector. In creative and heritage music (commonly referred to as “classical music” and jazz), artists have become their own patrons; ensembles and orchestras, their own producers. These are the only means possible to still exist in phonographic production. Labels and publishers survive in particular thanks to buyouts and conglomerates, which are sometimes not conducive to the expression of musical diversity.

The current chain of production and distribution therefore does not work – except for the three majors, Universal, Sony and Warner, and a very small number of artists mainstream. Moreover, the recently revealed phenomenon of “false streams” shows that in addition to being dysfunctional, the system is flawed: several billion streams are manufactured industrially. The picture is nothing idyllic.

Cost moved to creators

Let us be clear: there is no doubt that streaming is part of the direction of digital history, and that its public success, if not economic, shows how much it benefits users first: the provision of an almost unlimited catalog for a modest subscription, unhoped for twenty-five years ago (when the creation of a discotheque assumed a substantial financial effort and difficult choices) is magic. This is the illusion of digital: content is (almost) free. In reality, their cost has been shifted almost entirely to the creators.

Thus, in France, only public and solidarity aid (Tax credit, National Fund for employment in entertainment and National Center for Music) has made it possible to avoid the pure and simple disappearance of non-production discography. mainstream. Today, these aids are shrinking dramatically. The system must be rethought, because it is collapsing on all sides: for several weeks the list of canceled projects has been inevitably lengthening, postponed sine die in the best of cases, for contemporary creation, classical music, early music, jazz but also French song.

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