"Fans will pay top dollar for a music accessory or a music event … They just won’t pay for, oh yeah, music," writes David Carr in The New York Times (7/9/14). This emerging reality is a direct result of cost-free music streaming on Spotify, Pandora and similar services — the "outbreak of free" as David calls it. This is a bonanza for music fans but a crippling blow to artists who make the music they love, as royalties on streaming are beyond the scope of "the 73-year-old agreements that govern" music licensing fees.
The Justice Department is looking into this, but in the meantime, "the musician Van Dyke Parks" recently told The Daily Beast "that in the good old days, a song he recently co-wrote with Ringo Starr would have provided him ‘with a house and pool.’ But at current royalty rates he estimated that he and the former Beatle would make less than $80, which means he would have to choose between a dollhouse and a kiddie pool and then share it with Mr. Starr." (link)
Some complain that the sound quality also suffers, but NYU’s Clay Shirky notes that, for most, "good enough is good enough." Especially if it’s free — which frees up cash to buy "expensive Beats headphones — $300 and up in a variety of colors so they also serve as a fashion accessory" or pay hundreds of dollars for live shows. Spotify, meanwhile, "has doubled its number of subscribers, paid and unpaid, in the last 18 months, and reached a milestone of 10 million paid subscribers worldwide last month."