Money means everything to the people at the top of the music world – and quite a lot of those below the top. This is one thing that you must remember about the music industry above all others. And the other thing to know is they absolutely love algorithms, because it means they get to spend more time scratching their arses.
In the olden days, they had to make calculated risks and guesswork to work out what songs were going to do well. Not only that, but they had to invest big sums of money into music to get it out there – all those CDs and vinyl don’t press themselves, and distributing all that stuff wasn’t cheap. Nowadays, the fact it’s mostly MP3 and WAV files on computers being sent from one place to another reduces their costs to a fraction of what they used to be.
And the internet removes much of the guesswork. Social media, streaming and the rest enable record labels and artists to see what’s being listened to, what’s being skipped and almost any other metric under the sun. Which means if they see something is doing well on streaming, they can get more music like that out very quickly.
It also means that labels can immediately cash in whenever controversy occurs. According to Rolling Stone magazine, streams of R Kelly’s music went up by 22% in the week following his conviction on eight sex trafficking and one racketeering charge. Streams on video – such as on YouTube – went up by 23% and physical album sales rocketed by 517% in the same period.
The “he may be a sex offender but his music is great” line is obviously one that holds some water with sections of the public. Which is a pretty unedifying fact – and also helps explain why no audio streaming services, including the Daniel “Mr Burns” Ek owned Spotify have made an executive decision to remove his music from their services.
They’re under no obligation to host it and can remove it whenever they like. I mean, are the record labels so incredibly thick that they’re going to take legal action so the music of a sex offender is more easily available to the public? I couldn’t see this going down well once the revelation hit the press, can you?
Incidentally, I’d be curious to find out whether the controversy surrounding Derrick May has helped push up the number of listens his music gets online. I’ll start researching this one and hopefully get back to you soon…