Spotify enters year 2; new Sebadoh; the nature of evil (in the column); The Eightysevens, Thunder Power tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:55 pm July 26, 2012

by Tim McMahan,

Spotify logo


Well, Spotify has been available in the U.S. for over a year now. The Phoenix New Times has put together this “status report” on how well — or not so well — the streaming service is doing. Among those interviewed is Saddle Creek Records exec Robb Nansel, who doesn’t really have anything new to add that he didn’t say in this 2011 Lazy-i interview, other than he doesn’t think Spotify is cannibalizing iTunes sales.

Overall, the concensus remains the same: It’s too early to say if Spotify and other streaming services will be music industry game changers. For the service to become a real revenue generator for lables and artists, it’ll have to scale up to about seven time its current base of 3 million U.S. subscribers (of which I am one).

But even at that size, I’m uncertain how Spotify could become a relevant revenue source for indie bands. I guess I just don’t understand the math. It would have to be the ultimate “long tail” effect, allowing artists to somehow reach a much larger audience than they would on their own. Could Spotify provide the same amount of revenue that an artist could generate selling CDs, vinyl or downloads on their own or through a small indie label? Even with the lack of overhead (other than recording costs) I’m skeptical. But it’s too late to turn back now (right?).

As for the consumer side of things, I continue to use Spotify to “preview” new music that I wouldn’t otherwise listen to. I realize a lot of bands are putting their stuff out on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, but those services simply aren’t that convenient (especially from an iPhone). With Spotify, I can do a search on, say, the new Passion Pit or overly hyped Frank Ocean album — albums that I wouldn’t simply run out and buy — and listen to them on my iPhone either online or offline. There was no way to do that before these streaming services came around. If I dig the music, the assumption is that I’ll buy the CD, download or vinyl. At least that’s (part of) the business model.

But be honest — I’ve buying a whole lot less music than I did before Spotify. The last record I purchased was actually a cassette tape (the new Digital Leather), and the music wasn’t available on Spotify. Bottom line: If I really want something, I’m going to buy it. I won’t wait to preview it on Spotify. If I’m waiting to preview it on Spotify first, it has to be something outrageously good for me to drop down cash and get a hard copy. Was that how it was supposed to work?

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Sebadoh, Secret EP (2012, self release)

Sebadoh, Secret EP (2012, self release)

Actually, I have made one other recent purchase: Sebadoh put out its first new recorded material in 14 years earlier this week. Called Secret EP, the 5-song collection is available as a $5 digital download from here, where you can also preview the tracks. Check out personal fave and future best of 2012 mix CD selection “I dont mind.” Sebadoh says they’re working on a new LP, and none of these five songs will be on it, so it’s definitely worth the price. It’ll be good to see these guys back on the road.

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This week’s column reflects on the horrifying events that have taken place over the past couple of weeks and why there’s no room for the concept of “evil” in the discussion. You can read it in the new issue of The Reader, or online right here.

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A couple shows are going on tonight.

Over at fabulous O’Leaver’s it’s The Eightysevens with Hay Perro and Wet Radio. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile over at The Sydney, Thunder Power headlines a show with Underwater Dream Machine. Starts at 9:30 and is absolutely free.

While over at The Barley Street Tavern its Oakland band Swanifant with So. Cal. band Robert Jon and the Wreck and Nebraska’s own Field Club. $5, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

1 Comment »

  • My take on Spotify is a little different than other opinions from musicians that I’ve read or heard. I generally think it’s a good thing. At least artists get paid when someone streams their tracks. Although Spotify doesn’t make their streaming royalties known at least it’s something–a stream on Bandcamp or Soundcloud pays zip. We (Blue Bird) have taken in royalties from Spotify and for some reason the payments per stream are always different. I’m guessing that they have different pay schedules for different type of streams (i.e. direct searches, “radio” streams, etc.) but like I said they don’t make it known why you are getting paid what you are. I guess I’m ok with that, although it’d be nice to know.

    Also, if Spotify, or whatever streaming platform, becomes the “new model” I think it could actually be potentially good for artists. With physical media, once a fan buys the product you will probably never gain any money from that fan for that product again. $10 bucks or so and done. Forever. However, if a fan is using Spotify and wants to stream that record everyday for, say, 10 years, I’m betting the artist will get more than $10 bucks out of that deal. I understand my scenario is highly unlikely, but the potential is there.

    Comment by RobM — July 26, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

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