During the Grammy’s, which took place this year in Los Angeles, California, the music industry took a very public stand against streaming services on one of the biggest nights of the year as Neil Portnow, who is the president of the Recording Academy of America and Common, the Chicago born rapper who won an Oscar for co-writing the song “Glory” from the 2014 Martin Luther King biopic “Selma.” This is the second time in recent memory that Portnow has taken to a public forum, along with several other prominent mainstream recording artists, to appeal to streaming services, such as Spotify, to pay artists more for their work, as well as to encourage music fans to actually buy full albums instead of just streaming them or buying one digital single.
“Isn’t a song worth more than a penny?” Portnow stated as he made an emotional appeal to the capacity crowd at Staples Center. Portnow is one of several prominent figures in the music industry to publicly come out and make statements that are critical of the relatively minuscule profits that artists earn from ad-supported streaming services, such as Spotify or Grooveshark. “Listen, we all love the convenience, and we support technologies like streaming, which connect us to that music. But we also have to make sure that artists grow up in a world where music is a viable career,” Portnow continued on, generating rapturous applause from the crowd, which was mostly composed of artists and music industry elite alike.
Common then decided to take the spotlight for himself and spend a few moments giving thanks to music fans who were actively working to support the industry, and by proxy, the artists themselves, who are often dependent on the resources of record companies to make sure their music reaches the largest possible audience. “So tonight, my comrades of the recording academy would like to thank our fans who support our work by going to a concert, subscribing to a music service, collecting vinyl, or speaking out for artists’ rights,” Common said to more applause from the crowd. It should be noted that the mention in his speech of vinyl is particularly prescient, as that particular medium seems to be making a very strong comeback, particularly among 20-somethings, as it provides a novel way to listen to music that they were not previously unfamiliar with. As a result, sales of vinyl records have been at an all-time high recently and are not expected to come down any time soon.
It should also be noticed that Portnow made a similar speech during last year’s Grammy’s, when he took the stage alongside Jennifer Hudson to announce the creation of the Creators Alliance, a primary activism based group whose primary goal is to lobby for more equitable pay for musical artists where streaming services are concerned. He took time to take a direct jab at Spotify, imploring audiences to “remember that music matters in our lives, and that new technology must pay artists fairly.” With the rise of streaming services only continuing to surge, don’t expect this issue to disappear anytime soon.