A basic bill of rights for musicians in the age of streaming

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A basic bill of rights for musicians in the age of streaming

Post by circuitbored » Mon Sep 18, 2023 3:42 am

As we already know, we're in the midst of a writer and actor's strike, due to the intense burden the modern streaming era has placed upon their industry over the past years... Long before that, music was streamed online, in many cases, musicians flocked to streaming first, as it often helped them to grow listeners quickly and efficiently. In today's age and time, the system has become a shell of it's former glory, as phony music artists have set up knockoff channels for shoddy Ai music, and deployed all kinds of low-effort attempts to steal the money within the ecosystem from real honest and hard working musicians, and platforms like spotify and YouTube do little to stop them. Many of the questionable accounts rake in a lot of money each month, taking away vital funding from honest music makers, and creating an environment ripe with music promotion and playlist scams that only serves to encourage authentic musicians from dropping their instruments and heading for a less creative avenue that ensures a better way of paying for their life's expenses, and this is a deep tragedy in a world where the Internet promised a better way of life for creatives.

First of all, we've got to have a serious discussion about what constitutes a serious musician... In my opinion, it's anyone that has officially released (formally distributed) over 10 unique and expressive music compositions, without uncleared samples involved, and that can also register those works with a performance rights organization perhaps too. There has to be some kind of measurement for this. In my opinion, accounts that publish white noise and rain sounds do not qualify because of the usually low level of skill and creativity in publishing that kind of material, and it is also rather ridiculous to copyright and differentiate recordings that do not have any sort of distinguishable nor tangible composition to them. For works that don't quite qualify as music, they should be considered perhaps in a different category than music that does involve composition as an olive branch perhaps, but here I am talking specifically about composed music that has a key, rhythm, harmony, melody, vocals, etc...

It is specifically because of a constant frustration, as a musician myself, I believe that there should be a very firm declaration of the basic rights that any music related service should adhere to for their services in order to be considered legitimate by authentic musicians, and if these ideals cannot be upheld, musicians should unpublish their work from the offending platform. Now these are just suggestions mind you, but they come from a fellow musician that is likely just as frustrated as everyone else is in having a simple opportunity to be heard and connect with an audience of people on the Internet, so it's hard to imagine how any valid musician would contest these basic rights...

1. Social media should not ever limit nor cap any social media post on a musician or music publisher's profile. -- On a platform that has anywhere over 1 million users, it's outrageous that a platform would limit the reach of user posts to less than 1,000 users at any time. If you search o TikTok, there are very frequent complaints about "TikTok & YouTube limiting post views" for users to encourage ad spending from users... This represents a conflict of interest that drives sites like TikTok and YouTube to limit views in the interests of increasing their revenue. In many cases, artists don't make a dime off of their music and many artists that cannot afford to pay for ads sit in obscurity because their ability to be seen and heard by others is limited in a subtle and uncontestable way, while TikTok and YouTube constantly promote the inaccurate impression that anyone can "go viral" on the platform. Many that go viral do so because they pay for advertisement of their posts.

2. Streaming platforms that publish works by a qualifying musician should grant one free premium account to each (qualifying per above) musician they publish on their platform. -- It's rather ridiculous that streaming platforms offer paid premium services without paying artists at a higher level based on those user account subscriptions as well... Even more so, if a musician's work is on a platform that they don't pay for, they have no access to ensure their music is displayed and playing properly. Sites like Spotify should grant musicians published on the platform free access user accounts, and perhaps disqualify those accounts from increasing streaming numbers for the artist that holds the account. Right now, many artists can buy premium accounts and boost their streaming numbers simply by playing their own music on repeat, this would not happen in a fair ecosystem, and in many cases, the behavior is not profitable for the artist when the monthly price of the subscription account they use is considered.

3. Streaming platforms should reduce/end the manipulative use of prominent vanity/pressure metrics. -- As I've discussed in another post here, many sites like Spotify, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok prominently show views, monthly subscribers, followers on user profiles to shame artists with low support into buying ads and into working hard on promotion of their work instead of working on music. These sites often also don't show post dates and when a post is being boosted by advertising payments just as prominently as their vanity metrics. These practices create a lot of stress for artists, and while it generates a LOT of money annually for platforms, it really reduces the value of undiscovered musicians and their work. These statistics should be de-emphasized, and perhaps only shown if a user clicks a post for deeper information on an artist. The way these metrics are displayed now often serves to bias viewers away from music that is not among the most popular work published, which skews all posts towards only what major industry artists post. These vanity metrics work against the very ideal of discovery on platforms, and they force many independent and non-mainstream artists to compete with major music industry and against an endless stream of artists and labels that have money to burn, a truly impossible hurdle in just making a name for themselves.

4. Platforms should end the practice of charging contributors to buy ads or "boost" their posts. The process of boosting posts on platforms has now become heavily gamified by platforms. There is also no way to measure fairness, as rates can easily be manipulated for users. This has been an ugly practice of taking advantage of musicians for quite some time now on social media and streaming platforms driven by the conflict of interest cited in suggestion #1. This practice of making profit off of musicians that haven't made any money off of their work is nefarious, and allows for far too much manipulation to steer profit towards the platform while reducing organic reach of musicians. If left unchecked, artists will simply begin to unpublish and delete their posts, or to just stop posting altogether as they realize that paying for visibility only works for people with money they can afford to lose.

5. Stop requiring artists to conform to rules in posting/presentation of their work. -- Many of us know the often goofy "challenges" that platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube create for posters. These are great if you're out to just happen upon success. A serious musician that develops their own sound and approach though is regularly held back on platforms for not conforming to whatever these same platforms dictate, and it may range anywhere form not showing how they make their unique music, to the sound levels and mastering quality of their music. There has never been any good set of standards that work for describing successful and valuable music because it is a constantly evolving art. Musicians forced into conformity only serves to ruin music and it's creativity altogether. Musicians that don't conform to dictated standards on platforms now are often punished with low views, with volume reduction, and with outright bans. This allows platforms to dictate what music should be seen, and it is a serious overreach of influence on who is seen and who is heard even before it it seen by an audience. Many times, music on social platforms is censored by moderation for a wide variety of reasons that may even include personal bias, and that constitutes veiled discrimination, which is against the law, but cannot be cited of course, because there is often no way to petition censorship or to find user support on most of these platforms as they rarely fund support properly. To have challenges are fine, but the process of dictating that everyone must participate in challenges and contribute to trends is overreach, and it should not be the only way to gain visibility on platforms in order to protect a musician's right to originality. Musicians shouldn't have to "tap dance for their dinner"... Social media should not involve busking nor begging in order to succeed as a musician either.

6. The use of "Sounds" and Search on most Social and music platforms is way out of whack now, FIX IT PROPERLY. -- Many platforms suggest using music or sounds from artists, and this ideal seems to (often mysteriously) only serve a few (usually major industry) music industry artists. On massive social platforms, the use of sounds can generate massive streaming revenue for any artists that are listed first as suggestions. The process in how these artists are picked should be very transparently done. More effort also needs to be put into ensuring on all music-based platforms that when any artist name is searched for by users that the returned results exactly matches the search term entered within the first results listed, there should be no results returned that do not closely match the search term entered... Search can be easily manipulated to steer results from an authentic artist to impostors or to inaccurate results. Search crawling and result technology is not new, It' used to perform better than it does now, and a search should quite obviously NEVER return completely different results than the term entered, but somehow many music and social platforms do not have properly functioning search tools. Inaccurate search results costs musicians and users tons of discoverability, and even money, there should be no excuse for it to not work properly, and to work less accurately on any platform as time advances.

7. No (qualifying above) artist, posting on any platform with over 1 million users, should ever have 0 listens/views. -- No artist on a platform with even less users should have viewership that low. As a bill of rights, platforms should at least guarantee that valid uploads get at least 1,000 views for every million users on their platforms organically per month for up to say -10- posts they make. This is the only way to counter the current imbalance of attention found on most major streaming and social platforms. Ensuring all content is viewed creates a healthier eco system, that encourages artists to improve, while also exposing audiences to unexpected and other new music. It encourages feedback for artists instead of just being a depressing dead zone of a platform expecting ad revenue. If a platform requires money to operate, they should be fully honest about it PRIOR to a user's enrollment, as we all know, most platforms don't mention that they require money to operate well for musicians (at all) prior to sign-up. More honesty should be mandated as a bare minimum, along with published rates for platform ad costs PRIOR to sign up if that process continues.

8. Respect differences and genres of music equally. -- We all know that Pop music is popular, but it often takes the lead seat and front page to every other genre of music available. Often when you click on a link to a music video that someone sent you, the next video in line to play after it is by a totally different artist, and chances are they're a pop artist, no matter what the prior music indicated as a genre of music that you liked. As advertising takes over the entire Internet, we find that major labels dump tons of money into advertising their pop music releases. That often serves to steer public interest away from independent artists and musicians. It is a deep seated issue that algorithms are carefully tuned and controlled to steer content to a popular artists instead of independent artists, and the way that this is done on modern platforms is astonishing. There should be a major call to respect all forms of music, and sites that list genres should include the top 25 most prominent genres of music in their lists by default at least. This is the only way to ensure fairness... Any artist posted to the front page of high-traffic sites like YouTube are guaranteed a solid number of streams and support for their work, almost contradictory to the quality of their work at times... The main question is why certain pop music artists, that already see huge streaming numbers, REGULARLY the ONLY ones being featured on front pages, while Independent artists never even get mentioned anywhere else on the site. Legitimate musicians should all have a chance to be seen based on a healthy listing of artists based on their genre, also based on complete lists of new releases from artists, and also based on being properly included in accurate search results. There is really no excuse for limited feature displays on sites with as much content as YouTube and Spotify, as stated earlier, it only serves the purpose of forcing undiscovered artists to pay for ads, while the most popular and highest paying artists get prominent placement before everyone else on the platforms.

9. Pay a fair rate for streams, and encourage purchasing music. -- Spotify should also sell downloads. It should be de-facto. Forcing streaming as an only option causes environmental waste and technically slows the entire Internet down. The shear volumes of data, as people stream the same songs in their Spotify and YouTube playlists over again and again is mind boggling. We really need to normalize collecting music again, for this we also need to pressure phone makers to increase on-board storage, and to bring back headphone jacks on phones, but that's a whole other discussion.

I really hope the Industry gets it's stuff together on streaming and music overall. If a major strike occurs involving musicians, an even deeper wound than what's going on in Hollywood could be the result, because Hollywood relies heavily upon the music industry itself. Spotify, YouTube, TikTok, pretty much all of these services would be dry and lifeless without the musicians creating content on them and contributing to vibes. Take it very seriously and consider/implement the above suggestions, they're relatively small concessions. I'd love to hear any additional ones that readers may have, feel free to send them to us at info@circuitbored.com

Keep creating music, always remember, music existed before even television existed.

King Cobra, Daarked Out, The Hidden Blade, Thugged Out, & Nowhere by SoopaDaark are Out Now.
6 NEW Soul Crushing Bass Music Releases Overall This Year. RuffAndTuffRecordings.Com
LISTEN ON SPOTIFY HERE: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1PNp925Bg8dCTiIzxY4NVc

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