SHEENA BARNETT: Really, what’s the value of music?

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

A few weeks ago, the world changed – nay, rocked – as Spotify came to American shores. Spotify is a Swedish-based streaming music service. Basically, all (or, most of) the music in the world is available at your fingertips when you use the service: you can try it for free, or pay a monthly subscription. You can stream music on your phone with one plan.
Keep in mind, when you stream music, you don’t actually own it. You only have access to it. But Spotify allows you to make your own playlists, just like you would make on an iPod or on iTunes.
Before coming to America, Spotify was a huge hit in Europe, boasting more than 10 million users.
Music fans have been eagerly awaiting Spotify’s American debut, but now that it’s here, I’m not sure if many of us know what to do with it.
For me, I don’t have much use for it.
I could use it at work to find new music, but we’re not allowed to stream music, as it slows down the system. I’m trying to keep my home Internet-less, so I can be productive in my writing efforts when I’m there.
I don’t care to use it on my phone, because I have an iPod. Besides, I like owning music, whether it’s a single or an entire album.
That’s not to say I haven’t used Spotify. I used it just last week at Album Club to listen to folk singer Dave Van Ronk. We were able to listen to several tracks of his, which everyone enjoyed. Had it not been for Spotify, we’d have only been able to use samples off iTunes.
I guess my main problem with Spotify lies in the pricing and what you get in return. It feels kind of strange to pay just $5 or $10 a month and have access to just about any song I want.
Call me old-fashioned, but I like plunking down anywhere from $3-10 for a CD, calling it mine, reading the liner notes and, well, just living with it.
It sounds crazy to turn down listening to anything in the world for basically that same price, but I guess it’s a matter of principle.
I just wonder how we’ll determine the value of music when we look at it as something to which we subscribe.
Artists – real ones – pour their heart and soul into their music. We used to give them about $20 for what it was worth, and they’d get a cut of that. Now, when our subscription rate is divided between all the record labels in the world, what will they get – pennies?
It’s easy to watch something like MTV’s “Cribs,” in which stars show off their incredibly nice homes, and say it’s OK if stars only get a tiny share.
The stars of today could probably take a pay cut and be all right.
But what about the next generation?
What will entice them to make music, other than the artistic need to create? Shouldn’t they be able to make a living as a musician?
Well, I suppose “starving artist” always had a certain ring to it, didn’t it?
Contact Daily Journal arts and entertainment writer Sheena Barnett at 678-1580 or sheena.barnett@journalinc.com.