Lever Time with David Sirota

On this week’s bonus episode of Lever Time Premium, The Lever’s Nick Campbell speaks with music writer Robin James and drummer Greg Saunier from the band Deerhoof to discuss the shifting corporate landscape of the music industry, and the larger dynamics of our economy.

The three zero in on a worrisome development: The online music platform Bandcamp was recently sold to the multinational music conglomerate Songtradr, leading to layoffs of 50 percent of Bandcamp’s employees amid union contract negotiations, an ominous sign for the future of the last major independent music sales platform.

In today’s discussion, Nick, Robin, and Greg explore the exploitative practices making the industry harder for working-class musicians — and what an equitable music industry could actually look like.

A transcript of this episode is available here.

If you'd like access to Lever Time Premium, which includes extended interviews and bonus content, head over to LeverNews.com to become a supporting subscriber.

If you’d like to leave a tip for The Lever, click the following link. It helps us do this kind of independent journalism. levernews.com/tipjar

What is Lever Time with David Sirota?

From LeverNews.com — Lever Time is the flagship podcast from the investigative news outlet The Lever. Hosted by award-winning journalist, Oscar-nominated writer, and Bernie Sanders' 2020 speechwriter David Sirota, Lever Time features exclusive reporting from The Lever’s newsroom, high-profile guest interviews, and expert analysis from the sharpest minds in media and politics.

[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to this week's bonus episode of Lever Time Premium. Typically these bonus episodes are exclusively for The Lever's supporting subscribers, but this week we're taking down the paywall to give our listeners an idea of the stories we're covering with our premium podcasts.

Recently, there was a major shakeup in the music industry. And if you're not sure how the ins and outs of that industry relate to you, well, this story perfectly distills a dynamic that's playing out across our economy and culture, and that most definitely affects us all. At the highest level, it illustrates how large corporations and billionaires wield tremendous power to alter or completely do away with the things that enrich our lives and communities.

Whether it be Elon Musk slowly suffocating Twitter, or major consulting firms leading schools like West Virginia University to shutter profitable liberal arts departments, or Amazon mercilessly [00:01:00] dominating the audiobook industry, the examples could go on and on.

But today we're talking about Bandcamp, a web platform that has been a critical part of the infrastructure of independent music for years. At this point, it's the only major music platform dedicated to purchasing and streaming music, rather than solely streaming, which is an important distinction we'll get into.

And it is one of the only large music tech companies that has seemed genuinely concerned with the sustainability and success of music for musicians and listeners alike Bandcamp has chosen a very different path from the streaming giants like spotify and its strategy has in many ways paid off It's largely beloved and it has been consistently profitable two things.

Spotify is most definitely not. However, Bandcamp was just sold to a multinational music conglomerate named Songtradr that was largely unknown to music fans and musicians. There were then massive layoffs that have raised legitimate concerns that the platform will no longer be run in a way that benefits those who love and rely on music.

An [00:02:00] additional element of this story, Bandcamp was in the midst of union contract negotiations and the entire union bargaining team was laid off, which we discuss as well.

It's important with events like this that we take time to understand what has happened, and is happening, so we can take steps to strengthen our communities and protect the things that we love and need.

And to be clear, a vibrant music community is something we all need and benefit from. To discuss this in more depth, I'll be joined by two brilliant individuals. Our following conversation has been edited for brevity. Robin James is a writer, editor, and philosopher.

Her most recent book, The Future of Rock and Roll, 97XWOXY and the Fight for True Independence, is available from the University of North Carolina Press. A link to it will be in the show notes. She's an expert in pop music and politics, sound studies, critical theories of neoliberalism and biopolitics, as well as feminism, gender, and race as they relate to popular music.

You may have already come across her writing in publications like Jezebel or The Guardian. Then we have Greg Saunier, drummer and founding member of [00:03:00] the band Deerhoof, whose music you'll hear in this episode. Deerhoof's independence and intense creativity have underpinned over 25 years of incredible recordings and tours. In my own opinion, no other band has had as incredible a run as Deerhoof with an unbroken chain of equally unique and inspired albums.

Please go and enjoy their music at the links provided in the show notes, particularly their most recent album, Miracle Level, out now on Joyful Noise Recordings.​Robin and Greg, very excited to have you both here today. thank you for your time. to get things started ...I wanted to help our listeners sort of understand what is at stake.

Nick Byron Campbell: Greg, could you share what Bandcamp has meant to you as a musician and what it offers that isn't available on other major platforms?

Greg Saunier: If you're talking about what Bandcamp does, which is sell digital music, I suppose Amazon is a platform that sells digital music. If you happen to um, be [00:04:00] able to stomach Amazon. iTunes still exists as a store, although Apple has removed the application from all of its products in the past couple years because they've, you know, switched their priority over to, uh, the streaming Apple music.

So that's it. Well, most people are doing streaming. That's the way most people consume digital music nowadays. I mean, Bandcamp for many of us feels like the only major platform which digital music is sold.

I mean, it was always cool from the beginning because it, it's cut. You know, Whenever you sold an mp3 or an album was always quite small and it was by far the easiest way, to try and earn income having digital music files if you're a musician, but I mean, when you talk about Bandcamp, it goes beyond that, in a world where, whether you're a musician or a music listener, where you're [00:05:00] kind of used to being gouged or misled or, penalized by the corporate world, uh, Bandcamp was kind of an exception, and to give some context of, You know, a way that that played out, when lockdown occurred and suddenly musicians were unable to go on tour, which since the advent of streaming has been almost the only way that you can make income as a musician.

What did Bandcamp do? They instituted something called Bandcamp Fridays. You know, it's a beloved, thing of both musicians and music listeners alike, in which the first Friday of every month or something, if you bought music from a certain artist, they would take no cut. All the the money would go straight to the artist.

This was like an incredible gesture. that engendered trust and created goodwill. So that unlike many of our experiences in the late [00:06:00] capitalist marketplace, this was one where everybody sort of had a feeling like, I can feel good about shopping here. You know, I like this company.

Nick Byron Campbell: so To me it feels like the Bandcamp saga is the most recent flare up in an ongoing music industry trend of damaging consolidation that goes quite a ways back. Uh, this includes the effects of radio deregulation in the 90s. The consolidation of live music under Live Nation, the dominance of massive tech corporations in streaming, the recent sale layoffs and rumored offshoring of the renowned Moog synth company.

I mean, there, there are a lot of examples you could go into here, just in this one industry. Um, but, uh, to you, Robin, is the Bandcamp situation here part of a larger trend in the music industry? And if so, could you sort of explain what you see as happening here?

Robin James: So I would definitely say it's part of a trend both in the music industry and just sort of capitalism generally. So I'm going to kind of walk back from the 90s and maybe kind of do a [00:07:00] chronological "how did we get here." So in the 90s in the music industry you saw the Telecom Act of 96 deregulate the radio industry.

And then you'd have, uh, Clear Channel, now iHeartMedia, gobble up multiple stations in the same market, and then broadcast, canned programming to all of them, right? So, you know, became like the Walmart of radio, in a way. You know, same thing everywhere. You can't tell where you are if you're in Ohio or in Texas.

What that deregulation did led radio stations to care more about their stock price than actually being profitable as stations. So, basically, you see the financialization of radio, and then this, is basically the same model that tech companies work under today, right?

Spotify barely turns a profit, occasionally, Uber not terribly profitable, but, um, the stock price is still good, right? And Wall Street still likes the stock, and that's what matters. Right? So you see this broad [00:08:00] financialization of the industry. So Bandcamp debuted in 2007, about six months before Spotify in 2008.

Robin James: So Bandcamp works on this sort of traditional music industry model where you sell music as a commodity. It's a good, like music or merch is something that you sell for a profit. And that's how the music industry traditionally has worked. Streamers treat music as an asset, so like, when you get like a home equity loan, you're basically borrowing against accumulated wealth you have. Um, when private equity buys up song catalogs, they're also treating music like an asset, it's not something that they're gonna make money on by selling it, but they're gonna, like, license it or lease, use rights to people,

Robin James: been this broad shift in the music industry from treating music as a commodity to treating it as an asset.

Robin James: and that's why Epic and Songtradr want Bandcamp, because they want the assets, the songs on the site, epic very clearly for licensing and its games, and [00:09:00] that, I mean, Songtradr is a licensing company. Lisa Adkins, Melinda Cooper and Martin Konings have a book called The Asset Economy.

And in that book they say, okay, so like, wages are not enough to live on anymore unless you have rich parents, you basically can't buy a house.

These days, because housing prices are so high, for example. So, and you see the same thing in the music industry, right? Musicians can't make money from their labor.

The only thing they have are songwriting credits, Music as asset. And people are rapidly trying to buy them up, take them away. So, that's, what's going on in the music industry. But, as that book, The Asset Economy argues, that's kind of the economy now,

Nick Byron Campbell: I appreciate you drawing that larger parallel because, uh, that is something that I personally felt was really important about this story

Nick: Uh, you wrote an insightful essay about the famously sort of disastrous Woodstock 99 music festival. Um, and I'll link to that in the show notes. And it sort of broke down how the neoliberal tendencies that people run in the event, led directly to the [00:10:00] outcome, which for anyone that is unaware was horrific.

Uh, you know, this supposedly peace and love festival turned into just like a site of total destruction. People died. There were a lot of sexual assaults. It was genuinely horrible. Um, but the interesting thing is the people that Put on this festival, sort of were espousing the ideals of peace and love and art and all this stuff, but then when it actually came down to the execution of this event, basically they were profiteering, which led directly to this outcome of just rage, discomfort, anger throughout the entire event.

I see that as an interesting parallel here too, where the ownership of Songtradr. , is saying that they're here to support the future of the arts, to empower musicians, et cetera, et cetera, when all of their actions do the opposite. I'm sort of curious what you feel is going on here. Do you think that these people have good incentives here and they're just being pushed by the market?

Or is this [00:11:00] just a marketing tactic?

Greg: One thing that I would want to insert into the narrative Robin brought up that I totally agree with about the financialization and that, that switch from commodities to assets, is that that doesn't mean that there isn't something being sold. And in the case of streaming, and probably in the case of Woodstock 99 and larger music festivals as well, something is being sold, and what that is, is the listener.

The listener, or the music fan, is being sold to advertisers.

The music is only bait. I mean, the music really has nothing to do with it. So I think it's more than just your, average quote unquote music executive is like their, their heart is torn, you know, between an appreciation for such and such melody, or they really [00:12:00] like that chord progression, or this lyric really touches them, and they're torn between that and wanting to make a buck.

No, they aren't even, I wouldn't even say they're in the music business. They're in the surveillance business. They're in the selling of human beings to advertisers.

Nick: Sort of curious, If you have any response to any of that, Robin, and then I am also genuinely curious what you think is driving the people making these decisions.

Robin: Yeah, yeah, I mean this goes back to the some of the broader shifts, right? Like people talk about how music is just content. Any sort of creative labor is just content, which is ultimately fungible stuff to drive interaction, streaming media, social media, again, it just needs filler to get users to engage.

and I think Spotify is a great example of this. It's an audio platform. It's ultimately fungible, what people are listening to, right? It could be an audio book, it could be a podcast, it could be white noise, they don't care they just want engagement. As to the question of motivations, like, I'm not going to claim to get inside anyone's head and know [00:13:00] what they're really thinking, but I would just say that, if you want to make a lot of money,

Robin: you know, you're going to follow the market.

At a certain level, it's good business sense if your main motivation is to just make as much money as possible. Um, So Doug Balog was the owner of WOXY, the sort of renowned independent music, radio station, and he, going all the way back to the early 80s, had a mantra that said, we have a responsibility to make money, but not to be greedy.

And I will say, it's a very different ethos. That you see, behind companies like Songtradr, right? they're trying to be greedy.

Greg: Bandcamp that's the irony of it, is they were extremely profitable. Unlike Spotify, unlike the financialized examples that you're giving. That's what adds an irony to, this particular set of events.

Where, bandcamp just out of the blue, with no warning, is suddenly sold to this video game [00:14:00] company, a billion dollar company called Epic Games, and then, in the employees sort of panic about their future, they decide to form a union, Bandcamp United, and, you know, to protect their benefits and severance and stuff, and then, to everyone's great joy, Epic recognizes the union.

And then, like, almost immediately, the next thing you read in the news is that Epic has laid off, you know, however many, 830 employees, and has dumped Bandcamp in the process and sold it to some company that no one I know had ever even heard of. and, If Bandcamp had an asset, yes, they were profitable, and they had commodities, but they also had an asset, and what that was, was trust.

And what that was, was that people loved it! They had writers, you know, who would write about underground music that was not touched by, you know, [00:15:00] the major music websites and they were always championing things and, and like me being a member of a band, like I had personal relationships with actual human beings who worked at Bandcamp.

During the lockdown stuff like everybody was doing live streams on YouTube and Bandcamp created a Bandcamp live thing. And my band, Deerhoof, started using that as a, better alternative place, to start doing our live streams. There was also the multi year, loyalty, that the employees at Bandcamp showed to each other and to artists who had a relationship with them.

I agree with Robin. We can only speculate about what's going on psychologically inside the mind of Paul Wiltshire who owns Songtradr and now owns Bandcamp. But nothing could illustrate their sense of reality better than their own public statements which was "Hey everybody," and [00:16:00] this is a direct quote.

"It will be business as usual." And they mean that for the artists and for the music fans, the customers. And I thought that this was incredibly cruel to say, because they said this right after they had fired half of Bandcamp's staff. And it, it not only shows that they see Bandcamp as nothing more than numerals, you know, on a ledger sheet or something.

But, but, that they think the rest of us think that way too. It, it shows that, that we must also assume that, "Oh, well as long as the interface looks the same and then the pay rate is still the same, then what do I care?" he really did not grasp the basic asset.

Of Bandcamp, and then, you know, the scandalous next chapter in the story is that this half the staff that they fired, it was the core writing team, and it turns [00:17:00] out it was 100 percent of the Bandcamp United bargaining team,

Greg: which then Songtradr lied publicly and said, well, we didn't have any access to the union information.

We didn't know who we were firing. Which was obviously a lie, and the people who got fired immediately exposed it as a lie by saying it was literally that team that was invited specifically to a meeting with Paul Wiltshire right before they all got dumped. And so, literally they're taking the one asset that Bandcamp really does have And just trashing it and so rapidly, just like that your head spins, you know.

Nick: You just brought up several really, really interesting things. First of all, I have to give a shout out to 404media who broke that story, um, that you're pointing out where, Songtradr claimed to not know who was in the bargaining unit and [00:18:00] then, yeah, that got leaked that they'd been emailing Specifically with the bargaining unit one week before Which Does sort of show their true face, you know that the fact that they were caught in a lie this quickly um sort of does I guess underline the fact that a lot of their statements should maybe not be taken at face value. Two other things you just touched on that I thought were interesting One is the idea of expertise, this happens with a lot of Of tech companies and like uber is a great example.

They come in and just say hey, we can just uh, We can operate transportation now like this wildly complex thing that's been developing over you know generations They're like, I don't know. We got it. you know, You see that in a lot of industries now. Um,

Greg: Expertise or community. Neither expertise nor community

in relationships. But anyway, continue.

Nick: that's a very important additional element to put to it. And then the one other thing I wanted to say is this sort of atomization happening here. Songtradr is not a company that everyone in the music industry is like, Ah, I know Songtradr, you know. there's sort of this Monolith off in the corner that's like sucking things up to [00:19:00] profit off of them But as an entity, they're not someone that's being spoken about regularly and I feel like that really contributes to this feeling of atomization where you don't even like know who's controlling things anymore.

Robin: I'm just thinking about how, Greg made the point that like Bandcamp was profitable, right? It was working as a company, but then it had to come in and be disrupted, right? Because again, if you're a financialized entity that cares primarily about your stock price, then you have to show constant growth and change.

Keeping the lights on, paying the bills. That's not enough, right? Because that doesn't show growth, it doesn't show shareholders that they're going to get more and more money. So you have to disrupt things, even if they're working fine in order to grow your company or whatever.

And you see this, for example, in West Virginia University's closure of its foreign languages departments, right, apparently that [00:20:00] department made $800,000 a year in tuition profits, to support other aspects of the university. very profitable department, but it had to be cut. Because, reasons, disruption, whatever, right?

So this is, again, sort of a broader trend in contemporary capitalism, right? in a financialized economy.

Greg: I remember One of my favorite restaurants in Berkeley, uh, was this vegan, Japanese restaurant we would always go and, uh, Chaya. And it was like, the place was always jammed. I mean, this place was just, there was always a line out the door every dinner time. And everybody asked them, why don't you guys expand?

Why don't you grow? Why don't you get a new, You know, uh, storefront or whatever the hell, no. Wait, this is enough. And the idea of enough, it's like, there was a massed, pressure campaign the instant that [00:21:00] this sale was announced. Everybody was like, to, to Paul Wilcher, a total stranger to them before five seconds ago, do not change it.

Don't change anything. Bandcamp is working great. Don't screw it up. That's our advice. But, Robin, you're making such a good point, which is, those words don't even compute to a brain that is, is not, the word enough is anathema. The word enough is, doesn't exist if your goal is to, increase the value on the stock market, of your company. Because then you're, you're, you're trading on the future and the future means it needs to grow and expand. Of course, I still see some questionable logic there because Bandcamp was not only profiting, but its profits were growing.

I would say that, you know, the, the unfortunate situation for a musical artist right now, [00:22:00] if they have any desire to make an income from their music, uh, particularly their recorded music, and if they have any wish to have anyone other than their friends and family hear anything they record, is that it's obligatory that they use the streaming sites, And beyond streaming, if you want to sell musical files rather than stream them, or in addition to streaming them, I mean, because streaming only pays a fraction of a penny per play, is that Bandcamp remains the best, or at least the easiest and most well known option.

Robin: Yeah, and I think this is also the issue of everyone being at the mercy of platforms. we also see this with Twitter's demise, right? And what's happening to freelance writers, for example. I mean, in my own writing career, like, I got many commissions from just, like, tweeting about things.

Creatives across the board have been put to the mercy of platforms, and as platforms [00:23:00] disintegrate, or get, can I say enshittified on this?

Nick: Yeah. Oh, no, that's, uh,

Robin: Get

Greg: It's a technical term. It's a

Nick: it is now thanks to Cory Doctorow

Robin: I think one of the things that's, and Greg has sort of gestured to this, that's really tragic is that like, Bandcamp did create a community and it was an example of like, all the things you're supposed to do to foster a creative scene,

and to see that just picked apart, bit by bit is just really, um, it's just sad.

Nick: I think, you know, at this point, what I'd love to sort of ask both of you, given what has occurred here, and given these dynamics at play, first of all, what do you feel we have to look forward to, and what can people be doing, or what should they do?

And Robin, I'll start with you, because also I feel that, uh, your most recent book, The Future of Rock and Roll, really dives into this specifically. So I'm very curious to hear your answer to that.

Robin: Yeah, thanks. [00:24:00] So, my book, which I sort of gestured towards, was about, W O X Y 97 X. It was a modern rock radio station. It was maybe what we think is the first radio station to shift from FM to online only broadcasting. The station, was , called by Rolling Stone, uh, The Last Great Independent because the owners never sold out to Clear Channel or anything.

So it's kind of an online indie music icon, right? So what happened is in 2004, station owners sold the station, sold the FM station because they needed to retire. And, they thought that they would be able to get some business partners to keep the online station running. But that never happened. Uh, they did get an angel investor, in May 2004 to help them get back up online for three years.

But, um, They couldn't figure out a business model to make streaming radio content work, uh, because you have to pay more royalties if you stream only online than if you stream on radio and online, right? So it was, um, [00:25:00] extra costly to run an online radio station. So they couldn't figure out a, a sustainable business model.

So in 2006, they stopped broadcasting again, until they got another, um, this wasn't so much an angel investor, so much as a founder of a startup, Bill Nguyen, who,, founded Lala, which is kind of like Uber, but for used CDs, right? It was a platform where you could trade used CDs And, uh, Nguyen wanted, W O X Y for basically the brand value, right?

It made his startup look cool and authentic and, brought people to the website, basically. In 2009, Lala is sold to Apple and becomes part of iTunes. At that time, uh, WOXY decides to sell to Future Sounds, which is another start up. They had some management, they had a label, right?

So, kind of, you know, small music industry firm serving different segments of the, of the industry. [00:26:00] And in 2010, Future Sounds runs out of money, WOXY closes. So there's been, you know, all of these challenges to the existence of this online radio station. And at every point, the station gets resurrected because its community is there for it, right?

So one of the things I argue in the book is that even though the station hasn't broadcasted it since. 2010, it still kind of exists online as a, what I call like a distributed community radio station. There's been a long running podcast about the station by two former DJs. You can still listen to clips online. There's a weekly Spotify playlist, that members of the community populate with new music. So people are still engaging. As part of the WOXY community, in various ways online, and that's because WOXY built its community, and the community members showed up for [00:27:00] each other. The ethos of these financialized companies is to just like, An ethos of austerity, right?

Like you're on your own,

I mean, that's what, um, the music industry is doing to artists, both, you know, with streaming, with Live Nation and touring, right? Like you're on your own, but if we really genuinely support one another, and that includes things like social policy about housing, college tuition, right, these bigger picture issues that affect all of us, I think that can be a solution because I was just thinking, I was tweeting about this the other day.

If you think about it. Punk as DIY emerged in conditions of widespread social democracy. There was the NHS. There was free college. In fact, they paid you to go to college, right? Mick Jones talks about like, well, I registered for art school to get some of the money and then I dropped my classes, right?

They had decent social welfare if you were unemployed, right? So like, DIY only works if we aren't, in fact, left to ourselves, but [00:28:00] have robust social supports so that we can then come together and do creative things because we're not out there scrambling just to make rent.

Greg: I love that so much, and I would say, I would extend that not only to the musicians and the artists in any form, but even to the music fans, because it's the music fans who have also been told, you're on your own, and to whom the risk has been shifted to the individual and away from the institutions, be they corporate or government. austerity. That's neoliberalism. We're 40 years in. You know, I think that something that's hiding behind the change that occurred with the advent of streaming is the beginning of a widespread belief that free music is a human right. And as a person who, as a [00:29:00] result of music becoming free, ends up not getting paid.

I still want to entertain that idea. I think that if, if that's what the population on mass believes is their right, then I agree. But if it's a human right, then streaming obviously should just be nationalized know. . In addition to the, the various consolidation scandals that you mentioned at the beginning, Nick, one that you left out.

Is the multi decade process of defunding the arts from the government and in the process making it so small that any far right Republican can say, Well, look, "all we're doing is like this weird performance artist who like vomits on stage," or something. "Let's just cut the whole thing."

If you've defunded it down to the point where it's hardly helping anybody, then it's a no brainer to just remove it completely, which is kind of where we're at. What we should be doing is what some [00:30:00] other, countries in the industrialized world do, which is pay musicians. Sometimes there's a little bit of extra paperwork involved.

I have some French musician friends who have to fill out a lot of forms in order to get paid to be musicians, but they do make an income because the citizenry feels that it's worth it. Instead, what we get in this country, and because these are multinational corporations, Songtradr is, Australian and Spotify is Swedish

But basically, ethos is being led by the U. S. And that ethos is that the customer, the music listener, if they believe free music is their right, then... Somebody has to benefit, and who they want to see benefit is the corporate sector, the corporate world.

So, that listener is being sold to the corporate sector in return for targeted [00:31:00] advertising. And, and, I would like to say, well that's not getting music for free. That's getting music, in return for you being sold . I guess I would close by saying that the, multi millionaires and billionaires, um, who are making the decisions that affect our community, um, the owners, the Daniel Eck who owns Spotify, the, the Paul Wiltrie who owns Songtradr, they are working under a philosophical point of view, which is very common and deeply indoctrinated, for our entire lifespan, through the major media, which is that something like musical value is equivalent to capitalist value.

the same vocabulary word could be used in both cases, but that it's actually Obfuscating the reality, a personal value that something like music or [00:32:00] the community around music, the sharing of music that you were alluding to with the WOXY narrative is something that's valuable to you in a way that cannot be quantified with a dollar sign and cannot be equated into an exact dollar amount And, uh, that, that it's, uh, it's unfortunate that they don't see value as anything other than the dollar amount.

But I would say that, taking the historical global evidence, music has existed for many millennia before Daniel Ek or Paul Wiltshire ever. Showed up on the scene and wanted to redefine what music is, uh, as content like Robin said, and content that you should actually be making faster because, hey, if you can't catch up to, to, uh, my new rules of how to make money in this economy, that's your problem musician.

I'm defining the new rules of the [00:33:00] game. Music existed before it was nominally taken over by bosses who tell you to work harder. And my guess is that it will exist long after they are gone.

Nick: know, music, I think, more than people are aware, is more on par with language or food. It's, it's not, it's not an option. People think music is an option, but I mean, there is a, you know, a body of study about this that's pretty compelling that, You know, music could have even, uh, you know, predated language itself and may have been critical to the development of language.

I'm not here to argue that. I'm, that's not my expertise, but, um, point is there has never been human culture without music. It's a necessity.

Greg: I think it's long been treated by our society as icing. But I think what it's being treated as now is not even icing. It's being treated as loss leader. It's being treated as bait

for data mining.[00:34:00]

Nick: That just reminded me of something I wanted to bring up too. And that is, one of the first things I did was go to Songtradr's website. Uh, and then once I got there, one of the first thing I did was click on pricing. And they're, they're a lot more like Spotify than you think.

And a lot of, I mean, this is what Hollywood's grappling with now. The sort of Netflix model that's like. Just clearly not working unlike a function. It's working for someone It's working for certain people But like from an actual like sort of nuts and bolts business perspective is failing this idea that you can just like give 15 a month to Spotify and have the unlimited history of music at your disposal and there's not gonna be any give or take there And Netflix is doing it tries to do the same whatever but song trader does the same thing for licensing I mean their rates are absurd It's like under 90 bucks a month for a business to like Get infinite rights to music on that play.

It's like that. There is no way that That small of an amount of money per month can actually underwrite

Greg: gonna cover the

[00:35:00] entire encyclopedic library of music

Nick: Oh, I mean just a hilarious concept that that could be uh an appropriate business model.

Um, so I guess before I wrap it, um, Robin, any last thoughts you'd want to share to our listeners?

Robin: Nobody has figured out a sustainable music streaming model in 20 years, That's kind of what some of my WOXY book was about. They were some of the first streamers. They couldn't figure it out in nearly a decade. We haven't figured it out since then. So I think if someone could figure out a sustainable music streaming model, you could win the internet.

Greg: Right.

Robin: I don't know that there's a lot of will to do that because success means success in these like financialized platform startup terms, but um, Yeah, Bandcamp was kind of there, right, because they had the, once they had the streaming function,[00:36:00] that kind of changed the game for me. It's like, here, I can listen on my phone and...

Right? Um, so I, I think from my perspective, the next big challenge is like, how does the music community make streaming work for us, and not just for Wall Street?

Nick: That's it for today's episode. Again, please go to the show notes to learn more about the excellent work that both Robin and Greg put out into the world. And thank you to all of Deerhoof, whose other members are Satomi Matsuzaki, John Dietrich, and Ed Rodriguez, for the use of their music in today's episode.

As a reminder, if you enjoyed this premium episode and want to access all of The Lever's Premium podcasts, you [00:37:00] can go to LeverNews.com to become a paid supporter. Also make sure to subscribe to our other podcasts, The Audit and Movies vs. Capitalism, and check out all of the incredible reporting our team is doing at LeverNews.com. Until next time, I'm Nick Byron Campbell. Rock the boat.

The Lever Time Podcast is a production of The Lever and The Lever Podcast Network. It's hosted by David Sirota, our producer is Frank Capello, with help from Lever producer Jared Jacang Mayer.