Johnny Marr

In the newest issue of NME, the Smiths guitar legend Johnny Marr has a column, and he’s taken the opportunity to pop some shit off. More specifically, he’s joined the growing mass of musicians who don’t have anything nice to say about the streaming service Spotify. Marr’s problem’s with the service aren’t with its habit of paying a pittance to musicians, though if you pressed him on that, he probably wouldn’t be too thrilled about it. Rather, his real issue is that it’s too convenient. Here’s what he writes:

I think it entirely hampers new bands. I can’t think of anything more opposite to punk rock than Spotify. I have no answer to the economic side of the music industry, but I do think we certainly shouldn’t stop valuing what bands do. I don’t like great things being throwaway… Pop culture isn’t just about “the music, man.” It’s a way of life, and an aesthetic, and it’s not just about pressing a button and getting something entirely for convenience. Put it this way: we’re soon going to start seeing the difficulties of innovative music trying to swim in that huge tide.

(via FACT)

But speaking of new bands, Marr has nothing nice to say about one of them: HAIM. Marr’s beef isn’t with the band’s music; it’s that they posed for a photo with the conservative British prime minister David Cameron and dedicated a song to him during a performance: “It’s really simple: they made themselves look like idiots. It’s ridiculous. No-one put a gun to their head. The Conservatives tried to do the same thing with the Smiths, to re-appropriate us in a false way, to be cool by association.” Nobody should tell Marr about Destiny’s Child playing George W. Bush’s first Inaugural Ball; it might ruin Beyoncé for him.

Meanwhile, Marr does have nice things to say about Grimes and Chvrches leader Lauren Mayberry, both of whom spoke plainly about misogyny within the music business: “I wonder why we’re going backwards in that regard.”

Comments (24)
  1. In other words, “Americans, please start paying attention to world news. I believe it comes on about an hour after ‘Inside Edition’ so, enjoy!”

  2. As hard as he tries, the best old grumpy uncle from The Smiths will always be the other one.

  3. It doesn’t matter who David Cameron is photographed with, no one would ever actually believe he’s cool ‘by association’ or otherwise, people aren’t that gullible. As for Haim’s intent, it was probably at best a harmless ironic gesture.

  4. I like it when people say what they think.

  5. Evolution is necessary. The days of punk that Mr. Marr talks of are over and will never come back. Cream rises to the top, always. Adaptation is 100% necessary in order to survive and Spotify is something bands today need to figure out how to capitalize on. It leads to creativity, not destruction. FIDLAR (not my favorite, but I’d call them somewhat of a punk group) had Spotify ads all over the place when their album came out, and then because of that and a lot of press they were able to go on a giant tour. $$$

    • Yea, it’s all really just another version of that ‘beef’ between Patrick Stickles and Kurt Vile two years ago when KV gave rights to Bank of America for Baby’s Arms and P- Sticks gave him shit for it.

      The takeaway: traditional punk ideals are irrelevant, musicians need to adapt to the times or they’re going to starve. I’m not saying the Spotify model is perfect, but the trend certainly isn’t going away.

  6. Speaking of things that are not punk rock – is it just me, or does it seems like all of a sudden, bashing on Spotify is the least controversial stance a band can take?

    Maybe it just took a bunch of geezers who “got theirs” (I consider even Foals “geezers who got theirs” at this point) complaining about the culture of Spotify listening to highlight all the wonderful, populist sides to the thing for me.

  7. It seems to me that the fault should really lie with the labels and not Spotify itself. They don’t purchase rights from artists directly but rather labels and their parent companies, should they have one. Moreover, it’s not like every single band that has ever lived is on Spotify. There are still punk bands and indie bands and artists of all ilk that still believe in the tried and true old fashioned street teams/word of mouth method.

  8. It’s funny how happy you all are to change the conversation so that it’s not about a serious concern with music and culture today and make it about how punk rock is over or the interpersonal relationships of the smiths.

    Your reactions to this are part of whats wrong with music consumerism.

    What Johnny Marr is saying has nothing to do with literal punk rock the movement, he’s using it as an expression because he is a dated old man. What he’s saying is that the instant gratification of spotify devalues music on the whole. If you can have something without effort whenever you want why should you respect it? Obviously there are many positives to spotify such as granting consumers exposure to a significant amount of music like never before. Potentially, even artists could benefit as their music is made available to a huge theoretical audience. But ultimately this easy access just leads to absorption and disposal while the listener moves on to whatever’s next.

    I also can’t help but find the blatant love of commercialism somewhat disgusting. Music isn’t about success and making money. Obviously if you want to do music full time you do have to have some market appeal, but that’s not the end goal. The idea that “cream rises to the top” leaves little or no room for variety in music, especially since the internet and services like spotify have led to an extreme diminishing of subcultures.

    We’ve already begun to see the direction music culture is heading: genres are collapsing, lorde is playing on every radio station. there isn’t a place for new music to grow and develop in front of an audience because every stage is center stage. Furthermore, because of this there is really no incentive for musicians to make music that is inaccessible to mainstream audiences because they simply cannot compete.

    Spotify is bad for music. Music inherently has the power to create change, but it’s robbed of this when you don’t have to put effort, when you don’t have to put in any of yourself, when you don’t have to care. Spotify establishes a throw-away listening practice wherein music doesn’t have meaning it’s just there to entertain you in the background.

    • Can’t like this enough

    • It’s not just Spotify that is causing this…it’s the sheer volume of music that is pushed out today. Any Joe Shmoe can record an album in his room with the right equipment, so there is a lot more to sift through. While that means the top 40 crowd will more easily be lead to what the labels want them to enjoy, it also means that a music lover like myself and many who post here will dive into something with even more enthusiasm. Spotify gives me easy access to the overload of music, so if I don’t like something I didn’t just waste money or even my time downloading it. Just the time it took to listen to it. That also means when I find something I enjoy, I find that I enjoy it that much more because 1) I really had to search for that great album and 2) I got to sift through so much crappy music that I understand how hard it must be to make something enjoyable. So I may not be enjoying music the same way I did in high school, but I have evolved with the times and appreciate the new way to listen it.

    • I like everything about your post, except the phrase “dated old man”. You all realize that ageism is part of the ‘blatant commercialism’ that has infected art and culture, right? You realize that worshipping youth is an easy way to make everyone hate themselves after turning 26, and that the best way to make people buy into stupid shit is to make them feel like they are worthless?

      You realize that music industry exists to serve as advertising for big, corporate alcohol distributers, right? You realize that to be young and cool you have to drink yourself nearly to death at some ridiculous “show” every night of the week, right? You realize that bands and “artists” have become slaves to advertising revenues, right? You realize that the bands you “love” (which you’ll likely have forgotten about in 6 months) exist to power the engines of conspicuous consumption, and that the loads of free jeans, shoes, ray-bans, and whatever else that gets hurled at them at CMJ and SXSW – so called “swag” – is a potent tool that actually *does* work to perpetuate an un-quenchable thirst for cheap consumer goods, right? You realize that Spotify, and all the rest, are simply part of this larger corporate rape of “independent” music, right? Your realize that defending Spotify is akin to wearing a fucking Nike logo on your tee-shirt or shoes, basically a symbol of your allegiance to capitalism, and free advertising for faceless corporate jackals who are already busy planning the best way to consume the souls of your children, right?

      • you’re right, I shouldn’t have used that phrase. All I really meant by that is that he is a creature of his time as are we all and the phrase “punk rock” is intrinsically part of his lingo. He didn’t literally mean punk rock, the movement; what he really meant was the spirit of independence and bravery that “punk rock” connotatively implies. There are definitely better ways I could have indicated this, but I am the first to admit that I can be prone to ageism.

        As far as everything else, I get what you’re saying but I think it’s fruitless to talk about it like that. The way of the world is that people take what they can and what they want until a newer, theoretically better, system comes about to take the old one’s place. People are born with desire, and yes corporations and people with money/power do pretty much everything they can to fan that flame, but ultimately that’s the way the world is. Part of the social contract into which we enter by being alive is dealing with the fact that to a certain degree things are fake and cheap and lies. The only real way to subvert this is to support the things you find to be real and beautiful and screw all the rest.

    • poorly written but well said.

  9. Can’t unlike this enough. The artistic “value” of music is not related to its market value or to the convenience of accessing it. A punk music fan in 1980 who had free access to his or her older sibling’s record collection was not any less a fan, simply because the music was free and accessible. The limiting factor was the same then as it is now and will always be, the amount of time in a day a fan is willing or able to invest in music.

    And the idea that variety or sub-genres don’t exist anymore is silly to anyone who is actually exploring this vast labyrinth of music we now have unlimited access to.

    • I disagree. I mean, the value of music has nothing to do with the monetary cost, but convenience definitely influences how you subconsciously appraise the worth of pretty much anything. It’s human nature; accomplishments feel better when you’ve actually had to earn them. It’s no different with music. Not that you have to pay for music in order to appreciate it, but money is power is respect. Even free access to a record gives you something physical to hold onto and care about, or you can go to a show and have an immersive experience; it’s about making a connection in your mind that doesn’t get created when something costs you nothing and doesn’t require effort.

      Also, I didn’t say sub-genres I said subcultures which is totally different. There are a billion different bandcamps that encompass the total possible spectrum of music at this point in time, there are sounds and genres that no one has ever heard before. The problem is that there isn’t a culture in place to support them – there’s too much noise not enough signal.

      So feel free to peruse the figurative cornucopia of music to which you have access, but know that everything has its price and not just the advertisements you’re listening to. You are participating in a culture that believes it can take without giving back and do so without ramifications. And yes, there will always be innovators and artists who are driven to create something new, but without the support of an audience, and without the belief that there exists a place for them in the world they can only remain in the shadows, never to grow or develop, eclipsed by unlimited distraction and the belief that this is the best of all possible worlds.

      • I buy more physical records and go to more shows, because of Spotify, not less. I doubt anybody has studied the effects of Spotify on these activities, but I’d hazard a guess there’s a positive correlation. It certainly is in my case, since I now know about a lot more music than I ever would have otherwise.

        And I don’t know who told you I “listen to ads,” because that person is lying. I don’t watch ads on TV (cancel cable/use bit torrent), I don’t read ads (throw out your junk mail/use a spam filter/ad block the Internet/stop reading physical magazines/stay away from the mall) and I sure as hell don’t listen to ads (destroy all radios/ad-free-Spotify is only $10 a month). I am subjected to ads on the bus sometimes, but I keep my head down. Luckily I live in a city that must have ordinances prohibiting huge signs like in Times Square, because we don’t have those.

  10. fuck all these whiney musicians and there colon sucking poser fan base. Music is for the masses and if people didn’t dig spotify and the what not, well they woukdnt be so fuckn popular. these past their prime derps need to stfu and play for me and everyone else.

  11. The main issue here is covering fucking Sheryl Crow.

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