Steve Albini Thinks Online Streaming Solved “The Problem With Music”

By Chris DeVille / April 29, 2014

The debate over streaming music has been harsh and polarizing, so who better to weigh in than Steve Albini, one of the harshest, most polarizing voices in music? He doesn’t think what you might think he thinks, though. Albini, the stalwartly independent musician and producer whose famous The Baffler essay “The Problem With Music” became a sacred text on the subject of music industry corruption, apparently thinks streaming music is great. In fact, in a new interview with Quartz, Albini goes so far as to say the likes of Spotify, and Beats Music, and Bandcamp have essentially solved “The Problem With Music.” Here are some choice excerpts:

  • On free global music sharing: “The single best thing that has happened in my lifetime in music, after punk rock, is being able to share music, globally for free. That’s such an incredible development.”
  • On consumer choice: “Record labels, which used to have complete control, are essentially irrelevant. The process of a band exposing itself to the world is extremely democratic and there are no barriers. Music is no longer a commodity, it’s an environment, or atmospheric element. Consumers have much more choice and you see people indulging in the specificity of their tastes dramatically more. They only bother with music they like.”
  • “You can literally have a worldwide audience for your music… with no corporate participation, which is tremendous.”
  • On the economics of streaming services: “I think they are extremely convenient for people who aren’t genuine music fans, who don’t want to do any legwork in finding bands, [but] I think there is incorrect calculus being done by the people who are upset about them. I actually think the compensation is not as preposterous as anyone else. It’s like complaining that cars are going faster than horses.”
  • On the publishing industry: “Publishing was a racket. It was not a legitimate part of the music business. It never operated for the benefit of songwriters. Of all of the things that have collapsed in the music paradigm, the one I am most pleased to see collapse is the publishing racket.”
  • On the primacy of live music: “I think that’s a totally much more direct and genuine way for an audience to pay for a band, and a much more efficient means of compensation.”
  • On cutting out the middleman: “On balance, the things that have happened because of the internet have been tremendously good for bands and audiences, but really bad for businesses that are not part of that network, the people who are siphoning money out. I don’t give a fuck about those people.”

Read the full story with lots of additional stats at Quartz. (via Spin)