One of recording artists’ biggest complaints about every major music service, from iTunes to Spotify, is not about money — it’s about data. Maybe the solution is for music intermediaries to deliver both.
As Zoe Keating put it so well, it seems unfair to artists that big music stores can contact customers directly to buy or listen to certain artists in order to make their services more attractive as products — but that artists themselves can’t contact those same fans. So when it’s time to go on tour (i.e. try to pay some rent), it’s harder to let those people in those towns know about it.
Beats Audio — the upcoming music service from Beats by Dre, whose leaders include Jimmy Iovine (traditional record business), Ian Rogers (digital music business) and Trent Reznor (artist, boat-rocker), which will ostensibly be build atop the MOG music service that Beats acquired last summer — is doing exactly the opposite. Beats will tell artists which people are using the service to access their music, so that those artists can contact the fans directly.
When Keating proposed that she would rather be paid in that data possibly including the email addresses of listeners, privacy advocates freaked out on Slashdot. Indeed, one reason Apple says it doesn’t allow musicians, labels, or app developers access to customer data is due to privacy concerns. But really, does Apple want to protect you — or is it also trying to keep your data for itself as a competitive business advantage over competing services, and even over artists themselves?
After all, some fans absolutely would do practically anything in order to communicate directly with their favorite artists. Would it really be hurting anyone to give artists that data, so that all a fan would have to do to contact an artist would be to listen to their music on Beats?
As noted by Digital Music News, Jimmy Iovine just told Walt Mossberg that before someone uses the Beats music service, they will need to opt in to allowing Beats to tell the artists they listen to who they are. It’s not clear whether the label will get that information too — if so, this scenario could lead to all sorts of horrible spam (“You listened to a song by some random artist on one of our subsidiary labels so now buy these freaking Justin Bieber concert tickets right now!!!”). On the other hand, if the customer data only goes directly to the artist, what could be wrong with that? Nothing, says Iovine.Here are some excerpts from Digital Music News’ transcript of a conversation between Walt Mossberg and Jimmy Iovine, in which Iovine says Beats will tell artists who and where their listeners are:
Iovine: There’s also something else going on on our service that doesn’t happen anywhere. We have to make it user-friendly for the artist, they have to be able to build businesses on it, they have to be able to have information about who’s using their music, where they are, it has to become a business for the artist instead of just communicating with their fans.
Mossberg: You’re going to have to tell people that right up front —
Iovine: Yes, yes, they have to know—
Mossberg: And by the way, not only are you going to pay me $10 a month, but what you’re listening to is going to be communicated back to certain people—
Iovine: To the artist—
Mossberg: To the artists.
Iovine: To the artist. I think that’s fair play. I mean we don’t—
Mossberg: I’ve never heard of a service that does that before.
Iovine: I know that.