Be a Conscious Consumer of Music

This blog piece is the essence of a keynote presentation from the inaugural Byron Music Festival, Industry Conference on Sunday 20 June 2021. It was delivered in person on Arakwal Country and I extend my respects to the Elders past and present of the Bundjalung Nation. I acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded.

Music is the soundtrack to Australian culture and way of life.

Australian music is important.

Australian voices, songs and stories are POWERFUL knowledge systems — they have been since before colonisation. Songlines are how First Nations peoples shared culture and knowledge about living in the Australian environment.

As a music fan your choices of how you consume music has real impact. How, where and when you spend your $$$ impacts Australian creators’ livelihoods, and they desperately need money to rebuild from the ongoing trauma of the pandemic.

During the Channel 7 Tokyo Olympic Games coverage (August 2021) artist Jack River sent out a social media ‘call to arms’ for corporate Australia to play more Australian music in the media and businesses. Did you heed the call? #oursoundtrackourstories

If you did, and care about Australian music and want to understand just HOW the money flow works, and are curious as to how you could choose to consciously consume music — this blog article is for you.

Working in Australian music since 1992, I have been an agent, an artist manager, an event producer, a festival programmer, curatorial advisor, peak body executive director, a facilitator, business owner, mentor and board member. However, transcending all of those roles — I am first and foremost a consumer of music.

Since walking away from the ‘frontline’ of artist management 6 years ago, I consciously challenged myself to ‘think, do and be’ DIFFERENTLY about music in my life.

Skribbl (used with permission) Eleanor Wright, Victoria Holmes, Alex Norman

THINKING — using the brain, analysis, economics —the process, data and money business of music. Copyright.

DOING — active listening, participation, dancing, singing to music.

BEING — how music feels in the body. The energy, the heart, connection and being in reciprocity with the artist, the song and the performance.

What is a CONSCIOUS CONSUMER of music?

CONSUMER — we, the fans, listeners, audiences, followers — in our homes, cars, on headphones or at live shows, gigs, festivals . We also passively consume music in public places such as retail shops, on hold, in venues, hairdressers, theme parks and restaurants.

CONSCIOUS — to be present in our ‘thinking, being and doing’. Making choices, participating, and being present and aware of ‘receiving’ music.

Skribbl (used with permission) Eleanor Wright, Victoria Holmes, Alex Norman

There are 3 primary sources of revenue for music — songs, sound recordings and live performance.

These three sources link to copyright and it is copyright that determines how how artists get paid.

How much an artist earns from songs, sound recordings and live shows determines how, and if, they can invest time, energy, talent, skills and money to create, produce and perform more MUSIC.

What does it mean to CONSUME a song ?

THINK — be curious about music. Who wrote that song? Where and when and why was it written? Use your head, research and be curious about who wrote the songs you are listening to.

DO — listen, subscribe, follow artists pages. Consider Patreon and subscription models (if you can afford it).

BE— observe how you feel, your emotions, the connection.

Here exists the “1st” copyright — the song itself is linked to the right to earn money (collected by APRA AMCOS) and collects play data through its digital life. We consumers cannot SEE this when you play a song on any platform, anywhere, anytime — it just IS.

What does it mean to CONSUME a recording?

What does it SOUND like ?

THINK — be curious. Research, google, visit the ‘about’ section of their Facebook page. Who is the artist? Are they Australian? Are they male, female or gender non-conforming? Are they Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander artists? What is their story ?

Wonder where it was made? Was it here in an Australian recording studio? Discover the giant database of official music credits online at Jaxsta.

An Australian artist recording could be released by a global company but it could also be released on a smaller ‘indie’ — an independent record label, a local label or self-released.

DO — pay attention . Your attention has value — your attention is the doing. We exist in an attention economy, your attention creates data. Data impacts revenue. What platform are you streaming it on? Do you pay a subscription? Is it Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, YouTube ? Wonder what that may mean for an artist? For the Australian music industry?

BE — observe how you feel, your emotions, the connection.

A “2nd” copyright now exists and therefore another income stream — when a song is put on to a recording it now has a ‘mechanical’ right, also collected through APRA AMCOS. This is paid by the DSP (details below).

A “3rd” copyright now exists in the master recording itself. This is collected by the record label, and/or the owner of the recording itself. This is paid by the DSP (details below).

How to CONSCIOUSLY CONSUME both songs and recordings?

Canadian cultural critic, Marshall McLuhan would define a music tech platform like Spotify as a medium, and therefore different from the music that is played on the platforms. He would argue it is not the music that matters so much but what we do, as humans, with it is that has an impact on culture.

When you put songs and recordings together, masses of data is generated that ultimately impact $$$ for artists. Two factors are at play that require your understanding to be conscious of your music consumption : Algorithms and Digital Service Providers (DSPs).

Skribbl (used with permission) Eleanor Wright, Victoria Holmes, Alex Norman

Algorithms

An algorithm is the way a computer program can classify and impose hierarchies on to habits — in this case listening to music.

Music creates a billion data rows per second — this BIG DATA will continue to influence how the platforms are designed so they can monetize user data. Your attention makes them money.

Music platforms shape what listeners of music DO in a way that is very different to purchasing a CD or a vinyl record. Algorithms have powerfully expanded the passive consumption of music and this is problematic.

Playlists are now the foundation of how songs & records are consumed. Australian culture is alarmingly dominated by global playlists and non-Australian music and artists. One historian called this a CULTURAL BATTLE.

Algorithmically created lists of songs by mood, genre, ‘sounds like’ are passively disrupting the relationship humans have with music and creators.

Songs are removed from the context of an album, or an artist’s catalogue.

Algorithms reinforce BIAS against female and diverse artists. 2019 research found that algorithms create ‘closed circles’ for music consumption. As music is organised by similarities of genre or gender — algorithms reflect the status quo and reinforce dominant values and inequalities. This will be reflected, eventually, in royalty distribution — read my blog Spotify Playlists, Algorithms and Power here.

Become conscious and participate in your music engagement.

Without human intervention, algorithms put our discovery of music at the mercy of software programmers and engineers. Take charge and feed your personal algorithm. Actively participate and make your own playlists of Australian music.

Seek out human curated playlists that reflect your values and shine a light on local, Australian and music made by diverse peoples.

Music is social — share it, connect with others around music online.

Read my October 2018 blog Discover new AUSTRALIAN music for more tips.

Digital Service Providers (DSPs)

As defined by Songtrust, DSPs are “corporate entities that provide digital services built on a networked ecosystem of consumers.” Examples are Spotify, Amazon, YouTube and iTunes.

To be conscious about consuming songs and recordings you need to go one step further and consider where the music is being played.

DSPs generate data and attract $$$ in both private/consumer and business/commercial places .

The different places a DSP is licensed to play music means different income sources and opportunities for discovery of new Australian music.

This is important.

Private/Consumer Streaming

Consumer streaming means music for personal use — home, car, headphones.

Whatever streaming platform you choose to access music from — pay for it. Even if you think you are not paying, you are — with your data and attention . By paying a monthly fee revenue is circulated back to artists and labels as royalties, eventually.

This is of course, not without controversy. (I would point you to the MMF and CMU insights reports on Dissecting the Digital Dollar.)

Business/Commercial Streaming

There is additional value attached to music when it is played in public places, as this is a different use of music.

Music played in business/commercial settings means a “4th” and “5th” copyright now exists. This is money made from the ‘public performance’ of the song and the recording.

Every public place that uses music is required to be issued a license — available from One Music Australia. The money they collect is paid back to artists, eventually. The songwriters are paid by APRA. The recordings, if registered, are paid by PPCA.

Now, here is the catch.

If you think you have a license to play music and choose to play Spotify or Apple or YouTube in your business, you are breaking the terms and conditions of your user contract. These are private/consumer DSPs and are not licensed by the artists or labels for use in public. The play data is not collected, and the artists don’t receive that additional revenue from being played in public. (NB industry folk reading, if you are a member of APRA and/or PPCA you will only see these streams paid by analogy ie if you are being played on commercial radio for example. More detailed info on my blog Fair Play.)

Now, here is the solution for a business to consciously support Australian music : use a Licensed Background Music Provider !

A licensed background music provider is a DSP that is licensed with APRA AMCOS or ONE MUSIC. (NB Industry folks, be sure to register all recordings with PPCA and ask a DSP if they have an ARIA blanket license, or license direct or through your aggregator/distributor, if you are servicing them your music.)

Watch this video to see how a licensed streaming platform adds value to businesses AND Australian artists’ songs and recordings :

So, when businesses such as pubs, hotels, spas, cafes, restaurants, gyms and retail shops consciously choose licensed providers like Nightlife Music, Qsic, Marketing Melodies, Mood Media or Stingray — the track logs can be matched with their license fees and the Australian artists, and labels receive money.

This simply does not happen when a staff member plugs in an aux cord!

Australian artists need us.

If we as a collective are more aware of our music consumption, we can make a difference to the livelihoods of Australian artists.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I live and work on the unceded lands of the Turrbul and Jaggera Yuggera peoples. I pay my respect to their Ancestors and Elders. I recognise that sovereignty has never been ceded.

In December 2021 Leanne de Souza will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (Major, Digital and Media Cultures and Minors, Gender Studies and Australian Indigenous Studies) from the University of Queensland.

Leanne is Co-Owner and Non-Executive Director of Nightlife Music, a trustee of the Queensland Performing Arts Trust (QPAC) and Chair of the Electronic Music Conference Advisory Board.

From 2016–2019 Leanne held the Executive Director role for the Association of Artist Managers (AAM), serving the broader music industry, building upon two decades working directly in frontline artist management.

Leanne is a life-member of Q Music and was awarded the 2019 National Live Music Award for “Excellence in Support of the Live Music Industry.”

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Governance | Leadership | Strategy | People & Culture | Graduate of UQ | music, books, alchemy, justice and champagne

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Leanne de Souza

Leanne de Souza

Governance | Leadership | Strategy | People & Culture | Graduate of UQ | music, books, alchemy, justice and champagne

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