As promised, following last week’s rather lengthy introduction, here the first of a few rambles around recent things I’ve picked up on in the realm of streaming media. First up, I was out for dinner with my old friend, former colleague and sometimes music collaborator Chris Jones a couple of weeks back. Jones is a Frank Zappa die hard and mentioned, almost in passing, that the entire Zappa catalogue is now available in Spotify. I was frankly astonished. As far as I know, the Zappa estate, overseen by Frank’s widow Gail, had been pretty dismissive about the service, seeing it as returning poor revenues.
(For the record, Zappa himself a true visionary, proposed in the 1980s a digital network allowing the purchase of music. This widely available and quite remarkable document explains it.)
I wrote on my own blog some time ago that I thought the Zappa’s estate’s position was mistaken. I understood – and continue to understand – the potential concerns over the pitiful sums returned to musicians by Spotify (which I’ll return to in this thread). But I didn’t believe that a presence on Spotify would cannibalise income from Zappa catalogue sales elsewhere – or at least would only do so marginally. But the cost of not being available for streaming was future generations left unaware of the work of a man I personally believe to be one of the towering geniuses of 20th Century music.
I have no idea why the estate has “come round” – but I’m delighted it has. Now, if only Manfred Eicher would have the same Damascene moment – or perhaps more prosaically just do the right deal – and get the ECM catalogue onto the service.
Next up: Pink Floyd, Thom Yorke and the question of investment in future artistic careers.