Streaming Is The Future, Says Pink Floyd Drummer
Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason said the music industry has finally accepted streaming services, but added that there is still a tension between the record labels and the artists.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal Tech Cafe in the heart of London’s Tech City, Mr. Mason said the band, which had resisted making its music available digitally, had undergone a change of heart.
He said Pink Floyd had never liked the idea of people “cherry-picking” music from full albums, but Mr. Mason said he now views streaming services like Spotify AB as the future of the music industry, and compact discs as a dying art. He also identified Apple Inc.’s iTunes as being on a “downward trend.”
“Spotify for us was a success,” he said. “A lot of people have been streaming our music, and importantly also a lot of people who weren’t yet familiar with our music. Perhaps I would say something different if we were having this discussion a year and a half ago, but now it’s becoming clear that streaming is not another form of piracy, and you can argue that more music is being listened to now than…in the past.”
In a talk peppered with views on the industry as well as recounting the band’s extraordinary rise to be a global brand, Mr. Mason reserved his strongest words for the recording industry. Record companies, Mr. Mason said, have had a hard time adapting to the new reality.
“Record companies need to work more comfortable with artists,” Mr. Mason said, “or they will lose out.” He argued that labels haven’t really done many favors for themselves by not paying enough attention to the relationship they have with artists, as well as the nature of some of the contracts and other agreements they used in the past.
“The main problem with record companies is that they can no longer afford to do the sort of development for new artists that they used to. Launching new artists or bands has simply become too expensive for them now that their business model and their revenues are under pressure,” he said.
“We’re going to have to find other ways of identifying the grassroot talent out there and bring them into the spotlights. As artists we used to have a ladder that we needed to climb, and there were clearly defined steps we needed to take, but now it feels like the first four rungs are missing.”
On the topic of the potential for technology to put artists more in control over the distribution of their music, their tour dates, communications with fans — activities typically controlled by management or labels — Mr. Mason said there’s really only a limited number of artists doing this, but that all musicians and bands are (and should be) watching the trend carefully.
As for the music business, the industry had clearly shifted wholesale from recorded music to live. Live performances are now where the money is, he said, along with merchandising. He singled out The Rolling Stones and the high prices they charge for concert tickets as a sign that live music can be valuable — apparently more valuable than actual albums, because of the experience.
Commenting on the TV show “X Factor” and similar shows, he said it was a mistake to confuse them with the music business because they were entertainment. Mr. Mason said people who would vote for a band to win the contest wouldn’t necessarily be the ones buying tickets for their concert the next week as they would be busy watching for the next hot ticket.
Asked by a member of the audience how Pink Floyd would go about launching in this day and age, Mr. Mason admitted to having “absolutely no idea.”