Many Musicians Troubled by Streaming Services

In the digital era of music consumption the consumer never actually owns the music the way they would with a vinyl record or compact disc. The movement from owned and physical mediums to rented and digital mediums has had a drastic impact on the value we place on music. Many musicians argue that the value we place on music is too low. One such musician, Damon Krukowski, demonstrates in his 2012 article in music news and review site, Pitchfork, “Making Cents”, how seemingly little compensation artists receive from various digital platforms. Krukowski makes a compelling case that artists are not being compensated fairly for their music by digital streaming services but his message is weakened by relying too heavily on emotional appeals and by not offering any sort of solution to the problem.

What the Author is Saying

The primary strength of the article is in its appeal to pathos which is achieved by candidly describing his personal experience as an artist with the streaming services, Spotify and Pandora. Krukowski creates a sympathetic picture of the struggle of a musician’s life using his own financial records and anecdotes delivered in a casual but righteous manner. Krukowski appeals to ethos by defining himself as having an over twenty year career as a successful artist who has direct interaction with streaming services. He uses emotive language to portray record companies as being not at all interested in the prosperity of music or musicians and appeals to logos by linking to articles and statistics showing Spotify and Pandora higher ups profiting immensely while artists make pennies. However, he loses sympathy and credibility in the article’s final moments when he says that he also subscribes to these music streaming services even though he has just laid out how bad they are for the artist.

An Emotional Subject

Krukowski opens the article with very emotional language and continues to pepper the entire article with many appeals to pathos. He explains in blunt terms that, “the ways in which musicians are screwed have changed qualitatively, from individualized swindles to systemic ones.” The use of the word “screwed” sets a tone of anger and informality and the word, “swindles”, is very contemptuous and results in a feeling of injustice with the reader.

The Cold Hard Stats

The majority of the article is spent breaking down the actual figures Krukowski has made which serves to strengthen appeal to logos and pathos. Krukowski is part of a popular indie rock band, Galaxie 500, a frequent contributor to Pitchfork, and runs his own record label which is his most effective appeal to ethos in the article as his personal experience makes his figures hard to dispute. He states that, “Galaxie 500’s ‘Tugboat’ was played 7,800 times on Pandora in the first quarter of 2012, for which its three songwriters were paid a collective total of 21 cents, or seven cents each.” He continues to break these figures down in many different ways stating that, “Here’s yet another way to look at it: Pressing 1,000 singles in 1988 gave us the earning potential of more than 13 million streams in 2012.” Presenting the same numbers in different ways serves to appeal to logos but also appeals to pathos when presented in this manner due to it’s repetitive and incredulous nature.

Who Should Benefit Most?

Krukowski may rely to heavily on appeals to pathos as he falls short on one analogy. He says that, “As businesses, Pandora and Spotify are divorced from music. To me, it’s a short logical step to observe that they are doing nothing for the business of music — except undermining the simple cottage industry of pressing ideas onto vinyl, and selling them for more than they cost to manufacture.” This is an appeal to pathos as it makes the tech companies seem like antagonists by painting the pre-digital music industry as being a “simple cottage industry”. This was his least effective appeal to pathos in the article as one would have to be naive to consider the cutthroat record business as simple and quaint. However, his argument in the notion of a greedy tech industry is strengthened by his citing New York Times and Digital Music News articles showing that while artists are making pennies, the CEO’s of these companies are making many millions and sponsoring legislation that will reduce required compensation rates even further.

Is there an Alternative?

Krukowski makes effective appeals to logos with his detailed analysis of the wages artists are compensated with, which are backed up with credible citations. He takes a conversational but righteous tone and uses very descriptive language and stories of personal experience which is the most effective of the rhetorical devices used in the article. His candid style serves his purpose until the end of the article when he says that, “In fact, I subscribe to Spotify for $9.99 a month (the equivalent of 680,462 annual plays of “Tugboat”) because I love music, and the access it gives me to music of all kinds is incredible.” It damages the author’s credibility and weakens his portrayal of the streaming services as an inherently flawed business model that hurts artists if he uses the services himself. By offering no potential solution to the problem and in a way contributing to it, the article suddenly seems whiny and impotent.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.