I think, as @Nick_M mentions, percentage of play misses the mark because it (then again) makes it near impossible for long form music (over 5 minutes and then over 10 minutes etc.) to be rewarded on the same ground as short form music.
In the history of music, short form music has never suffered from being short, in the streaming era, it’s even worse, since streaming allows very easily to put a song you like on repeat, and since the whole experience is only 2 minutes long, you can judge quicker if you want to listen to 8 minutes of it (after 2 minutes : do I like it ? yes ! Maybe I’ll put it again !), when an 8 minutes song will most likely not be listened to twice, let alone four times.
A percentage of listen means the 10 minutes song will be rewarded with the price of a “20% listen”, and a 2 minutes song will be rewarded with the price of a “100% listen”.
I think the reason you believe punk songs (or any short songs of any kind) would suffer, is because you see “a listen” as the moment where the song has reached its value point. This is only real in the current Spotify (or even in the current Stream 2 Own) model.
Let’s break it down between different systems :
Current Spotify model : after x seconds, listening to a track is counted as “a listen”. No matter how long the song is, you make the same money, ie. “the song” is the product, and the length is irrelevant. Nice conceptually, but in application, this means a lot of longer and weirder songs get screwed because they have less replay value, and since the value is not placed on “appreciation of the song” but “a listen that lasts more than x seconds”, the short songs (even the punk ones !) win and are favored. It’s especially true because, since Spotify doesn’t put a limit on how much money a song can make, the more a “2 minutes song” is being listened to, the more it eats a share of the global money pool, the more it devalues the longer songs you listen to only once or twice. Meaning Spotify effectively is pushing certain forms of art.
Current Stream 2 Own model : The value is placed on “how much you listen to a song” (considered a demonstration of your true attachement to this music, I’ll get back to that). After 9 plays, you paid 1$/£/€, it’s the price of the song, you know own it. While it puts a nice number of barriers (songs can’t generate infinite amount of money out of users, a decent pay is reached way quicker etc.), it’s still clearly favoring short (even punk ones !) songs : in 18 minutes, the punk band made 1€, when it’ll take 1h30 of listening time for the “we make 10 minutes songs” band to make the same amount. It also effectively means that if I’ve listened the 10 minute song twice, (so for a longer period of time than if I had listened to the punk song 9 times !), I sill only will have paid only a fraction (something like 0,008$/£/€ vs 1€ it’s a differential for roughly the same listening time that amounts to 125 times more money for the Punk band !).
Now the proposed percentage of play system : Here the value is based on percentage of listen (ie. “how much of what I wrote has been consumed by the listener, wether he liked it or not” and once again “the song” is the product no matter how long, like on Spotify). It puts us in a weird spot in terms of trying to define why we value things like that. I get the premise : all forms of art are equal, one should not be favored with a more rewarding system over another (in this case it’s considered that an incrementally progressive value per minute would be detrimental to short form songs because they never reach the threshold were the value starts growing) and it’s not because you made something longer that it required more workforce / expertise / crafstmanship, than if I made it 10 minutes long just for the sake of it. Few ! okay, that’s a very deep consideration and I think maybe we should take a step back and after that I’ll explain where I stand on this issue. However where it gets weird is : ok, all songs are equal products in principle (their value is determined by what’s in them, not how long it last) but… somehow their VALUE (ie. what the song is worth in terms of money) is based on the percentage (NOT the amount of time which is fixed and experienced by all humans similarly, but a percentage, which is widely varying from one song to another depending on its length) of how much the song has been experienced. Here to me there’s an inconscious paradox because we say “all songs are a product and they shouldn’t be rewarded on how long they are” only to then push a system that rewards them more on… how short they are.
Because that’s the thing with percentage : 5% of 1minute is worth MORE than 5% of 10 minutes even if the first means skipping after 3seconds, and the other means skipping after 30sec. If I listen to the punk band and the long-form music band on after another, and it takes me about 1 minute (for the sake of clarity, input any amount you want), to decide I don’t like it. The Punk Band recieves 50% of the money, and the “long form” music only recieves 10% ? When I’ve judged both on exactly the same amount of time ? I don’t find it fair at all, and it actually reinforce short form art over long form and I don’t think we want that, most likely you’d start to see a lot of artists complain about it. Especially since we know, in the age of the attention war on the internet, a 10 minutes song is 5 times more likely to be interrupted by something than the 2 minutes one (actually statistically even more but whatever), which means where the punk band could potentially often get its 100%, the long form one would almost never get it.
So I don’t think percentage of play is a good system at all.
Ok now, notice how everytime I’ve mentioned “what we put value on / what we reward”. I think it’s where it’s all being played out really, I think that’s what resonate or any other streaming platform that aims for ethical payments should focus its thought process on.
The first thing to state is this : Art by definition shouldn’t have to be paid for or have its value based on any “technical” criteria (which is what we’re all trying to do since the start of this topic). Art’s value shouldn’t be defined by how much money was poured into the project, it shouldn’t be defined by how many people got involved, it shouldn’t be defined by how long it is, how short it is, it shouldn’t be defined by how much it’s been played, and it shouldn’t be defined by how many people like it. None of that should define the destiny of an art piece and the capacity of its maker to live in dignity.
This is because only in a capitalist world where value is placed on perception of scarcity, private owned control of means of production, propagandist discourse that favor individualism other shared endevaours, mythos about “talent” and “genius” and “self made men” and “meritocracy”, only in such a world, does an artist (and in fact : an individual) needs to prove he can contribute in a meaningful way to global productivity (ie. reach more fans > more fans mean more workforce money to gather in one place > means we can then do bigger things > meaning we can now hire more people > the global economy grows) before he gets rewarded for his input. I’m even of the opinion that art of any form should be paid for under the form of UBI, and that’s all.
It might seem like a stretch to discuss issues this broad, but it’s not, it’s at the center of everything we’re doing here : we need to be conscious that Resonate is happening not outside but within a capitalist frame that means anyone who decide to dedicate a large portion of his time to music will likely suffer from it in the form of not being paid back the amount of efforts, time and money s.he put into it. I personally don’t care that this person’s art is shit or genius, I’d want him/her to get some form of compensation if possible, on criterias not based on capitalist’s takes of what makes are good or bad.
We need to consider this because however we spin it, we are going to do something particularly unhealthy in the end : we are going to put “a value” in terms of “money” on “the fact someone listened to something”. This is why I raise so many points here and why I make these long exhausting (trust me I’m super tired just writing this) posts. Because the whole premise IS not natural, it IS NOT healthy or simple, it’s a bad premise that stems from living in a dark predatory world. We’re just putting a crutch on a bigger problem, so we need to do it well, so well in fact as to give ourselves the power to even undermine the initial logic of our oppressors. And this requires some complicated thinking.
Now, considering all that, I’ll come back to my initial proposition and compare it to all the above.
Each minute (or each second if you feel like minutes are arbitrary and you want something more accurate of time listened to, but I think minutes might be easier to sort out and make for a clearer global image and accountability) listened to is paid for, each consecutive minute listened to is paid for a little more. Now, where does that put the “money-value” ? Here goes. The point of this system would be to say :
The artpiece itself can not be valued, we can’t say wether it’s worth this or that, based on ANY “objective” criteria, and in an ideal world, it should be free. However, the money available on Resonate to pay artists is not global money that comes from the sky, it’s the money of its users, and their behavior should dictate where the money is directed to in the most accurate and redistributed way. Their behavior can be estimated in one fixed and universal way which is the way they decide to allocate their limited time on earth. If someone decides to listen to a single piece of art for 10 minutes, surely, this piece of art held some kind of value to him/her, therefore, a transaction should be performed for these 10 minutes of listen. If someone decides to listen to a single 2 minutes piece of art 5 consecutives times, surely, this piece of art held some kind of value him/her, therefore, a transaction should be performed and should be SIMILAR to the 10 minutes of listen for a single piece, since it’s the same amount of time.
The thing is : this is already what’s happening for the 2 minute song on Resonate ! Stream 2 Own is made such that it’s an exponential scale that says every new listen is worth twice more. My point would be to rework that scale to inforce it on consecutive listens of minutes. This way, if you listened to the Punk song 5 times in a row, you pay the same amount to the punk band than if you listen to the 10 minutes song one time.
Sure you could argue that’s favoring the long song, but… who are we to say the long song is more or less worth “in absolute value” than the punk song ? That’s litterally an impossible job, however, the listener can value that he spent 10 minutes of his finite time in life listening to the same artist.
In the same spirit, I’d be all for, say, if someone listens to a whole album consecutively. So, let’s imagine the Punk album is 20 minutes long and the long form music album… also ! Because that happens a lot (A Side - 10 minutes, B-Side - 10 minutes). Well there you go, nobody’s being disadvantaged now, you’ve got two albums, requiring exactly the same amount of listening time, and getting the same amount of money if listened to in full.
Now on to the next thing because remember, our point is to undermine the idea that some artists are (infinitely litterally) more deserving than others we still need a threshold past which the song stop generating money. Currently Stream 2 Own is that threshold and it’s a nice one because it means the user get ownership of their catalogue which is great because it can give them more control of what’s worth to them (if they can download it, otherwise it makes no sense, but I think they can on Resonate?).
However let’s not kid ourselves, “ownership” is not a very meaningful thing to a lot of users now, and if Resonate happened to become bigger and more powerful over time, it’d start gaining users who come from Spotify and have absolutely no desire to “own” their music, just experience it. Which is why I seem to remember there being propositions of a “user centric” model of payements. And if there’s a user centric model of payement, there’s no more S2O, which means we’re back with the crappy system of infinite money made out of one song and one user. I think it’s a really awful system and we should consider that after a while, a user has paid “enough” for a work. And that is because, again, the money doesn’t fall from the sky, it’s a finite amount out of the users pool on Resonate, and it should be allocated with care. Just because someone is getting obsessive with xxxx Punk Band or Long-Form-Music band on the platform, doesn’t mean it should be detrimental to all the other artists he listens to on this platform, doesn’t mean they didn’t put their workforce into their work and deserve less of a payement. If he wants to support xxxx Punk Band or whatever, he should probably go buy their merch, buy their physical albums, get a direct fans-to-band subcription on Bandcamp and go see them live etc. So really, the point would be “ok, this song / album has made xxxx amount out of this one user, which is the threshold past which we consider this user has “paid” for this music”.
I wonder if we could create some sense of ownership out of this like a best of both world S2O + User Centric, say, if you’ve paid past a threshold an artist’s song, you can listen to it offline on a Resonate app or something? Don’t know. But either way, I think it’s critical to think that a song shouldn’t be able to make more than a certain amount of money per user. If we don’t do that, it’ll just end like Spotify even despite our best efforts to make it different. For now S2O protects us from this, but if we move to different models, we should consider it.
This was awfully long, but I thought about this for so long, through and through. The way streaming forces us to think about music is, in my opinion, a trap, and it’s very difficult to get ourselves out of it. We need to define, as clearly as possible, what it is we want, what kind of society we’re trying to build, so that we don’t just look revolutionary, but actually are a little. I’d love Resonate to be both a brilliant and “hassle-free” user experience, while making it almost impossible for a business model like Spotify to justify its existence and business model in comparaison to ours. This won’t come without some serious under-the-hood critical thinking for us.
Thanks to all for keeping this discussion alive.