David Byrne is an outspoken advocate for the rights of his fellow musicians. Yesterday he published an op-ed in The New York Times calling for increased transparency from labels and streaming services. “THIS should be the greatest time for music in history,” the former Talking Head writes. “[M]ore [music] is being found, made, distributed and listened to than ever before… Everyone should be celebrating—but many of us who create, perform and record music are not.” “I myself am doing OK,” he adds. “But my concern is for the artists coming up: How will they make a life in music?”
One of the biggest issues Byrne has with the current music business is lack of information, which allows for exploitation and makes it difficult to know what corrective actions are necessary to improve outcomes for musicians. “Perhaps the biggest problem artists face today is that lack of transparency,” he notes. “I’ve asked basic questions of both the digital services and the music labels and been stonewalled.” “Before musicians and their advocates can move to enact a fairer system of pay,” Byrne continues, “we need to know exactly what’s going on. We need information from both labels and streaming services on how they share the wealth generated by music.”
Byrne believes that a better system for artists will also end up benefiting the other players in the music business, and he has the words of industry figures to back him up: “With cooperation and transparency the industry can grow to three times its current size, Willard Ahdritz, the head of Kobalt, an independent music and publishing collection service, told me.”
Revisit the star's FADER feature.