A Response from Our Label

We like our label, Ribbon Music. Here’s the head of that label, Morgan Lebus, responding to my 10/25 post on streaming and music consumption. This relates almost entirely to streaming and its place in the market trade of music. Revelatory, for me, in some ways. Some thoughts added at the end.

”Heya Jana,

Nice seeing you a couple weeks back.

Wanted to comment on your letter re: spotify and music consumption et al. 

It seems both a courtesy and responsibility given you are our client (for which we are grateful) and Spotify is obviously a retail partner of ours.

I agree, “We shouldn’t have everything we want all the time, not in music or anything else. “

you also wrote 

The only reason we do have that relationship to music right now is because we’re taking advantage of technology and a lack of regulation.”

I agree with you here, too, though would like to expand on this point a bit. In my opinion while we definitely take advantage of technology to consume music I don’t believe an upsurge in regulation will minimize our consumption habits. There’s no going back from how we consume music. We want it all, we expect it all.. I don’t suspect this will ever change.

What needs to happen to ensure you and I continue carving out a living is the monetization of this consumption.

Which brings me to Spotify. 

I signed up with Spotify a year or so ago. I pay $9.99 a month.

With regards to Spotify, I use it pretty regularly. I should add I also buy records. In shops and online.
After a quick google search it appears there are approximately 3 million paid Spotify subscribers. I heard recently around 700k of those are in North America. There are around 15 million free users worldwide. [http://on.ft.com/Y4Bfkd ]

Regardless of Spotify’s size now, it’s my opinion streaming
 will be the primary way we (humanity) consume music in the future.

In fact, I assume it’s only a matter of time before Apple or the like launch their own streaming services once their account departments deduce there’s more to be made selling paid streaming subscriptions than mp3s. I suspect this will coincide around the time cellular and wifi networks get to a point where they’re operating everywhere (desert highways, subways, airplanes) and at high speeds… shouldn’t be far off.

And then maybe Apple, Sony, Samsung etc will conveniently announce new iphones / ipads / androids that operate infinitely better than their predecessors because they won’t be weighed down by media files.. to listen to all the music and watch all the movies in the world all we’ll have to do is sign up for APPLE’s “iSTREAM” which will run around say $25.99 p/month.. 

I can’t predict the specifics but I’m confident the moment it’s in the best interest of the tech companies and the technology itself is at a place where they can finally make it harder for people to steal media than pay for it they will.

Already computers don’t have CD drives.. what if computers no longer stored mp3s? or what if they could store mp3s but iTunes no longer played them?

Someone will find a way to keep the old way of listening to music around but what if listening to an MP3 became as difficult as listening to a cassette or an eight track? 

After time might it not be simpler to sign up for a streaming service? Maybe.
I’m hopeful a global community of paid streaming subscribers will usher in a new economy for music.. Hopefully we’ll go from 2 million paid subscribers paying $9.99 p/month to 2 billion paid subscribers paying $19.99 p/month.

I think it’s still early to blame competing retailers, digital or otherwise, for trying to find a service and a price point that results in people paying for music again.. especially if their service is potentially setting a course for how media might be consumed and monetized forever moving forward.
So long as the subscriber base and fees are low streaming may remain a game of pennies. Yet once the the tech companies decide it’s in their best interests to protect and monetize the content that makes their devices desirable dollars could generate.
Sadly though it’s my assumption tech companies won’t build devices to protect our content. They’ll build them to sell it.
Until then we prefer people listen to our catalog on Spotify or the like where at least it’s monetized (however small) than the dark net. More than anything though we wish people would stop into their local record stores every once in awhile and buy something.. Anything.

Times is fuzzy.

Yours Truly,


We, as a label, attribute the lower revenues paid out by Spotify to the low number of PAID subscribers. Not to mention a low subscription fee. $9.99.. 
Morgan Lebus
Ribbon Music / Domino”
New technologies will always replace old ones, and in the transition, those of us who’ve had intimacy with those dinosaurs will have a hard time letting go. If you’ve known that, the only issue that remains is to be a voice in the shaping of the new technology to the extent that you can be, which is really usually just in how that technology interfaces with you and your fellow users.
Based on the mock-ups I did of what we earn from 5k listeners on Spotify vs 5k albums sold, I hope for musician’s sake that if streaming services do take over and they do charge higher rates, that some of that money makes it way into higher payoffs for musicians who involve themselves with those services. Otherwise, I still don’t see how this economic model makes sense in the long-term.
A lot of people responded to 10/25 post and others with an almost confessional breakdown of their personal habits. “I spend x hours on spotify, go to x shows a month, and spend x amount on records,” and then drew various conclusions about their contributions to music. I hope that that sort of thing helps to put in perspective something about your relationship to music, and I’d really only respond to it by saying that if you don’t consider the flip-side, the musicians’ income, then you’re not seeing the end of that equation, and not getting a real picture.
For example, a common point made was this: I go to a lot of shows, and therefore don’t feel compelled to pay for records. While I can see how that’d make sense at first, think about this: that money pays largely for touring expenses, of which there are many, and maybe some come home with a little extra for rent and bills. However, it doesn’t cover the costs of recording, and even if you’re someone who’s able to do all of your own recording, it doesn’t pay for equipment, rent, bills, etc. It doesn’t pay for artwork (those artists don’t want to work for free, either), promotion, etc.
All of that being said, every band has a different way of operating. Every consumer has different habits. There is a business between us. We have to tell them what we want, and its never a bad a idea to put some thought into that.

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