The exclusive license agreement with Decortica’s previous label recently expired. This means that we’re able to distribute our music independently and finally make it available on global streaming platforms. A New Aesthetic (2008) and Love Hotel (2010) are live with 11811 (2012) and a rare B-side are now live.
Our record deal was a function of its time: 2012 was a period of industry consolidation and year-on-year revenue decline. Spotify was just launching in New Zealand but streaming didn’t become a significant driver of the industry’s recovery until 2016. Global recorded music industry revenue from streaming was US$0.9B (7%) compared to US$17.5B (67%) in 2022. In that poor commercial environment, major record labels offered 360 deals to attempt to recoup their investment faster and more reliably by taking a percentage from all of the artist’s income streams. Considering our growing but niche prospects, this was a reasonable trade-off for funding the next album, in my view. But we experienced barriers to easily sharing our music, meeting audiences’ changing expectations and benefitting from enabling technology. Legacy distribution and rights management practices were quickly outmoded. (Read more in this piece from 2013.)
A decade later, some creatives and governments argue the new construct isn’t much better. But in the context of these albums returning to me, I feel liberated. I don’t consider that I’m being disadvantage by the material—fractional—worth of my product, though I understand why other professionals may. There are two reasons for this. First, I have a parallel career which funds music production and means that art can just be this vital thing in my life. Second, doing the work is an end in itself: new value creation. In this way, the tech is “infrastructure as a service” to my songs, not a sales channel.
Nick Cave writes, “We are in service to art, not the other way around.” He argues that we find ourselves through art by getting out of its—and our own—way. It’s a poignant reflection as I upload music effortlessly with Distrokid, see it pop up on Spotify days later and share memories with old fans on social media. Yes, that earns $0.004 per stream, split with my co-writers and publisher. But songs are not monetised content. They’re my younger self: before becoming a husband and father, before grief, before reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Aspirational and inadequate but engaged—by art and through it.
This post was originally published in the Rothko Records newsletter.