Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ll almost certainly have heard someone tell you that the music industry is broken. Technology companies, major labels and investment hungry start-ups will try to sell you another story, but ask a musician, producer or independent label owner and they’ll confirm it. Probably using some pretty colorful language while doing so.
Like large supermarket chains squeezing the margins of already struggling farmers, music and technology corporations have been allowed to consistently drive down the incomes of music creators, whilst continuing to thrive and grow based on a “stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap” business model.
However, slowly but surely, a public awareness has formed around the food industry, with more and more customers opting to shop local, support producers directly and buy fair-trade products.
Betting heavily that the same type of awareness might be starting to appear around music is new “Fair Trade” streaming site and download store, Baboom.
Sitting somewhere between Spotify & Bandcamp in the marketplace, Baboom seems to offer significant advantages over both, at least in theory. The premium subscription costs only $7.35 per month, and fans can rest easy in the knowledge that a massive 90% goes directly to the specific artists whose music they stream and download, unlike Spotify who give a cut of everyone’s money to their ‘most popular artists’.
The benefits for artists and labels are pretty obvious, with direct, automated payments arriving regularly via Paypal, coupled with the ability to set royalty splits within the system so that all rights-holders receive their share at the same time (no spreadsheets required). Full social media integration, an embeddable music player plus the flexibility for both signed and unsigned music to be streamed and sold together on the artist’s own page could make Baboom a viable alternative to the struggling (and fatally flawed) Soundcloud.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″] “The premium subscription costs only $7.35 per month, and fans can rest easy in the knowledge that a massive 90% goes directly to the specific artists whose music they stream and download, unlike Spotify.” [/quote]
The site went live on August 17th with very little fuss, possibly reacting against the overblown, hilarious, surreal and ultimately disastrous launch of Jay-Z’s Tidal. Having had a really good look at the site both as a fan and a label owner, I must confess that I’m excited about the features on offer, not least the daily download royalty delivery, which meant I was able to sell an EP and buy a beer with the proceeds that very same night. Exploring this fresh approach to sales and streaming highlights just how desperately unfair the universally accepted business model really is.
So it’s better for fans, and it’s better for artists. Should be a roaring success, right? Sadly, Baboom has a deeply challenging road ahead, one which many will view as completely impassable. Firstly, their financial transparency and fair-trade ethos will mean that they have no chance of hosting music signed to the major labels or even larger distributors. This will leave them with an almost total absence of “big names.” Anyone who makes a living as a middleman in the record industry (which is basically everyone) has a vested interest in the failure of Baboom and any other attempt to level the playing field. And they tend do a very good job of preserving their position; let’s be real about it, that’s basically their only job.
Ultimately, it’s up to us music lovers, makers and sellers to come together and change the industry by refusing to do things their way any longer. By rejecting platforms which offer shitty deals. By giving artists and labels the confidence to pull their content from those digital supermarket shelves and trust that their fans will support them directly.
Whether Baboom stands or falls, I sincerely hope its ideals can help to kick-start a wider conversation about the way we consume music. Because whether or not this is the right platform for us to jump to, at some point we are all going to need to jump.