The music business ain't what it used to be, Jimmy Buffett says — and he's hoping to make more from the streaming-music business than he currently is. Buffett stepped to the microphone today at the inaugural Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit, where Spotify founder Daniel Ek was speaking, and asked whether the money he makes from presumably thousands of streams of "Margaritaville" and other hits will grow any time soon.
"Most of it doesn't get to the artist."
"Do you see any time in the future where we might see a raise directly from you as opposed to going through the bullshit you have to go through to deal with a label these days?" he said. "How the stream of revenue gets to the artist, particularly young struggling artists, it's really hard for that to actually happen in real life if you're a young artist. So I'd hope that all the music service groups would kind of look at that. It's one thing when it goes to the record label. Most of it doesn't get to the artist, which would be nice."
Ek was receptive to Buffett's question — "I agree," he said immediately. But he stopped short of saying Buffett would be getting a raise any time soon. Spotify will spend more than $1 billion on rights this year, he said, and pays 70 percent of that to rights holders. "But it's actually still lower than what we used to get — right, Irving?" Buffett asked Irving Azoff, a legendary manager in the music industry, who was moderating the discussion. "That's why I'm looking for a raise." Azoff was unsympathetic. "Sell one of the planes," he told Buffett.
Buffett is hardly the first artist to complain about the fractions of a penny that they receive whenever one of their works are streamed. Thom Yorke, the Black Keys, and Bette Midler are among the performers who say they deserve more from Spotify. But given that record labels control most of the rights to their music, as well as the deals with Spotify and other streaming services, don't expect that to change any time soon.