April 19, 2024

Listening to pop, electronica, rap, new country — any popular format, really — on a streaming service is an exercise in repetition. Once the algorithms kick in, the groove becomes a rut. As the video explains, the lone songwriter working from personal inspiration has been superseded by song-crafting teams of technocrats working from specs ordained by big data.
This TEDx talk by Björn Ulvaeus, one of ABBA‘s songwriters, lays out what digital technology has done to songwriters’ royalties. Songwriters are the creators, and these days creativity doesn’t pay. The video has a slow start, so forward it to 3:20 when he begins talking about 80,000 songs/day being uploaded to streaming services. Keep in mind that among 80,000 uploads per day, one song, that was once valued as an art-form, is now a single grain of barley in a silo. In the end, his suggestions for fixing the broken digital copyright system ring true.

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