For indie rockers, sales hit sour note

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For indie rockers, sales hit sour note


Shin Dae-chul

Dividing up revenues in the music industry has long been a problem. Artists claim that they do not get enough for what they create, while distributors and online sellers say they cannot just raise prices and harm consumers.

The government last year proposed doubling the price of online music, but that suggestion appears to have gone nowhere.

But earlier this month, Shin Dae-chul, the leader of the famous rock band Sinawe, posted a long comment on his Facebook page about the situation.

“We can’t earn a penny if we sell our music using unlimited streaming services,” he said, reigniting the controversy.

“Minimum wage in 2014 is 5,210 won [$5] per hour, but in order for musicians to earn that much, about 965 people would have to download a track, or 43,416 people would have to stream it.”

But Shin wasn’t content to sit back and complain.

Instead, he proposed forming a “Proper Music Distribution Union” (tentative name) to provide a better working environment for future generations of musicians.

“With the abolishment of the CD market and the rise of music services, we now consume music for lower prices,” said the 47-year-old guitarist in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“Especially with the subscription system, where you can hear unlimited music for a certain price, the musicians can no longer determine the price for their own creations. It’s like the Dark Ages.”

Shin’s worries about his junior musicians have grown as more and more consumers switch to exclusively digital services for their music.

“One musician recently uploaded his account statement about his music service earnings. It was just 35 won for two downloads from one music outlet.”

For underground or indie musicians who play their own style of music, such a situation is only worse.

The change to digital is also hurting albums, as artists increasingly just release digital singles.

“It’s crazy to make a 10-track album these days,” he said. “We will never make ends meet. The industry now resembles a factory.”

Shin’s suggested alternative is to shift how revenues are divided.

Currently, the service provider gets 40 percent of the revenues, producers get 44 percent, 10 percent goes to the writer and composer and six percent goes to the singer.

Shin’s model would decrease the share kept by music services to just 20 percent.

“If consumers and singers participate together in the union, we will be able to eliminate the middleman and work directly with each other. Many big stars have already expressed their intention to participate in the union.”

Shin said the new model will use a mobile application, which will roll out within a month, and the official online launch will be available by the fall once the system is stabilized.


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