Americana Music Conference Goes Down the Streaming Rabbit Hole

Americana Drink Ticket

A conference has to make a buck, you know?  We all understand that, and the Americana Music Conference is no exception.  The conference that is attached to the Americana Music Awards is a stalwart in our business and has managed to maintain its true authenticity for a very long time.  We appreciate the sponsors who line up to support the show and the conference–it’s a great group.  For the most part.

How anyone thought that it was a good idea to include Pandora in the mix of sponsors is a bit beyond me.  Pandora is getting sued in the Turtles class action because they don’t pay to play artists who happened to record before 1972.  That list includes a huge number of Americana, bluegrass, roots and country music artists.  So how the Americana Music Conference could allow these people in the door is beyond me.  Well, if they’re not going to pay the artists, it’s a good thing there are wage and hour laws that make sure the venue staff get paid.

Pandora Bar

But the classic screw up at the conference does not go to Pandora.  No, no, which streaming service do you think gets the award for “Most Insulting”?

Naturally–it’s Spotify.  Spotify hosted a “Spotify Master Class”–for which I assume they paid something, even though they weren’t a logo sponsor–at the swanky Hutton Hotel.  According to an artist manager in attendance, the purpose of the “master class” was:

How to maximize Spotify for your artist – or how best to drive your fanbase toward using Spotify…it can be hard to tell the two things apart.  They have in-house curation of specialized playlists that they can put you on: as well as dedicated marketing/promotion campaigns, etc.  No mention of cost.

Right, no mention of cost.  Maybe it’s “free”?  “Specialized playlists” sounds like what Ministry of Sound sued them over.

So this is all just pitching business, right?  Nothing too unusual about that, it is a business conference after all.

Other than the fact that the “master class” started with an unusual ground rule.  Before Spotify started pitching, songwriters and artists in attendance were reportedly told not to ask about royalties.  Why?

“It’s just a rabbit hole we don’t want to go down.”

The rest of the “master class” was about Spotify’s grand deflection–exposure is good for you, yum, yum, yummy.

Now, I don’t blame Americana Music Association for having a Spotify panel.  I don’t even blame them for having a panel that was clearly meant to give Spotify a platform to pitch their service.  We all like a little affection when we’re getting…let’s say, exposed.

But I do blame the Americana Music Association for allowing Spotify to censor what songwriters and artists can say.  That is not OK.  It’s fortunate for Spotify that there were no artists or songwriters in the house who were not afraid to challenge the establishment and force Spotify to defend their “leaked” Sony Music contract and shite royalties, not to mention their Google board member, Washington DC lobbying against artists and songwriters and investigation of Apple Music.

They can’t manage to pay fair royalties to artists but they can manage to hire expensive DC lobbyists to work against us.

The Americana Music Association needs to take a closer look at who they’re taking money from and why. I think there are any number of artists and songwriters who could give the AMAs a master class in what it really means to be an artist or songwriter in a streaming world.

The AMAs have lost the page.  We need to help them find it again.