In an effort to address the critics of streaming music head on, Beats Music has hired Dave Allen, the former bass guitarist for the post-punk band Gang of Four, to be the company's public face and chief advocate.
The newly created position involves conveying the economic benefits of streaming music to musicians who may be skeptical of how much money they can earn from subscription music royalties and consumers who are reluctant to pay for it.
Though known largely for his roles as founding member of the Gang of Four and Shriekback, Allen, 58, also has been outspoken in his own writings and in various interviews and speaking engagements about the opportunities that technology and digital platforms bring to musicians. One of his latest articles, penned as an opinion piece for The Guardian, was entitled, "Why David Byrne is Wrong About Spotify." In the piece, Allen provides a counterpoint to arguments by Byrne and Thom Yorke that streaming music companies aren't paying artists enough money.
"It is hard for me to understand why intelligent people like David Byrne and Thom Yorke do not appear to understand that we are in the midst of new markets being formed," Allen wrote. "I have concluded that we can only look to what internet and mobile users are doing or want to do, and then note how their actions drive technologists to provide platforms for them. Put very simply, that is how markets work."
Shortly after Allen's article was published in October, Beats Music's Chief Executive Ian Rogers invited him for brunch in Santa Monica. Over scrambled eggs and bacon, Rogers "gently broached the subject of whether I would want to move back to Los Angeles" to work with Beats Music, Allen told Billboard.
Not wanting to be in a position of having to defend its model as Spotify had to last year against attacks by Byrne and Yorke, Rogers said Beats wanted to be more "proactive."
"We want to be proactive, rather than reactive, in the discussion of where streaming services sit at the intersection of artists and fans," Rogers said. "As an artist, label owner, and thought leader, there isn’t anyone better than Dave to lead the conversation and push us internally to lead the charge instead of follow."
The gig isn't an entirely new experience for Allen, who had worked as General Manager of eMusic in 1998 and as Director of Business Development at Intel Corp. from 2000 to 2002. Most recently, Allen was Director of Interactive Strategy for North, a brand agency based in Portland, Ore.