James Taylor Says He 'Should Be Getting Half' of Streaming Money, Talks Neil Young's Pono
James Taylor is OK with the booming streaming music business, but he believes artists deserve 50 percent of the profits.
“If someone’s going to be making money off of my recorded music, I think that I should be getting half of that money that they’re making because I’m the one who generated the product,” Taylor said in a recent interview. “What I’d like to see about Spotify is how much money is the company making relative to what the artist is making? For every dollar they take in, they should be giving 50 cents to the people who actually recorded the music.”
Taylor, 67, has a new album, Before This World, that features collaborations with Sting and Yo-Yo Ma. It’s his first batch of new tracks in 13 years. The singer-songwriter said he doesn’t need to depend on album sales “because I’m a touring artist and that’s how I make my living.”
He’ll launch a tour July 2 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He will also perform at Boston’s Fenway Park on Aug. 6 with Bonnie Raitt, where he will sing “Angels of Fenway,” his song about the Boston Red Sox’s comeback to win the World Series in 2004 against the New York Yankees.
“People pulled over to the side of the road, got out of their cars and just ran into the bushes. People walked out of their offices, walked onto the street just dancing,” he said. “The thing that really moved me was that there were pictures in the newspaper of graveyards all across New England with little Red Sox pennants and ‘We won!’ and ‘Congratulations grandpa, we finally did it.’ ”
Taylor talked about his new album, his family and Taylor Swift:
Has your approach to songwriting changed over the years?
Taylor: I feel like I get a start on a song, but then I follow it wherever it goes, and sometimes it surprises me where it ends up.
What inspired you to write the track “Far Afghanistan”?
I’ve never been in the service, although I have lost close friends who are in the service … It’s something I can’t stop thinking about. It’s so amazing to me that people can do this kind of service, that they can put themselves in harm’s way … it’s so extreme a thing to have to do and it’s such a sacrifice that I knew I wanted to try and write this song. … It’s my speculation about what it means to prepare yourself mentally to go to war.
Your tour with Carole King in 2010 was so successful, would you do it again?
I think it’s certainly possible that we could do it again, but Carole, at the end of it … we were looking at the possibility of going to Europe and I actually booked the tour, but Carole said, ‘The nature of these things is when they’re successful people want them to go on forever, but it’s important to quit while you’re ahead.’
What was it like working with your wife and son on this album?
Her voice has a great, pure quality to it, so I often, if she’s around when I’m touring, she’ll sing a few songs. … As for Henry, he was hanging around all the time at the barn and on one occasion I said, ‘I’ve got this part that I think I hear a kid singing. You want to give it a try?’ And I just thought he’d sketch it in and I’d find the right kid somewhere, but it just turned out great.
Do your teenage boys introduce you to new music?
They do. They are in the popular culture and listening to what’s coming through their age group that they hear in school, they hear from their friends. It’s funny, some of it comes from unusual places like soundtracks to video games. Some amazing stuff is being made there.
Did you know Taylor Swift’s parents named her after you?
She told me that and I was equally flattered. I really, I love Taylor and I admire her, and I also deeply admire her mom and dad. That was very flattering. You bet. You could have knocked me over with a feather when she told me that. I was really surprised.
What are your thoughts on the today’s music industry?
It’s easier to make an album, harder to figure out how to get people to notice it. … Recording on Pro Tools on computers, that’s made it a lot more accessible; so people are making a lot of music and higher and higher quality. I can’t say the same thing for how people are listening to music. People are hearing music through terrible speakers, little computer speakers, there’s a lot to get back to in terms of hi-fi and people listening to better quality, technically better quality music. People are definitely making progress: Neil Young’s got the Pono player.
Have you tried Pono?
Yeah, I have. Over the right system, I can definitely hear it. But if you’re going to be playing it over a three-inch TV speaker, why bother?
Do you have any interest in jumping into the hi-fi sound business?
I have. I’ve got something I’d like to see somebody try, and I don’t know if I’ll do it or not.