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He went on to write, "I've got nothing against streaming a record. But I've got a lot against people giving my work away for free." A couple of days after his initial tweets, he sounded off, "I'm not here to argue about streaming music. It's here and it works! What I tweeted was just a fact, take from it what you will."
Barrow’s comments come as the debate intensifies on streaming royalties, and whether the ad-funded “free” model is doing more damage than good to the record industry and artist community.
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Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge stated at the Code/Media Conference in February, “We want to accelerate paid subscriptions and raise income and compensation for everyone…Ad-funded on demand will not sustain us or the entire ecosystem.”
Charles Caldas, CEO of indie-label digital rights agency Merlin, has said a service like YouTube, which only has a free, ad-supported tier available widely to consumers, is driving “high-consumption, low-value” music consumption that further de-emphasizes paid content.
Taylor Swift led an exodus from Spotify last year, which her reps later explained was a response to the service’s ad-supported tier and that her catalog would be offered to pay-to-stream services. Swift reportedly earned less than $500,000 in the prior 12 months from domestic streaming at Spotify -- a bonanza compared with the sums Barrow is claiming.
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In an interview last December with Billboard, Spotify founder Daniel Ek countered, "there are many artists to whom, through the labels, we’re paying out millions a year already. Those check sizes will just keep increasing. I’m certain that if we can get the billion-people-plus that are consuming music online and move them into a model like Spotify, the industry would be considerably bigger than it is today."
Meanwhile, Portishead fans are still waiting on the band’s follow-up to Third, from 2008. In an interview published earlier this month in Rolling Stone, Barrow suggested a fourth album might not be far away. Barrow said "I am calibrating my brain to Portishead mode and got some ideas of what I want to do there -- at long last.”
Read Barrow's tweets below: