Less and less, you dole out a buck per cut, $10 per album; more and more, you access a streaming service for a nominal few each month. Or just play music for free and let ads assail you.
The streaming model’s hardly sustainable for pop acts whose tracks are digitally spun thousands of times a month. For jazz players and those who’ve come to be called “creative musicians,” the economics are even more disastrous.
“A drastic amount of money has been removed from the system through the devaluation of intellectual property rights,” said William Brittelle, co-founder and artist at New Amsterdam Records, a nonprofit label specializing in work by ambitious composers and performers of no fixed genre. But you know the old saw about crisis and opportunity. “Now, there’s not really an excuse not to do what you want to do, because everything is so difficult.”
New Amsterdam releases tend toward the unclassifiable, like the sui generis John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble album All Can Work, on which Billy Strayhorn, Steve Reich and Cary Grant’s LSD habits all provide touchstones. “There’s like five hyphens describing any project,” Brittelle said. And what it costs to create the music is wildly variable. What it costs to buy it is more concrete: For unlimited streams and downloads on the artist-friendly music site Bandcamp, in formats and bitrates from MP3 to Flac and AIFF, All Can Work runs $8 for about 70 minutes of music.
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