Better in the Old Days? Steve Lukather’s Thoughts on the Music Industry

Steve Lukather has released a passionate critique of the state of the modern music industry. His main concerns are,

  • Low aImage-SteveLukatherrtist earnings (particularly from streaming)
  • Saturation of the market with low quality
  • Lack of investment in artist by labels
  • Death of the album

It might seem easy to dismiss this as the bitter cavilling of an old man (he jokes about being, “108 this year”) he is 58, but Lukather has been recording for 40 years and has played guitar on many several seminal pop and rock records. He is perhaps best known as part of the yacht-rock combo Toto. In addition to this he has performed on over 1,500 recordings by other artists. He embodies the expert behind the scenes musician as well as anybody I can think of.

He also cares about musical culture this is clear from his message. It is worth considering what he has to say, but perhaps filtering it through an understanding of his specific viewpoint.

Streaming Doesn’t Pay for Artists

Lukather says he is not making any money from streaming royalties. Given his output that is shocking. If streaming is the future then it doesn’t seem to benefit artists with huge back catalogues. This is a big problem. By most measures Lukather is one of the most successful musicians around. He has earned the respect of his peers and is in some ways the ultimate industry insider (as a musician). Yet he is not benefiting from the streaming revenue model.

Some of the problem is just in how streaming has been set up, royalty rates are low, and some of the problem as Lukather says is in the old chestnut of record label accounting. Artists signed to labels get even less as the label takes their (significant) cut.
Streaming looks like it will be good for the companies operating the streams, Apple, Spotify, etc., and perhaps for publishing/record companies that control massive catalogues of music. If 40 years of active work doesn’t get you a meaningful slice of the pie what hope do emerging artists have? Continue reading Better in the Old Days? Steve Lukather’s Thoughts on the Music Industry