Thursday, November 14, 2013

Beck Joins The Anti-Spotify Club, Shares Spotify Playlist

Tom Breihan/StereoGum

Early next year, Beck will release the much-awaited Morning Phase, his first proper new album since 2008′sModern Guilt. He’s stayed busy in that time, certainly, producing albums for people like Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks and releasing his all-sheet-music Song Reader project and working on a bunch of still-unreleased projects, but six years is still a long time to be away. And from what Beck’s been saying lately, that absence might have something to do with his very understandable feelings of alienation about the music business. And like so many other musicians lately, Beck has one problem in particular: Spotify.

As Future Heart points out, Beck recently played a few shows in South America, and he did an interview with the Argentine site Pagina12. (Beck did the interview in English, which Pagina12 translated into Spanish and then Future Heart translated back into English, so grain of salt on this stuff.) In the interview, Beck says there’s nothing musicians can do to stop sites like Spotify: “It’s something that is coming like it or not. But I pose the question of how I can hold on, because what Spotify pays me is not even enough to pay the musicians playing with me or the people working on the disks. The model does not work.”

He’s also not particularly satisfied with the way the music actually comes through speakers on Spotify: “I think the saddest thing about streaming is the issue of sound quality… it’s like watching The Citizen on your phone. That’s what people are listening to!… There are many opportunities to improve the digital files and I know that Neil Young is working on a system for that. Eventually, it will happen and people will fall in love with the music.” I’m assuming here that Beck was talking about Citizen Kane, not the 2012 Arab-immigrant drama The Citizen, and something just got lost in translation. But maybe he just loves that movie.)

The Neil Young mention leads the Future Heart to speculate that Morning Phase could be one of the first albums available from Pono, the streaming audio service that Young is building, which could be very cool. The site also points out that Beck’s Spotify antipathy only stretches so far; he recently posted a playlist on his own official Spotify account.

But in that Argentine interview, Beck also mentions another mysterious reason for his absence: An apparently serious spinal injury that wasn’t public until now: “I had some injuries. I had severe damage to my spine, but now it’s improving, so I’m back in the music. It was a long, long recovery. Lately, I concentrated on playing guitar. Do not think I can move again as before, although I can give a lot onstage.”

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