While more and more industries are experiencing the impact of digital disruption, music was amongst the first to deal with it on a massive, widespread level.
After MP3 technology and peer-to-peer sharing turned the world of music on its head in the early 2000s, the industry pivoted in the 2010s and now paid streaming services have become the norm.
Like many artists, Matthew Good finds this model quite frustrating to navigate. It’s great that consumers now have unlimited access to all styles of music from around the globe. But there are issues with creator compensation as services like Spotify only pay around $0.003 per stream making it really difficult for musicians – even popular, chart-topping ones like Good – to get paid for making music.
“You can go on Spotify or Apple Music and pay however much a membership is a month and you get to listen to my whole record,” Good says over the phone from a hotel room in Toronto. “You used to have to pay like 11 bucks for it. Now, I’m basically working for free. I’m not making any money off of albums themselves, at all.
“Can you imagine if you went to a contractor and asked, ‘Can you build me a house for nothing?’ It would never happen. But why is that the case for an artist?”
With less money coming from album sales, musicians are performing live more frequently to make a living and ticket prices have had to increase. This has saturated the touring market and while fans still love the experience of attending concerts, the costs prohibit a lot of people from going to more than a few gigs a year.
“If I could work more, I would,” says Good. “I’d play more, but you just can’t anymore. That’s not how it works. You can’t go out and play multiple shows and book the same city four times a year and expect people to come see it because they just won’t do that.”
Despite the current landscape and the challenges it presents, Good continues to make new music because, as he simply states, “I’m an artist. It’s what I do. I’d make music even if nobody knew who I was.”
In February, he released his latest record, Moving Walls. Throughout his 25-plus year career, Good has always shown a willingness to experiment with his sound and try different things. Moving Walls sees him doing more of the same. Having the freedom to push boundaries and challenge himself is something that Good loves about being an artist.
“One of the greatest things about art is that you never get it right,” he explains. “That’s the beauty of it. You’re always kind of entering a new space in your mind and going, ‘Oh, let’s see what I can do with this one.’ Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s pretty much how it goes for albums in a career. Sometimes you look back at them and go, ‘What was I thinking?’ and sometimes you go ‘Man, did I get that right.’”
A prolific songwriter who has put out more than a dozen records since his 1995 debut, Good knows that not everything is going to turn out as planned when creating art. Rather than beating yourself up and trying to force something to work, he says to just move on and try something else.
“If somethings not working, stop. I’ve had songs that I’ve written in the past and people are like ‘That’s awesome.’ But it wasn’t working for me, so I just scrapped it. People think I’m crazy but I’ll just move on to something else.
“So many people try to put square pegs into round holes. What is the point of doing that? For me, there’s no point in trying to make something work that’s fighting you.”
Matthew Good’s new Moving Walls record is out now. For more information, check out his official website here.