Is Streaming Music Here To Stay?

Gypsy Sally’s combines Americana music and the Summer of Love

She’s already gained the admiration of musicians industry-wide, ranging from Cyrus to Elton John. Her single Tennis Court “is one of the most touching, beautiful things on earth,” John recently told USA TODAY . “You just open your mouth in wonder.” Lena Dunham, Olivia Wilde and Carson Daly also count themselves as fans. The Auckland native has two theories about why listeners have connected with her music: “There’s not a lot of reality in pop music sometimes. It can feel quite detached from people’s lives, and so that was something people appreciate about my music maybe. But also, it’s super, super simple, which is kind of refreshing.” Royals was inspired by the lavish, over-the-top lifestyle of hip-hop and pop artists. “I realized that lots of the references (in their lyrics) didn’t really relate to anything in my life,” says Lorde, though she does count herself as a fan of Drake and Nicki Minaj. But when choosing her stage name, Yelich-O’Connor sought out a royal-sounding moniker, inspired by her childhood obsession with aristocracy, “something that has always fascinated me. Everything that happened to a royal family in, like, the 17th century is just absurd, but cool.” She added the silent “e” at the end of “Lord” for a feminine touch. She signed a development deal with Universal Records at age 12 after an artists and repertoire rep saw video of her performing in her school talent show. But things didn’t really get going until she partnered with co-writer Joel Little and released her EP, The Love Club, on music-streaming site SoundCloud for free last year. (It was officially released by Universal in March.) She’s arriving stateside for an eight-date U.S. tour that kicks off tonight in Los Angeles, and her full-length debut, Pure Heroine, is out Monday (now streaming at VH1). “The (new) record is quite different from the EP, musically, in that I just have kind of grown up a bit since I wrote the EP. I’m better at making beats and writing songs and stuff,” she says with a laugh.

“Sales are certainly being cannibalized by piracy. It’s less clear how much they’re being cannibalized by these other things,” she said, though she added: “If the streaming services like Spotify become a predominant model, then very few if any labels can survive on that kind of money. It’s certainly better than people stealing music, and we do see a small payment, and we are getting sizable checks from Spotify every month. However, it’s not sizable when you look at the number of times a song was played.” Ken Parks, Spotify’s chief content officer as well as Spotify North America’s managing director, doesn’t buy claims that his service has had a negative impact on sales. For one, with about 24 million registered users 6 million of whom pay for the service Spotify doesn’t approach the market penetration of, say, YouTube, which Parks called “by far the largest music service in the world.” YouTube reports that each month more than 1 billion unique users visit the site and more than 6 billion hours of video are viewed, with music being the most-viewed category. Parks argues that Spotify isn’t big enough to cannibalize that many sales, and when the company does achieve a larger scale in the U.S., as it has done in Sweden and other Nordic countries, he believes it will help the music industry’s sales grow, not shrink, and musicians will reap the rewards. “We are in the very early days of this service,” Parks said. “We consider ourselves just scratching the surface.” Let’s hit the pause button here to examine the distinct ways in which these online services operate. Pandora has been by far the biggest player in Internet radio, announcing that it had 72.1 million active users in August (a 28 percent increase over 2012) who streamed 1.35 billion hours of music, this after the company revealed in April that it had surpassed 200 million registered users. (iHeartRadio, Slacker and SomaFM are among those playing catch-up.) But the Sept. 18 launch of iTunes Radio promises to change the dynamic: Early last week Apple announced that it already had attracted more than 11 million unique listeners to its service, and Pandora’s stock price dipped by 10 percent. You can create a Pandora “station” based on an artist you like anything from Lady Gaga to Muddy Waters to Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and you’ll hear music from that artist as well as supposedly similar works from other artists, as determined by the company’s algorithms, plus the occasional ad if you sign up for the predominantly free service. But although creating a Lady Gaga station will enable you to hear Lady Gaga songs, you can’t ask Pandora to play you “Poker Face” or any other specific tune. Spotify, like its less popular competitor Rdio, is primarily an on-demand streaming service, allowing you to preview only music that interests you, though it also offers a Pandora-like radio application. On Spotify you can call up “Poker Face” or Muddy Waters’ “Mean Red Spider” or Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci’s entire “Barafundle” album, and that music will stream as often as you’d like to listen to it.

(Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post) Gypsy Sally’s , a two-week-old bar and live music venue in Georgetown, says it’s trying to resurrect the spirit of the Bayou, the legendary nightclub once located three blocks east on K Street NW. Karen Ensor, who owns the 300-capacity club with her husband David, says the focus will be more on Americana acts bluegrass, country, folk and blues. A look at the calendar includes a solo show by BR549 frontman Chuck Mead (Oct. 2), reigning International Bluegrass Music Association entertainers of the year the Gibson Brothers (Oct. 12), the Hackensaw Boys (Oct. 18), and ’70s psychedelic country band New Riders of the Purple Sage (Oct. 19). The venue is on the second floor of the building that houses the French restaurant/nightclub/event space Malmaison , but the view from outside belies how large the space is. It’s a high-ceilinged room with two bars and a large dance floor in front of the stage. Multiple tiers facing the band offer tables for dining as well as regular seating. Whether you sit at the bar that runs down the side of the room or the top row of seats against the back wall, the sight lines are clear and unobstructed. “We looked for a long time to find a building with no support columns [in the middle of the room],” Ensor says, and anyone who’s been stuck behind a pillar at the Hamilton, for example, knows what a pain that can be. Sound is crisp and clear, too, thanks to a top-of-the-line audio system, which Ensor says was set up by the engineer behind the Rams Head’s system.