Media Pimps: Streaming Services

Streaming platforms are unavoidable. All entertainment, be it music or video, is relegated to various streaming services; each of them requires its own individual subscription. In other words, if you want to be able to keep up with the latest shows, you should probably have Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, and Amazon Prime. Each platform boasts its own flagship proprietary programming, if you want to see their specific shows, you’ve got to subscribe – not to mention that music is suffering the same fate, if not a worse one.

            We live in a world of constant stimulation. We mustn’t let too much time go by before distracting ourselves with something, lest we have time to think. Right about the time that all entertainment became “content,” streaming services took their place at the top of the entertainment hierarchy: media pimps. The typical pimp makes the deals and collects the money for the sex workers unfortunate enough to be swept into the pimp’s employ. The worker then had to do what they were paid for. The streaming services bear a striking resemblance to this relationship.

            Those in search of a little evening entertainment can pull up one of the streaming services and take their pick for whatever “content” they want that night at no extra charge to them. A deal was struck for that particular “content” to be on the streaming service, and then the consumer gets to have at it all they want – no price of admission, at least not for each piece of content, but for the entire library. We as consumers eat it up, myself included to an extent. We belong to all of the services because we love the selection, and we don’t want to miss out. 

            Something is lost in all our subscriptions: patronage. We may feel like we’re supporting the artists, actors, creators, musicians, and writers we love, but we’re giving money to the service. Being a patron of the arts in the traditional sense always involved directly supporting the artist. You bought a record or a concert ticket, you went to the movies. But, when everything is relegated to an online library with a paywall, it becomes something less than patronage. You come to expect the entertainment to be given to you, to be available as soon as it’s done. In all cases, the entertainment took quite some time to make and was an effort made by a great many people – the end result of this, of course, is that the art becomes “content” and is thrown into the library where it’s promoted for a handful of days before being buried by newer “content.”

            The music aspect of the streaming debacle is one of the more disturbing sides to me. Spotify pays artists quite literally a fraction of a cent per stream, with songs reaching millions of streams only netting the artist about $6,000 – and that’s all before a record label takes its massive cut. While convenient, Spotify, the media pimp, sells the artist’s wares with little to no benefit for the artist. It’s disturbing how quickly so many millions of people became OK with shafting the artist completely, OK with shirking direct patronage. When a new record comes out, it’s already yours if you subscribe. That doesn’t seem to place any value on the new record, only the streaming service itself. 

            We need to give some serious consideration to just what we’re signing up for when we subscribe to these services. We’re paying for the convenience to watch and listen to things that it took a lifetime to make; but we’re not paying the artist for it, we’re paying the pimp. 

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

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