Perceptual Jail: How Surrogates Can Bail You Out

One wonders if someone in the music business knows a thing or two about surrogates. If so, their handiwork offers a lesson to the people and organizations who occasionally fall prey to popular ire.

In recent months, streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music, have been posterized by artists as modern-day greed machines. Though they pay millions in royalties on the trillion tracks they feed users, the raw math looks bad to the public. Fractional pennies per stream make it through the food chain to the singers and songwriters. Just ask a very pissed off James Blunt.

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Streaming executives have tried in vain to say it ain't so. But when operating from perceptual jail, words lose their weight.

So what do you do when your credibility is in the clink? You find someone whose isn't. Witness the Swedish music producer Steve Angello who this week beseeched artists to dump not on streamers but on labels. "Every streaming service does pay," he stumped at a Dublin conference, a heavy hint that artists from indies to Taylor Swift are barking up the wrong tree and, oh just maybe, an invitation to come sign with his label.

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Even so, Angello has served as a surrogate to embattled streaming services by giving artists a new target to trash. Whether the producer is acting as a partner, proxy or plant (the three types of surrogates) is conjecture, but that he said what he said, when he said it, and where, is cause to wonder who's pulling the strings and that maybe Angello was doing more than his own bidding.

When you can't say something yourself, have someone say it for you. So goes a crucial principle of calling and running good plays.

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