Overwrite Tomorrow February 3, 2021

Overwrite Big Tech’s Colonization of Culture

Overwrite Big Tech’s Colonization of Culture


2020 was a year of existential challenge for musicians, who on average lost 70% of their income as a result of the pandemic and the annihilation of live music.

It was also a year of heightened scrutiny towards ‘Big Tech’. Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Bezos, Pichai and others were called in front of the US Supreme Court to speak about their monopolistic business practices. And in the UK there was a Parliamentary Enquiry on the economics of music streaming, looking at the question “do the economics of music streaming work for everyone?” The huge momentum around the #BrokenRecord campaign suggests clearly not.

Big Tech practices have transformed the paradigm of music consumption, from intimacy to scale. We no longer listen, we consume. But the value of music lies in the exchange between creator and audience. The music industry was built on this relationship in concert halls and on the radio, long before recorded music was invented.

iTunes reduced the value of music from $10+ for an album to $0.99 for a track. And Spotify in turn made the aggregate value of all music $9.99 a month. This model only works for music’s elite, with 90% of streams driven by the top 1% — just 40,000 — artists. 

Now we need a better system, founded on a new value proposition that recaptures intimate exchange between artists and fans.

The only two industries in the world that call their customers “users” are drug dealers and software companies. We need more humane technology products that put people over profit, and sustainability over scale. Where people are no longer the product, and culture is no longer a commodity.

We need to Overwrite Big Tech’s colonization of culture.

Nikhil Shah is the Co-Founder and, recently, Board Advisor of MixCloud,  an online audio streaming service that allows for the distribution of radio shows, DJ mixes and podcasts, with artists and creators at its core.

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See the full Overwrite Tomorrow editorial series, featuring words by Ben WiklerColleen DeCourcyTamara Alesi, and more.