William Duvall: Figuring out Streaming Royalties Still Hasn’t Happened

Alice in Chains lead singer William Duvall stopped by the studio to talk with Kim Monroe when Alice in Chains passed through Seattle on their current tour. Check out the video above or read the interview below*.

Is it becoming increasingly difficult to justify really this way of living with things like streaming services and downloads? There’s so many ways that people can access music, and there still seems to be a bit of a sense of entitlement to some people that they should be able to get their music for free. That still seems to permeate, yes?

I would like to think that that is changing a little bit, but yes, it has permeated the culture to such a degree that it’s really, really hard to reverse that way of thinking. I mean, obviously, if you walked into the Apple store and walked out with an iPhone without paying, they’d be on you before you hit the curb. Same if you walked into Nordstrom’s and tried to walk out with a dress, same thing. You know, there’s that, and then there’s also just some really more convoluted, more inside baseball kinds of stuff about how you get paid through streaming services and that sort of thing. That’s difficult.

Right now, we’re in a tough spot, but hopefully, it won’t be that way forever because the culture has to be able to sustain itself. That takes money. It takes money on the recording side as well as the touring side. Both of those things really do need to work hand in hand in order for people to do what everyone enjoys. I mean, listeners enjoy hearing it, and yeah, the access channels being open, that can be good. As long as folks get compensated.

Right. I do my part. We pay for services that we use. Having a son who is 14, who help me, plays guitar and has this idea…

Yes, help you indeed. You’re in for it.

I know. I know. And he plays well and that scares me too, because I’m like man, why can’t you just suck? Why can’t you just suck at this? The good news is, aside from that, he also thinks he’s going to go to MIT to be an engineer. So, I’m like “Good. Go.”

Good man.

But he still plays. He doesn’t understand it all. He doesn’t understand why he can’t just go and download this and grab this. Why do we have to pay? It’s kind of hard for them to understand because everything is right now. I can have it right now, but they don’t understand there’s a cost to it. If the cost isn’t involved, then the product doesn’t exist.

That’s right. I mean, you work for two years on an album from writing to pre-production to actually going into the studio and recording it. Then, you work, and then it’s almost like an even harder job begins with regard to promoting it. That also takes money and time and effort. It’s tremendously cost intensive. Even in the digital age where it’s easier to record, it’s easier to have access to the means of production to make a record that is listenable with all the digital avenues that we have. It’s still a tremendous investment of time and it’s still a pretty significant investment of money as well.

No matter how you do it, and for a band particularly to invest that kind of time and then to invest the time to promote it and invest the time to get into a station wagon or a van. Or if you’re really happening – lucky – a bus or something. To go around and promote all of that. None of that is for free. All of it costs tremendous amounts of money. Yeah, the ecosystem has taken a huge hit, and we got to balance the scales again however that needs to happen. We got to do it.

Somebody smarter than you or I will figure that out hopefully someday.

It’s a matter of laws. I mean, they just ruled the other day. The department of justice just made a ruling where everything that songwriters and publishers and producers were asking for was denied. Everything that the major labels wanted was upheld. It’s just, that’s the kind of imbalance we have to correct. We just have to because right now, the labels are holding onto hundreds of millions of dollars. They made their deals with the Spotifys and the Pandoras and all that. They made their deals. But all of the songwriters and the musicians and so on that create the content that fuels those deals, they are kept out of the room. They are kept away from the negotiating table.

It’s like the labels, that whole world, those are like the 1%. They have it all. They control it all. They know the guys who know the guys to get it done. They don’t worry. Yeah. I have a whole lot of feeling on that too.

The thing is, everybody can do well. There is a scenario by which everyone can have what they need, and we’re just not there. We’re not there yet.

No. Hopefully we will be. Keep fighting. We just got to be loud. Stay loud.


* This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity

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