My Morning Jacket’s Jim James Loves Streaming, But Is ‘Still So Pissed’ Artists Are Being ‘Cheated’

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It doesn’t take much snooping to figure out that My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James is an old-fashioned guy. Aside from the band’s generally throwback southern rock-inspired sound, the lyrics to his 2013 solo single “State Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U.)” are telling:

“I use the state of the art
Suppose to make for better living
Are we better human beings?
We’ve got our wires all crossed
Our tubes are all tied
And I’m straining to remember
Just what means to be alive”

That said, James has become a bit more modern recently, and has even discovered a love for Spotify, he tells Rolling Stone. He said that since having back surgery in 2015, he’s been working on reducing the weight in his life, which led him to leave his external hard drive at home and rely on streaming for his music listening needs. One of the things he loves most about it is how services like Spotify hit the nail on the head with their recommended songs:

“The thing I’ve loved most is how when I’m done with, say, Jimi Hendrix, similar things start playing. It’s stuff that they think I’d like or things that are related to it, and it’s been blowing my mind, ’cause I feel like it’s this really cool way to hear about things that I would not have heard about otherwise. […] I feel like the Spotify thing is such a f**king wormhole.”

At the same time, he’s not ignorant about the common perception that these platforms don’t pay artists fairly, which is his major hang-up about his newfound streaming fascination:

“I had this moment the other day where I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have now stepped my both feet firmly into the streaming world and I love it, but I’m still so pissed that they can’t figure out a way to pay us fairly.’ It’s like, yeah, we have this new beautiful tool for people to discover and listen to music, and it’s great that you don’t even have to remember to sync your iTunes anymore. But you’ve got all the music in the world in your pocket and people aren’t being treated right and artists aren’t being paid, so it’s like how do we remedy that?”

James when on to say that while “it’s so hard to find the facts,” it’s “just wild that nobody can admit that this is not fair right now, that artists are being basically cheated, their work is being stolen for fractions of a cent.” He says he’s ready to “get involved on the advocacy level,” and that ultimately, the arrangements between artists, labels, and streaming services just need to be fair:

“It’s just about getting paid fairly. Music is expensive to make. It’s expensive to pay studio costs and pay performers fairly and do all the things you need to do to make a record. So yeah, I don’t know, it’s a real wormhole.”

Read the rest of the interview here, during which James talks about a “shelved” My Morning Jacket record that’s pretty much done and might see the light of day.