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Steve Lukather Blasts Streaming Royalties and Modern ‘McRecords’

Steve Lukather
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Legal streams and downloads have helped take some of the bite out of the music industry’s piracy problem, but they haven’t done much to stem the financial bleeding for a lot of artists. And as far as Toto‘s Steve Lukather is concerned, the shift in how music is delivered has coincided with a change in the way it’s written and recorded too.

Lukather shared his thoughts on the current state of the business after reading a recent missive from syndicated columnist Bob Lefsetz, who’s an ardent proponent of streaming services such as Spotify. “How much?” he responded to Lefsetz’s assertion that Spotify royalties help offset the drop in income that artists started to suffer after the advent of the MP3. “Really? Who keeps tabs and accounting?” And it isn’t just streaming that stiffs the artist either; as Lukather pointed out, “Have you done the breakdown on what an artist get per tune on iTunes? Pitiful.”

But it isn’t just the dwindling financial returns that have Lukather worried these days, it’s the increasingly distracted way in which younger listeners approach their favorite music. “They make ‘McRecords’ for people who don’t even really listen,” he lamented. “It’s background music for people to either find a mate or shake their heads while texting or Skyping or doing other things — environmental noise for the multitasker. Gone are the days of loving , dissecting, discussing the inner workings of ’AN ALBUM’ … sitting in silence while it plays, looking at the liner notes and the few photos in the studio, imagining what a magic place it must be to make such music.”

But even if people were willing to listen the old-fashioned way, they might not find much worth holding their attention. Looking at the increasingly crowded marketplace, Lukather sighed, “Too many people can make records. Period,” going on to point out that “it is too easy to play ‘pretend pop star’ now, with all the fakery and Auto-Tune time-correction cut and paste, etc. F—, most young people don’t know how to play a song from top to bottom in a studio in tune and in time and with feeling. Rare. I am in the studios all the time and hear the stories from the producers and engineers … and yet no one cares that so and so who sold a s—load of records (how much is that these days?) can’t sing or play.”

In the meantime, artists of Lukather’s generation find it increasingly difficult to get their new music on the airwaves. “If you keep blaming the ‘old, antiquated artists’ who are the only real ones left who may make a great record once in a while, but may be overlooked ’cause the media chooses to care more about who is super-gluing meat to their bodies and other ridiculous hype and bulls— to get attention rather than listening hard to the music being made, we might be in a different place,” he mused. “Real music played by real musicians. They are out there. They just don’t get a lot of press anymore, or at all.”

Next: Toto's Debut Album

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