The stunning infographic below has a powerful message – assuming you spend more than a minute or two looking at it. It’s linked from this article, and is an update of the one from 2010 where David McCandless illustrated brilliantly how much – or how little – musicians were earning from streaming services. I know that professional musicians are painfully aware of how little they earn from streaming, but what about the general public? It’s one of these digital era issues that makes a new default behaviour just too easy to adopt without much thought: use uber in spite of the possible safety and payment challenges; use airbnb regardless of whether they deal with appropriated properties in occupied territories; use Spotify even if musicians can’t afford to…be musicians. I’m not making judgements here, by the way, I’m just pointing out that behaviour changes quickly if new systems make things easy and provide real value.
As an animator of infographics, this one presents an interesting challenge. I’d love to animate it, showing the big pink blobs growing, shrinking and bouncing around over time. And, goodness knows, there’s a lot of animated eye candy around. But from the point of view of developing understanding what might the effect be? Simple: it would most likely accelerate judgment at the expense of understanding. For example, YouTube and Spotify look “bad” for musicians; Beats looks better. (And if I wanted to be particularly emotionally manipulative I’d have music swelling up as the YouTube blob bursts out of the frame, as I explain in the SCAMM model here). But the article points out that “…artists will be making a lot more money in aggregate from Spotify, and if Beats' user numbers grow, its per-stream payouts will come down. So this graphic isn't proof that one service is better for artists than another, in that sense.” What I need, as a user, is the ability to jump quickly up and down the chart, iteratively examining what it’s really showing me. So this is one of those (many) occasions where lovely animated eye candy isn’t the way to go.