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Cyprus is a destination beloved by British tourists and expats. And the most popular food in the UK is Indian. Hence Cyprus has a number of Indian restaurants which cater to these visitors to the Eastern Med. Order a saag paneer in Limassol and chances are that it'll substitute the traditional Indian curd cheese with a specialty which like the sweet Commandaria wine is popular on this island that's half Greek, half Turk: halloumi. Related to mozzarella, this originally sheep but now often cow milk cheese retains its form under heat, thus is often served grilled or fried. With the Brits considering Australia their second home, it's no surprise that this ancient cheese would also be made Down Under. With Turks making up Germany's largest ethnic population, it's equally obvious that halloumi makers have set up shop there too. Served with eggs sunny-side up, it becomes a typical Cypriot breakfast. Served with watermelons or as a filling for fresh dates, it's an appetizer or finger food. Grilling up some halloumi found in a Swiss supermarket reminded me just how small our world has become.


With music streaming services from Spotify and Pandora to Qobuz and WiMP, that's even truer. Remove the physical carriers and music no longer relies on being imported to your country like exotic cheese; or being home-grown. You can get out-of-season tropical music fruit from the far corners of the world. You can get it at 2:00AM on a Sunday morning and never worry about its shelf life. Your musical food crosses borders and customs through the ethers. Which opens up all manner of issues. The perhaps biggest of them all is how labels and artists will get paid. If you pay €9.99/month to stream 24/7 (here we're not concerned with data density, just the basic concept), how does your subscription fee feed back to the content provider and from there is divvied out to the artists? With 40'000'000 songs at your finger tips, that's a lot of artists hoping for revenue. Obviously you only listen to a mere fraction. Given favourites and our propensity to stick to what we know, you may only listen to 50 artists a month though perhaps multiple albums by each.
Shouldn't it only be those artists who get the 'performer share' of your subscription once the provider has paid themselves, the various licensing fees and covered their operational expenses? In the 'olden' days of record, tape and disc sales, performers weren't worried whether you listened to their stuff just once. Money had exchanged hands already. In this brave new world of streaming, performers either get paid a minuscule amount for being part of the streaming service library if they get paid at all; or are paid per song if and when somebody actually listens to it. If the second scheme ends up being widely used, it creates new challenges for the musicians. Not only do they have to make the music, they need to ensure that it is being listened to constantly. They're no longer paid by Tower Records to have a CD sit on a forgotten shelf until it finally ends up in a $2 grab bin. Then there are the licensing fees. Those determine into what country a streaming service can 'broadcast'.

With my Swiss subscription to Qobuz Hifi for example, I can't listen to ECM recordings. Whilst many of those are listed, they're blocked. It's seems asinine to list them if you can't hear 'em. I must assume then that in certain countries they've been unblocked by now. Either way, the licensing rights are an issue. They explain why WiMP is currently active only in five European countries; and why Qobuz hasn't invaded the US yet.


As with so many things Internet, the sheer convenience of always-on access is mind boggling. For providers of content meanwhile, there are very real issues about how to get paid for their work. The life of a musician has rarely enjoyed the fiscal security of a civil servant though you could argue that classical orchestral musicians are in fact regularly salaried civil servants. But in general there's little as upsetting to parents as being told that one of their kids wants to become a musician. The image of the starving Blues singer rocking away on his porch down to his last 6-pack is too enduring. Since commerce is all about profit; and since the music business is very big business... it remains to be seen what type of mechanisms this arm of the entertainment industry will create to ensure Internet profitability not only for the labels but the actual content creators. Without the latter, we'd have nothing. That's why sites like BandCamp have appeal. There you purchase digital music files directly. If an artist owns their label, that means 90% of what you paid goes to them.


From a convenience and global penetration perspective, music streaming would seem to enjoy a definite future. From a profitability perspective, I'm far less sure. And whilst this thing will only become a real go if the labels continue to make money, that as yet predicts nothing about how the musicians will be treated. For some current views on this topic, by actual professionals in this sector, follow this link; and this; and this; and this; and this. Now I excuse myself for another session of halloumi grilling washed down by the remains of our last bottle of St. John's Commandaria. I must think on another harebrained scheme on how to get from here to there for my next topic...