Home Feature Barry James Payne reflects on a life of music as he launches...

Barry James Payne reflects on a life of music as he launches the first Roots Music Canada Spotify playlist


Like many fans and musicians, I have been into music all of my life. I saw The Beatles debut on Ed Sullivan. I was six. After that, it was broomstick guitar bands in the front room every Saturday with my brothers and our friends. That is, until we got our own instruments. Then it was jams in the basement for hours on end.

I saw Alice Cooper in 1972 or ’73 or ’74 (can’t remember now) at London Arena. I listened to The Band on cassette endlessly. I saw Muddy Waters in ’75, Pink Floyd in ’76, Johnny Winter, too. The Rolling Stones. Long John Baldry. I followed Willie P. from show to show.

I could go on for pages.

Then I started playing. First, it was Rock (I was a drummer for five years). Then I picked up an acoustic guitar and turned to Folk, then to Country, then back to Rock in the ‘80s with a New Wave/Punk Rock band (think Midnight Oil meets Japan).

When I started working in the business, I stopped playing for over 10 years, but listened to music every day and promoted the hell out of it.

By the 1990s, I was working for Cargo Records hawking punk rock records to retail stores in Vancouver and eventually all over BC. I then started cutting deals with major chains across Western Canada before going national.

I owned a publicity company, and a tiny little record label (which went bankrupt in 1997 with Cargo) and eventually left the business altogether before returning to my original calling — writing songs, recording and performing.

Within two years of putting out my first record, I joined Celtic powerhouse Rant Maggie Rant. Within three weeks of joining, I was performing in front of an orchestra. We would go on to perform more than 15 times with six different orchestras and play 350 shows in halls and theatres across Canada. All that without reading a stick of music (though I wish I did). This was not my musical plan, but it happened and I went along for the ride. I was emotionally involved. My head was in it! Every second of every note played. I was there doing the only thing I know how to do that makes me incredibly happy.

I LOVE music.

And that brings me to a subject that has been of great controversy over the past several years: Spotify and streaming services.

I love Spotify for its ease of use. I use it a lot! Yes, I pay for a subscription and I believe Spotify could easily get $50 per month for their subscription model. I would gladly pay it. The amount of music you can consume is extraordinary. There has never been a time where we have had music like this at our fingertips.

From SOCAN to Spotify

Spotify has its naysayers, and I get it. They don’t pay artists well. Their system of payment is unfair. But if you think about it, it’s the same system employed by organizations like SOCAN. For the most part, they collect huge amounts of license fees or subscriptions and pay them out to the rights holders with the most streams on a percentage basis. As an indie artist, I certainly don’t see my fair share of SOCAN money. Same with Spotify.

If the money I pay Spotify was paid to the artists I played each month, those artists would stand a better chance of survival. In late March, I hit 100,000 streams for all my songs on Spotify. I’m lucky if I see $250 for that. Based on a pay-per-play model, where the user’s money goes directly to the artist they play, I hazard to guess that this amount could have been anywhere between $5,000 to $7,000, at approximately five to seven cents per stream.

This is what really needs to happen. If I pay $12 per month and I only play 10 songs that month, those 10 songs should get MY money.

In any event, that is a whole other discussion. What I really want to talk about is Spotify playlists and how they can be used to support your favourite Folk/Roots artists. The beauty of Spotify is not only its ease of use, but the fact that every time you stream a song, that artist gets paid, even if it is currently a minuscule amount. Not only will one-million plays generate about $2,000 to $3,000, it will also send that song or artist to people who like the same kind of music, similar to Netflix suggestions or the next YouTube video in your feed.

What are YOU listening to?

I often listen to playlists, either ones I’ve created myself or others I come across. It’s a great way to turn others on to the music you like without having to burn CDs. You can put five-hundred songs on a playlist or 12. I would love to see Roots artists and listeners take advantage of this tool to get the word out. Share, share, share! Introduce new music to your friends. We are all dying to hear new music. What are YOU listening to? I wanna know!

Do you own a business? Create a playlist and stream it in your store, restaurant or showroom. Better still create one for every day of the week or for your different moods.

And yes, there are a myriad of ways to support artists. You can do those too! This isn’t an either/or scenario. It’s a way to share your favourite music with friends while supporting the artists you love.

So, for Roots Music Canada, I’ve decided to create a playlist of new releases from Canadian Roots artists. Please go to the Roots Music Canada’s Spotify page to give it a spin and send suggestions for new songs that have been missed — I’m sure I didn’t get them all. I will be dedicating another playlist to older songs, something of a best-of Roots Music Canada. Stay tuned for that.

With Spotify boasting 158-million subscribers, it’s never been clearer that everyone wants music in their life. Let’s give them something good to listen to.

Let’s give them a Roots music explosion of activity.

While pop music will always get the majority of the attention, I believe there will be a major swing from digital to organic instruments in younger listeners, seeking out more retro acoustic sounds. I believe there will soon be a real Folk Roots resurgence.

When I was 16, I loved going to see all of the old Blues artists. I have a good feeling we will see a similar resurgence and it would be amazing to play even a small part in that movement.

Play on, Folk on, Rock on. Whatever you do, enjoy the music and please show your favourite artists some love.

Check out the Roots Music Canada contemporary folk/roots playlist HERE.


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