In the last two decades, Julian Casablancas has won the hearts of millions of fans across the globe with not only his open and honest songwriting, but his calm composure, opinions and overall “cool guy” attitude.
He is known well for being open about his thoughts and standards which have often translated well and inspired his listeners — most notably with his work as the frontman of The Strokes.
Now, in an interview with Billboard, Casablancas, 40, has shared his thoughts on music streaming services as a whole.
The verdict? He doesn’t seem very interested in the trend at all. Whether fans agree with him this time around, however, is hard to tell, but according to a recent study, streaming damages the environment more than any physical music platform.
“It’s gone so backwards,” he said. “You can have your online existence, but trying to suck on Spotify’s sweet sweetness is just a waste of time for me.”
As one of the last known major label rock bands, The Strokes took the world by storm in the early 2000s. They were among the last in the era of the album and the compact disc (or CD) — when buying music physically was still popular.
So far, The Strokes have seemingly survived the digital age with ease. Even after staying so inactive after a number of years, the band continues to retain its popularity, along with Casablancas’ other band, The Voidz.
When asked what challenges he’s faced as a result of the digital age, Casablancas told Billboard, “As an artist, it doesn’t change really. In terms of what a label should be, no one knows what’s going on or what to do.”
“Even a major label,” he added, “they have their relationships, but it’s all about Spotify. I don’t use Spotify. I think all those streaming services are… I don’t like them.”
The Last Nite singer described the popular streaming giant as “the new MTV” and “the new gatekeepers,” adding that their success allows them to make deals with major labels and “rip everyone off,” whether that’s the labels, artists or even listeners.
“There’s making money,” he said, “and then there’s developing artists. Developing artists is hard and complicated and annoying and thankless. Trying to scam the system and make deals to rip people off is easier.”
“I’m not there on the forefront trying to figure out how to exploit and make money,” he continued, “I’m more interested in doing something like The Grateful Dead did: go town to town, be friends with the cool radio stations, play the cool venues and make relationships with cool promoters.”
Although disliked by the singer, Spotify has a deal with RCA and pulls in an average 5.7-million listeners for The Strokes on a monthly basis. Whether that makes the band enough money to live, however, is unclear.
While he made it clear that he was completely against streaming, Casablancas was honest in understanding its appeal.
“If you want to hear music in a simple way, it’s $10 a month, I get it,” he said. “You’re not gonna buy songs on iTunes, I understand that.”
He continued to say that certain technology — like Apple products — have become much less accessible for on-the-go listeners.
“I basically rip things and put them on a non-Apple device,” he said, “because they don’t even let you have MP3s anymore, it’s so stupid.”
“It’s gone so backwards,” he added. “The whole process of music is so stupidly complicated right now, for all the technology.”
When asked his preferred alternative to streaming, Casablancas revealed he prefers the radio, as it’s “the best place to hear music” and “there’s still DJs playing cool things.”
He suggested that streaming services restrict listeners, likely because of licence restrictions and the ability to skip any song is only a click away.
“Everyone I know who’s listening to Spotify or Apple Music doesn’t discover anything interesting,” he added. “When I ask them to pull up a cool song, they don’t even have one.”
“If I had to choose a streaming service,” said Casablancas, “I would say YouTube is the only one — even though that’s kind of not what it is.”
Although he thinks they’re a “pain in the a**” and “not necessary,” the Heart in a Cage rocker added that he believes vinyl records “will always live on” among all music platforms old and new.
The singer also spoke about the “perfect” record label, the 10th anniversary of his only solo album Phrazes for the Young, and the possibility of him making a follow-up record.
You can read Casablancas’ full interview on Billboard.
Casablancas will return to Toronto with The Strokes on May 20 (Victoria Day), at the Budweiser Stage.
As of this writing, it’s unclear whether The Strokes are working on new music.