The argument for and against music streaming platforms has been ongoing for almost a decade. I was initially wary of it and then embraced it. I have spent hours in heated arguments with musicians older than myself and have followed journalists who have advocated it whilst others have loathed it.
All the while music streaming has continued in growth to which the biggest company of streaming, Spotify has now gone public with 71 million subscribers and its main competitor Apple, has 38 million. Competition has also come from Google Play, Amazon, Deezer, Rhapsody, Tidal and a host of other services.
Growth has been forecast to continue to rise exponentially in streaming over the next year and the format of the IPO has been a fascinating one. Spotify’s value is now larger than all three major labels combined. It is all well and good for the techies, and it has been for the last couple of decades. But where does this leave the artist?
I had an email towards the end of 2017 with a report from PPL stating that recorded revenue was at its highest for the UK music industry. Streaming revenues had doubled over 2017 and overall streaming accounts for 50% of Music revenue as of 2016.
So, at face value, this is good news, but whether you interpret this news as good or not good is dependent on what type of artist you are and the type of career you have.
If you are Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Camilla Carbello or Marshmellow, you are earning a fortune because globally, these kind of artists are dominant across the charts. The Weeknd’s latest single is currently number 1 and has 5,837,317 plays on Spotify!
Hip hop and pop are dominating and are doing well. But where does this leave the artists in the middle and the bottom. Well the sobering answer is with not a great amount. Damon Krukowski outlines this in his article in Pitchfork:
“The basic reason is simple: According to the data trackers at BuzzAngle Music, more than 99 percent of audio streaming is of the top 10 percent most-streamed tracks. Which means less than 1 percent of streams account for all other music. That makes streaming more concentrated at the top than current album or song sales. Of course, the most popular releases have always dominated the music market, but it seems these new services increase that disparity rather than reduce it. The rising tide is lifting only certain boats.”
(Damon Krukowski, Pitchfork, January 30th 2018)
The music business is currently no different to the current state of general economic affairs. The rich getting richer and those at the top are raking it in, resulting in a highly disproportionate distribution of wealth and revenue.
So, what is the solution?
Well, it has to be ultimately accepted that we are in an on-demand culture. The Music business was arguably the canary in the coal mine for whilst other industries have started to follow its lead to accessibility. For consumers of Music, streaming is highly convenient and has increased sound quality and discoverability of music through high tech features such as their playlist, individualised radios and release radar.
To eradicate yourself from music streaming in protest of lack of remuneration is a redundant move. Even Taylor Swift and Jay Z took a hit by their standards because of exclusives and holding back from Spotify. It could be argued that the reason hip hop ultimately triumphed as the most prominent genre is that the artists embraced the new technology and innovation whilst others have resisted.
The flip side to remuneration from streaming is barrier to entry. It is virtually non-existent and now more than ever, it is more affordable to record your music and it is easy to put it out into the world.
The choice as an artist is ultimately yours to make but it is worth doing the research before coming up with your own opinion as to what is ultimately best for you as an artist.
If you’re a DIY musician, the presumption is that you are in this for the long run and the most important thing before getting paid is getting heard. People are overwhelmed with stuff so as an artist, I would generally advise the following and it is in relation to my two key words.
Contribute to our research by taking our short multiple-choice survey on Music Streaming as an Artist/Label or Fan.
Artists/Labels: Music Streaming Survey
Music Fans: Supporting Independent Music
Strive for greatness. Keep on building your knowledge and listening to the music you love, finding inspiration and developing your catalogue, the positivity will reflect in your work. Keep writing, aim to capture lightning in a bottle and anything is possible. The focus and energy should be mostly spent on this above anything else.
Once your content is ready to ship, you need to make it widely available and if it is great, there is the possibility that it can resonate and build an audience with people who will see you at your gigs or concerts and support you in various other ways so invest in your merchandise, maybe consider a limited vinyl pressing. You can then develop relationships with your fanbase.
It is easier than ever to license and release all of your music and maintain ownership of it all. Bandcamp is well revered for its transparent deal and the way in which you can directly sell your music to fans, (both physical and digital), in fact the Bandcamp model is one that, unsurprisingly, The Music Site fully supports and will be emulating in similar ways (watch this space).
There are also numerous websites that allow you to release your music on all streaming and digital platforms. For example, The Music Site’s ‘all-you-can-eat’ music distribution can make your music readily available in hundreds of digital stores and streaming sites worldwide for a single annual fee of just $19.99.
These services are a great way to ensure you music is available across a wide number of platforms and formats.
Will this guarantee you a full-time music career? No, but it may happen, and you have the tools to make the music you want to make and become the artist you want to become. The journey is the reward.
*I recommend that you follow the Lefsetz letter and podcast. Bob shares his opinion and writes articles about numerous areas of analysis in Music. He has discussed streaming extensively and you may find his podcast with Canadian Manager Jake Gold and his 2nd interview with Steve Renman highly informative with regards to the streaming discussion.
About the Author
Ryan Elliott is a composer, producer and music educator. He leads the progressive rock band Eden Shadow and is guitarist for the instrumental jazz rock band Kinky Wizzards and their second album ‘Quirky Musings’ was released in 2017.
Follow Ryan and The Kinky Wizzards at the links below:
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