The continued rise of streaming music is just the beginning of a transition into a digital-only market. Numbers are up all around for providers and listeners, creating an attractive outlook for the future of the music industry. But does this mean that you should sacrifice your soul and talent for streaming services? Of course not. They are undeniably large money machines, but artists only see a tiny fraction of these sales actually make it to their pockets. The traditional way of focusing on live performances and merchandise sales remains the best way to earn revenue.
Bringing up discussion about revenue is something that isn’t easy for artists, as general artist income and royalty payments have dropped off considerably over the past few years. This drop-off is due in large part to a significant reduction in physical albums being sold (i.e. illegal downloads). Royalty payments from streaming services are also quite small, with recent numbers for Spotify hovering around $.007 per song played.
Now, you probably have heard that artists like Neil Young and Prince have come out and complained about, and even elected to remove their offerings from streaming services. Superstar Taylor Swift has recently threatened to remove her latest album, 1989, from Apple Music completely over questions surrounding royalty payments. Apple Music is notably also facing an FTC probe itself into whether it violated antitrust laws in their practice of charging 30% extra for subscriptions through the Apple Store.
But how can we compare the likes of Neil Young, Prince and Taylor Swift to less-mainstream indie artists? These millionaire artists have already collected their fortunes and can afford to threaten streaming services by pulling their catalog but is this notion a reality for indie musicians as well?
Simply put, no.
First, an aspiring indie artist is already going to have a mountain to climb when it comes to selling music and gathering followers, something that services such as Apple and Spotify can make somewhat easier. Second, it is easy to blame streaming services for not giving more back to artists when a case could be made that it is the major labels who are to blame for such small payments. These major labels take a large part of Spotify shares due to various financial agreements that are only beneficial to themselves. Mainly, major labels use streaming services like a shield from artists who complain about streaming while taking a significant percentage of payments.
In this digital age, all artists have to make the right decisions when it comes to streaming. As an indie artist, the added exposure and simplicity “should” trump those checks in the mail. Keep touring and selling t-shirts at concerts because those remain the best way to make money.
Of course every artist is going to have a different experience with streaming. Do you have any good or bad experiences with streaming services? Let us know in the comments below!
Post by Thomas Ujj.
An expat/traveler and IT enthusiast with a passion for security and privacy. When he isn’t planning his next trip, he likes to take the time to practice his Italian cooking as well as religiously watching Italian football team AS Roma. Unfortunately, cooking and watching football games doesn’t always equal paychecks, so he writes for SmartDNS.com as well.