Music streaming services offer us all a convenient, portable, and fun way to enjoy music—plus, they’re a great conduit for discovering new artists and songs. The relatively-low monthly subscription fee for these services certainly seems ideal to us listeners, but how sweet a deal is it to the artists who created the tunes?
As the manager of a globetrotting rock band, I know the answer is a pittance—literally, fractions of a penny per play—but when I set out to research the current rates for this year I gleaned some interesting facts.
This year’s study by Digital Music News (DMN), shows that once-reviled Napster actually pays artists the most, while uber-popular Spotify hugs the bottom rungs as one of the worst paying, along with Pandora and YouTube.
Here’s the lowdown on approximately what an artist earns each time you play one of their songs on these services:
Using best-paying Napster as an example, for an artist to earn $1 on just one song at those current rates, that song would seemingly have to be played roughly 60 times—BUT WAIT!—of course, the digital distributor takes their cut for servicing the songs to each streaming company, as does the artist’s record label for producing/releasing/marketing the recordings, thereby further reducing the artist’s cut. According to DMN, last year Universal Music Group alone earned $4.5 million per day from streaming services.
So now it’s back to the drawing board to calculate how many plays to get the artist who created the song up to just $1 of income. There are so many hidden factors that make it difficult to calculate, but in 2013 David Lowery (guitarist for Cracker) publicized that Cracker’s tune Low was played 1 million times on Pandora and all he made was $16.89.
Using Lowery’s example, that boils down to . . . drum roll, please . . . you need to play a tune in a streaming service nearly 60,000 times for the artist just to reap $1 of revenue for that one song. Again, the business of music is complex, so these are all approximations, but it illustrates the ridiculousness that is the state of streaming.
Don’t get me wrong. . . . I certainly enjoy the membership benefits of several streaming services (for which I pay). But after this year’s research, I’m inclined to switch over to Napster (who currently provide artists with the largest payouts)—until the next streaming company decides to step up and increase artist payouts for their work.
But more importantly, I’ll continue supporting my favorite artists by outright purchasing the songs and albums that I love. As a fan, it’s the least I can do to support the art that so deeply impacts my world.
artist royalties, Cracker, David Lowery, Low, music business, music streaming service, music streaming subscriptions, streaming music, streaming services, streaming subscriptions
Not a lucrative time to be a musician. That is quite a pittance for a song. The $ was never in the recordings (In the 80s I read somewhere that an artist usually got $0.50 for the sale of an album?) even back in the polyvinyl chloride days.
I consider myself an expounder of quality over convenience. However, I have UTILIZED (I stress that word considerably) streaming services like Spotify as a means to preview music before I commit to purchase. Radio has sucked for a looong time so there is no other viable source for hearing anything new by artists, established or other wise.
I will always buy physical music. Not only because it rightfully supports the musicians themselves, but also because I like having a collection to look at and display. I like my lyrics and artwork along with studio info and other personnel involved in the making of this audio art form.
Thanks so much for supporting the arts, Michael!
Absolutely! I fear the day when the physical format is no more. I think its already here with the vinyl resurgence being the only exception. But purists like me only buy the original pressings (far superior sound) so I would be curious to know the demographics on that commodity.
I am rather elated that the Pandoras and Spotifys of the world exist these days. I have bought many CDs and in some cases LPs that I never knew existed or got around to, like Rush’s Test For Echo and U2’s No Line On The Horizon.
Another point I have to make, as a fan and consumer, is that I spent a lot of cash back when on albums that were, to say the least, mediocre. Sometimes there were only 2 songs on a ten song CD. Although such was the case with established artists, it was the lack of quality material I would find in some new band that the label had only signed to capitalize on the trend of the day. This is a cyclical thing that has been around since the sale recorded music began. The over-saturation of cookie cutter bands made buying music a dicey endeavor. I am grateful there is a medium like this streaming to thin out the herd and let us know who is still out there. We no longer have radio so this is the new oasis to draw from.
One thing tech cannot replace is live performance. I have never seen a hologram and I do not wish to in this lifetime. My hope is that public interest in experiencing the multiple sensations of a concert will not wane and they don’t succumb to the ease of technology. Not holding my breath because I think the average attendee isn’t aware of the “cheating”. I have read that a lot of bands use prerecorded sound when touring and that saddens me.
Still blogging on matters……..