Can published music really make money anymore for smaller artists?

I was reading an interesting post from Fish about album sales and how streaming simply doesn’t cut the mustard for providing funds for tours etc earlier. It’s supposedly a reality check, and there are a bunch of people in the comments saying they all buy albums etc etc but honestly… there’s simply no reason to buy music now for the majority of people.

I’ve lived in a house without a proper stereo for nearly 12 years now. I stream all my music via Spotify or Grooveshark, or play mp3s copied from my music from years ago. The reality is, if there is no need to spend money to hear something, then people will not spend money unless there’s a special reason. The last CD I bought was at a gig, because it was a CD which we were told would not be available commercially, and was an acoustic album from an acoustic concert. It was representative of what I’d just heard, and thus had meaning, and as far as I was aware, it was unique to that tour. It was the equivalent of the old 12inch remixes I used to buy on vinyl.

I get that if people don’t buy albums, revenue isn’t created and ergo tours cannot be paid for… unless something changes with the way money changes hands… and I don’t see that happening, but if artists truly believe people will pay for something which they can listen to for free, they’re fooling themselves. £15 quid each for maybe 2 CDs every month or two is the difference between someone in a labourer’s/unskilled job being able to go out on a weekend or not. 

The answer? I don’t know. There has to be a way to generate revenue from streaming, or there has to be a way to alter the dynamic from how much an artist receives from the parent company. Perhaps Spotify needs to ensure that the cost of streaming is taken from things like mobile phone contracts, so that phones are sold with Spotify pre-installed and the monthly contract cost goes up £1, and make it impossible to install Spotify onto a phone which is not falling within that bracket. Then use that revenue to pay artists. 40 million downloads equates to an awful lot of revenue. 

Spotify has replaced the walkman/discman, and while years ago we all sat with our fingers over the record button listening to the radio waiting to grab a song or two, if we really wanted to get the best quality music, we bought it. I can’t help but think we’d do it again, if that was the only option available. Whether the public themselves would accept that though, after years of having free access… who knows?

2 thoughts on “Can published music really make money anymore for smaller artists?

  1. Blitzwood

    It’s just strange to me how studies show that Spotify is in fact one of the services that pay less to the artists/play. As the leader streaming service with more paying users shouldn’t they be able to afford a bit more?

    My streaming numbers are not high enough to be the best statistic/math example but from Spotify I have an average $0.0019/stream while Rhapsody payed me $0.0075/stream.

    So if someone finds a song he likes from me, he needs to listen 526 times at Spotify to pay me a small $1 drink at Mcdonald’s.

    Making music is not just about the money ofc, but to keep making music and improving (getting new instruments, computer programs, time,..) money sure helps.

    Btw, All time highest payment/stream was from Deezer. 1 Play from Malaysia = $0.09 (“Terima kasih” to the listener!)

    1. aliwiseman Post author

      Ah Deezer. I was using Deezer for my website years ago when it allowed you to embed music. Then all the artists I used were suddenly no longer available, and thus, it’s probably been 7ish years since I last logged in.

      I don’t know the stats for Spotify in terms of what they pay people, but I have to assume people would pay £21/22 a month instead of £20 for their Android to have unlimited Spotify embedded on their phones… heck.. we used to pay £2 for a cassette to record stuff on from the radio… 30 years ago. Of 40million downloads there are 10 million subscribers, which suggests a quarter of people are prepared to pay X amount already.

      The hardware tie in with phones would surely add to the appeal, and the pairing would add to the mobile provider’s appeal, given that their contracts would be/ could be specifically designed for music listeners rather than web browsers etc..

      But.. it’s all speculation. While someone is making big money from smaller people, until those smaller people wield enough power together… it won’t change.


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