Music streaming is the new way that artists sell their music. Gone are the days of buying a CD or a record—most people simply stream the song for free, or at best purchase an MP3. There are many companies that perform streaming services. Since streaming of music is the main way that people listen to music, a good question is whether or not the payment is adequate for these artists? It seems that for superstars with millions of views, the calculation works out well. However, for those artists with less views, the old-fashioned method of album distribution might have been better for them. There has been controversy in the news regarding the Apple streaming music decision—they were considering not paying their artists for music streamed during their phone’s trial period.
They reversed their decision after a social media lash-out by Taylor Swift. This essay considers what streaming payments exist today and how much payment this translates to for the music artists. According to Hugh McIntyre with Forbes, the following is a list of the top ten companies that provide streaming services along with their corresponding payouts: Napster – $0.0167; Tidal – $0.0110; Apple Music – $0.0064; Google Play – $0.0059; Deezer – $0.0056; Spotify – $0.0038; Pandora – $0.0011; YouTube – $0.0006 (McIntyre). These numbers are for unsigned artists. Signed artists receive more, but not by much. Therefore, in order for an artist to clear minimum wage, they would need about 4.2 million plays on YouTube (Sanchez). Apple is a streaming service that has taken off quickly (Sanchez). This service pays artists about .0064 cents per stream—meaning to turn about $1500, an artist would need about 240,000 streams (Sanchez). The amount per stream is sometimes unclear because some artists will release what they get paid per stream and it conflicts with company information (McIntyre).
In addition to the fact that the artists are not paid enough through the streaming services, is the fact that none of the streaming services are making a profit themselves (McIntyre). The concern with the equation here is that neither the artist, nor the streaming company, can sustain a negative income for long. There must be another way to go about this service. It needs to be a way that everyone makes a profit. It is doubtful, however, that listeners will be willing to return to pay-for-performance in the way which preexisted streaming technology. Streaming is here to stay, so it needs to be improved for all end users. There is definitely hope for the streaming industry, however, because in 2017 the companies have reported record-breaking revenue (Sanchez). Hopefully, these revenues are an indication that the problems which have been costly to the industry are being solved.
In conclusion, the idea that it takes that many views are unachievable for some unsigned artists—therefore, imagine what their payment is for their art? It is the contention here that the payment is not enough, and that the artists deserve a higher pay. Artists are gong to lose the inspiration out of the necessity to earn money in another way because of these low pay-outs. Even the businesses who are paying out the artists do not report that they are making money: “… nobody seems to be making enough money from the format, and almost all the businesses are losing incredible amounts of cash” (McIntyre). If the idea is to encourage artists to continue creating music, then it is necessary to pay these artists much more than minimum wage. The payment for streaming music is insufficient on the artists’ behalf, but with the past year’s reports of increased revenues, it is likely that the payments will improve for all people involved.
- McIntyre, Hugh. “What Do The Major Streaming Services Pay Per Stream?” Forbes, 27 July 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/hughmcintyre/2017/07/27/what-do-the-major-streaming-services-pay-per-stream/#19d91e54448c. Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.
- Sanchez, Daniel. “What Streaming Music Services Pay (2017).” Digital Music News, 24 July 2017, www.digitalmusicnews.com/2017/07/24/what-streaming-music-services-pay-updated-for-2017/. Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.