The streaming issue:why artists are for or against it
February 20, 2017
Filed under The Edge
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In April 2016, legendary musician Prince died of a fentanyl overdose. He leftbehind some 39 studio albums including over 100 singles. Rolling Stone Magazine, in 2004, named Prince as the 27th greatest artist on its “100 Greatest Artists” list. That same year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s sold over 100 million records worldwide, joining the ranks Kanye West, The Beatles, Lady Gaga and many more as one of the best-selling artists of all time. And, until Feb. 15 of this year, nearly all his music wasn’t available on popular music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music or even YouTube.
For the unaware — when Spotify was gaining popularity and acceptance by the music industry in 2011 — Prince continually railed against the concept of his music being available online for free. It wasn’t until July 2015, though, that Prince officially asked his record publisher to remove his music catalog.
In a series of social media posts in 2015, Prince quoted a Daily Beast article explaining his reasoning. “Essentially, streaming has offered labels the ability to pay themselves twice while reducing what is owed to artists from pennies on the dollar to fractions of pennies on the dollar,” Teo Bugbee wrote for The Daily Beast.
Bugbee, Prince and analytics aaree. According to The Verge, an American technology news and media network owned by Vox Media, Spotify gives artists between $0.006 and $0.0084 per average stream. Of course, there are irregularities in which an artist would be paid more based on other factors like country of origin and country streaming.
For artists like Drake and Justin Bieber, who enjoy popularity and billions of streams, received some serious earnings in 2016. Drake’s “One Dance,” one of the most popular songs of 2016, which was streamed over 1 billion times, earned him over $6 million.
Artists who enjoy mainstream popularity can sleep soundly knowing their work is being appreciated and that they are being compensated. But what about the artists who rarely make it past state or local recognition?
One of my favorite bands, You Blew It, receives nowhere near the recognition of Drake, Rihanna or any other artist on Billboard’s Top 40. In 2016, I streamed songs by You Blew It just over 500 times. Rather, I paid just $4.20 to listen to You Blew It. One of their most well played songs, “Match and Tinder,” has only earned them — at least — approximately $6,300.
If there ever an artist that would be expected to not place their music on streaming services, it would be You Blew It, Citizen, Turnover or any small artist. Strangely enough though, the artists who do refuse to stream their music are ones who already enjoy obvious popularity and acclaim.
Pop idol and professional 24-year-old Taylor Swift has been one of the biggest opponents of streaming music. In 2015, Swift wrote an open letter to Apple explaining why she wouldn’t allow any of her music on its streaming service Apple Music.
“This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success,” Swift wrote. “This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt.” She failed to mention in her letter, though, her four, multi-million dollarhomes and her supposed $200 million net worth. She also failed to mention her father’s stock brokerage profession and her mother’s habits of pushing Taylor’s music career.
On YouTube, Swift’s song “Blank Space” has nearly 1.9 billion views. Converted into Spotify streams, that would generate at least $12 million in streaming revenue.
Thome Yorke, the lead singer of hipster-favorite Radiohead, called Spotify “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.” While much of Radiohead’s material is available on streaming services, but Yorke’s solo albums are not.
Garth Brooks, the country music behemoth, is also an opponent of music streaming. According to Rolling Stone, he once called YouTube “the devil” without irony.
In a statement about releasing Prince’s music on streaming services, Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Cameron Strang referenced the “responsibility to safeguard and nurture his incredible legacy.”
According to Time Magazine, Prince died without a will and decisions about his music and the rights to it had to be made by his estate. It’s impossible to know whether Prince would have wanted his music available. But if his leanings and history are any indication, Warner and Prince’s estate probably chose to make his music available for a few reasons, one of them being financial gain.