My loyal reader will be aware of my holier-than-thou attitude to streaming music via companies like Spotify. I maintain that streaming music is little more than theft of someone’s property; no better than going into a record shop, picking up an album and then walking out of the shop without paying for it. Mine is a slightly extreme view, I know, but I am a great believer in people getting paid for their labour. After all, most musicians are jobbing musicians who need a regular income in order to put bread on the table.
In the past, musicians derived most of their income from selling records and then promoting the record by touring. These days, most musicians derive most of their income from live performances and make new music to promote the tour. In the coronavirus era, artists cannot play live and therefore have tiny incomes. The money artists make from streaming would not even put a slice of bread on the table, never mind a loaf. Just look at the this explanation of how streaming income works by the musician David Knopfler:
“Spotify pay an average of $0.00318 per stream – or put another way that translates as $3.18c for a thousand streams, $31.18 for 10,000 streams and $318 for 100,000 streams. This might then need to be subdivided between a raft of people and organisations. There are the commissions for the collection agencies, management commissions, publishers share, record label share, other band members, composers. In other words your average musician is not going to be able to pay their bills from streaming.”
My basic arithmetic is pitiful at the best of times so I will not even attempt to put these pitiful figures into context, but in an era where people prefer to listen to individual tracks than a whole album, you can see that no one will get rich with Spotify, unless you are Ed Sheeran or Coldplay and have a ready-made tone-deaf audience to stream your music, you are going to earn pennies. (Okay, that’s me being a little spiteful towards these massively successful artists but their type of generic, homogenised music leaves me stone cold.)
I like all kinds of music, performed by established megastars to smaller gigging outfits and in all cases I want them to be paid for their work. I realise that we now live in a rather different world than the one I grew up in, when buying music from record shops was something everyone did. Nowadays, people like to get their news, read people’s written work and listen to music for free. It’s why people like me – or rather people like me but with superior writing skills – can’t scrape a living through writing. Mind you, I’d kill for $0.00318 per essay. I’d have raked in something like 12 dollars for all my work in the last six years.
I dread to think what will happen in future for musicians because already we have a divide between musicians who come into the business rich and well fed and those who are trying to eke a living from it. The opportunities have come far easier for the likes of Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, Florence Welch and the admittedly brilliant Laura Marling, who came from private schools. There have been times in the last few years when privately educated musicians have occupied over 50% of chart placings.
The music business really needs to get its shit together and ensure that artists get fairly paid for their work. It’s nice to get all your music for next to nothing if you don’t give a toss about whether the person who wrote and performed the music gets nothing by way of payment for it. I don’t think that’s right. I’m not saying that everyone should go back to buying CDs and vinyl, like I still do, because times and habits change but no one’s creative output should be hawked out there by billionaire companies like Spotify who insult those very artists by paying them peanuts.