Music’s Streaming Wars: Who Really Wins?

Few would argue with the fact that music streaming platforms have revolutionized the way music is distributed and consumed. Although it’s still a relatively new concept, it seems as though there is a shift in only caring about the numbers as opposed to the actual artistry brought to the table.

It seems like a no brainer that an artist would get 100% of the proceeds each time their song is streamed, right? Not even close. Despite that 85% of the music industry’s profit in the first half of 2020 was thanks to streaming (a whopping $4.8 billion), most of the money earned from from a stream goes to the artist’s label (about 50%) and the streaming platform itself (about 30%), which could leave an artist with as little as 13% of the generated income. Broken down, that’s less than 1 cent per song stream. There’s no set fixed per-stream payout, as it all varies depending on the individual artist’s situation, such as their royalty agreements, where and how their fans are listening, etc. This calls for a more equal distribution of the assets, such as at least a 50/50 split or more, where the artists can be shifted into the main earner position for their work as they rightfully should be. While it’s hard for all of us living in a tech-based society to never use streaming again, there are some ways to make sure more of our hard-earned money is actually going towards the artist we admire; buying their physical CDs or Vinyl’s, purchasing merchandise from the official shop, or paying for the premium version of a music streaming service at the very least. As it’s always been, artists make most of their money on tour, so catching them at a show (when they come back and it’s safe to do so, of course) if you can afford it remains the most monetarily beneficial for your favorite acts.

In regards to how fans react to streaming, it can be taken out of context and easy to get caught up in. Simply because a track may have a lot of streams, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a show-stopping song. Big fanbases want their artist to do really well, and it’s incredible to have that kind of support, but every new release can’t break records. That puts a lot of pressure on the artist and their fans to constantly out-achieve themselves and it’s not very realistic, especially when the fanbase main reason for rallying together is just to beat out another artist to “prove” theirs is better. Band together just to celebrate the music, and if a song becomes a huge hit then it’s all the more sweeter.

Musicians are not the underdog of the industry; they are the backbone of it. Streaming has given us all this fantastic opportunity to connect instantly with a wide-range of listeners around the world and enjoy the gift of music together. So rather than focusing on the superficial components of streaming like impressive numbers and paychecks for only the already-rich, the fine print of these platforms need to be tweaked to make sure all creators get compensated fairly for their art and we can all feel good about enjoying it. If we learned one thing about entertainment during the pandemic times, it’s how much we heavily rely on music to speak for us in a myriad of ways. The big question needing immediate attention remains: as a collective, how valuable do we consider music to be to us and how can we set a fair price point for it?

*Original statistics source: The Guardian

Cover photo obtained on Google Images/Haulix Daily

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