How much is fair?

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On twitter this week, Indie Music Bus asked an interesting question to artists: What do you think is a fair amount of money to stream 1 of your songs?

I thought about it and I will try to elaborate my reasoning here.

Let’s say the average number of plays for someone buying one of your tune on iTunes or others at a price of $1 (let’s forget the taxes and such to make this simpler) is about 50. That’s a generous number, because I would think that most people will get bored with your tune before hearing it fifty times, some songs might get more love, but most would get less, so let’s keep it simple again, even if this is a gross exaggeration…

Now let’s say that on average the artist gets 50% of the $1. Again that would be an average, because if you sell on your own site, you will get 100%, on Bandcamp you would earn 85% on iTunes, around 35%. So it really depends where you would have sold the song in the first place… But let’s say that you get 50%… this means that you should get $0.5 for about a 50 plays, right?

So to me, the logical, basic, common sense answer on the artist side is $0.5/50 = $0.01 per stream… Now, compare that to the average (ponderated among all streaming platforms) of $0.0016 and you will see that we’re far from what would be considered fair right now.

You would say: but these streaming platforms have servers and development costs, employees to pay, offices to rent, etc. Of course! And I would never imply that they shouldn’t take their cut and cover their expenses and costs.

But let’s take Spotify for example: because they keep offering freemium subscriptions (which they have said will increase), spend their money on huge paychecks and royal accommodations while losing millions of dollars and letting scams undermine their own business model, it looks like their cut is never going to be enough. And this is why they are paying less and less royalties, use loopholes and lies to avoid paying royalties and are sued for not paying altogether… 

It’s hard to believe that they are acting towards making things right, nor that they have the will to do so in any foreseeable future. I don’t see streaming platforms in general working towards paying artists fairly, quite the contrary, and because of that, I believe we, artists, should not support them in any way.

So in the end, before asking what’s fair for artists, perhaps we should start exposing how unfair the current situation is and make every music lover aware of it.

2 comments

  • Laughing With The Raindrops

    Laughing With The Raindrops London, UK

    Yep, that's it, before asking what would be fair, let's make everyone aware and let's identify what is not happening! The figures make me feel sick, particularly as I have suspected (from observing figures of my tracks' stream revenue) that the actual amount paid off to artists is pro rata so if the listener zaps half-way through (and my guess is their limited attention span dictates them to do so) the artist gets a fraction of 0.0000whatever. Not even worth talking about.

    Yep, that's it, before asking what would be fair, let's make everyone aware and let's identify what is not happening! The figures make me feel sick, particularly as I have suspected (from observing figures of my tracks' stream revenue) that the actual amount paid off to artists is pro rata so if the listener zaps half-way through (and my guess is their limited attention span dictates them to do so) the artist gets a fraction of 0.0000whatever. Not even worth talking about.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey Virginie, thanks for your comment. Yes it's a crazy world out there. And honestly, I think streaming is worst than outright piracy ever was (and note that although it's an often cited argument, streaming hasn't killed piracy, which is still happening with stream ripping software being widely used to steal music from Youtube or others). Streaming gives the listeners a sense that it's legal and normal to listen to music for free. With piracy, at least honest people were buying music, now they are streaming with a false sense that they are supporting the artists, when they are clearly not.

    Hey Virginie, thanks for your comment. Yes it's a crazy world out there. And honestly, I think streaming is worst than outright piracy ever was (and note that although it's an often cited argument, streaming hasn't killed piracy, which is still happening with stream ripping software being widely used to steal music from Youtube or others). Streaming gives the listeners a sense that it's legal and normal to listen to music for free. With piracy, at least honest people were buying music, now they are streaming with a false sense that they are supporting the artists, when they are clearly not.

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