Opting out

Things are not going well in the music industry…. That’s an understatement. The truth is that things are pretty screwed up in the music industry… That’s also an understatement!

More people need to realize what artists get paid by streaming platforms for their hard work. More people should care!

The cold numbers (per play)
Napster pays $0.0167
Tidal pays $0.0110
Apple Music pays $0.0064
Google Play pays $0.0059
Deezer pays $0.0056
Spotify pays $0.0038
Pandora pays $0.0011
Youtube $0.0006 (IF you monetize)

To get on these platforms you also have to go through a distributor, for example CD Baby, which takes 19% of these royalties… On top of the fixed price for the entry ticket of course, which varies between $49 and $89 for an album. And of course to withdraw that money, you will have bank or Paypal fees…

So in average among these platforms, you get $0.0065, minus the 19% that’s a whooping $0.005265! Meaning for 10,000 plays you get roughly $50

Sleeping with the devil

So, I see indie artists trying to work around the system one way or another, trying to aggregate playlists to be played in loops all day on a desktop (sound muted) by all the people featured… And for what exactly? Hopefully they’ll get a burger by the end of the year. Who has even been truly listening??? What kind of interaction have they gained from being there, do they even know, do they even can contact the fans who have played and liked their music on these platforms? Nope.

I see countless artists, even radios, linking to Spotify and Deezer and Tidal on social media, actively promoting their links and playlists! And I’m thinking “I’m sure these platforms are really pleased that your fans are sent to them to listen to YOUR music.”

There’s a name for it, I believe. It’s called “Sleeping with the devil”.
Every day these platforms are petitioning in court to try and pay less and less royalties to artists, and put more money in the hands of their shareholders. They have no trouble using your content to do so. They will not promote you in any way, they are bound to big labels who couldn’t care less about indie music.

And then what?

I have decided that I will no longer condone any of these platforms, link to them or put anymore of my music on any of them. I’m just tired of endorsing crooks and bend over to get screwed a bit more, and say thank you while I’m at it…  It’s not going to make that much of a difference in my revenue anyway, that’s for sure.

And I sincerely think all indie artists should do the same.

You will be able to find my music on my own website where I’ll get 100% of the revenues, on Bandcamp, CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon (they all take a cut).
But also especially you will be able to hear it, alongside many great indie artists, on indie radios and podcasts and shows, and read about it on indie blogs and magazines… All of the true distributors and dispensers of today’s indie music that we should all support, link to and recommend.

Fans should stop using these platforms. Radios should stop promoting any links to them. Their only aim is to create a monopoly and eliminate all the little guys, they will kill any creativity that’s left. Let’s not play their game!

But we don’t have a choice!

The main objections that I hear from artists are:
“You have to be there to be found…” - really? And who is finding you there, except the fans you’ve pointed to, to begin with?
“You don’t have a choice” - hum, isn’t that how dictatorships are made?
“If you don’t do it, others will” - again, isn’t that how the 3rd Reich’s atrocities happened?
“If you’re not there, no one will want to promote you” - I don’t believe the people in the indie world are really looking at Spotify to find the music they play and review and promote.
“It’s not that bad!” - go back and read these numbers from the beginning again, please!

Perhaps not many artists will find that worthwhile, and perhaps not many will change anything and they will keep linking to Spotify and the others, but as for me, I’m just tired of sleeping with the devil… I’m opting out! I think you should too!

20 comments

  • Jon Magnusson

    Jon Magnusson Stockholm

    I totally get your point of view. I will continue trying to do the best of it though. Best of luck to you my friend!

    I totally get your point of view. I will continue trying to do the best of it though.

    Best of luck to you my friend!

  • Sam James @ Wud Records

    Sam James @ Wud Records Czech/German/Austrian border

    Totally with you on all of that, been feeling that way for a long time. There is a better way and together we can make it happen. In time more and more will join the revolution. More and more people are thinking for themselves and realising the present system sucks and is based on corporate greed, brainwashing, censorship and keeping the creative guy shut out. Bandcamp offer a fair deal, I don't mind them taking 10% to host their website, that seems reasonable. The trouble is that there is no community there like at SoundCloud. SoundCloud have a great product but their service is so appalling that I don't recommend to anyone. There are a few great communities out there, such as Atom Collector and the #MusicHourUK, #DIYmusicchat and #FridayPromo on Twitter, but on a global scale these are small and need to grow much much bigger. The guys at Musicisum have a lot of great ideas too. I believe the present is a great time to be an indie label or artist as today we have the internet, which is a platform that creators of every previous era would have strangled their own mothers to have had access to. In the future I believe there will be a stronger union of independent minds, which will be stronger group than it is now and possibly even take on some kind of official organisation to combat the crap. It will have a bigger say in what actually happens in the global music industry. This is a time of massive hope and potential, so lets make it happen. Great article BTW. And best of luck! :)

    Totally with you on all of that, been feeling that way for a long time. There is a better way and together we can make it happen. In time more and more will join the revolution. More and more people are thinking for themselves and realising the present system sucks and is based on corporate greed, brainwashing, censorship and keeping the creative guy shut out.

    Bandcamp offer a fair deal, I don't mind them taking 10% to host their website, that seems reasonable. The trouble is that there is no community there like at SoundCloud. SoundCloud have a great product but their service is so appalling that I don't recommend to anyone.

    There are a few great communities out there, such as Atom Collector and the #MusicHourUK, #DIYmusicchat and #FridayPromo on Twitter, but on a global scale these are small and need to grow much much bigger. The guys at Musicisum have a lot of great ideas too.

    I believe the present is a great time to be an indie label or artist as today we have the internet, which is a platform that creators of every previous era would have strangled their own mothers to have had access to. In the future I believe there will be a stronger union of independent minds, which will be stronger group than it is now and possibly even take on some kind of official organisation to combat the crap. It will have a bigger say in what actually happens in the global music industry. This is a time of massive hope and potential, so lets make it happen.

    Great article BTW. And best of luck! smile

  • Pat Grant

    Pat Grant Manitoba

    I have talked to several artists about Spotify. I see how a artist is being USED to line the pocket of the share holders as in no way does it get the artists any financial gain. You talk about promoting ones music using Spotify. I for one if I want to check out a artist I do not know will go to Spotify and have a listen to them. If I like them I have no problem say to purchase their music. It sure is a tough call for sure. When it comes to promoting one, I can say first hand that word of mouth along with the proper use of social midea is the way to go. I spend many hours promoting someone I truly believe in. I want to do my part in seeing him one day on that big stage where things like Spotify don't matter at all...

    I have talked to several artists about Spotify. I see how a artist is being USED to line the pocket of the share holders as in no way does it get the artists any financial gain. You talk about promoting ones music using Spotify. I for one if I want to check out a artist I do not know will go to Spotify and have a listen to them. If I like them I have no problem say to purchase their music. It sure is a tough call for sure. When it comes to promoting one, I can say first hand that word of mouth along with the proper use of social midea is the way to go. I spend many hours promoting someone I truly believe in. I want to do my part in seeing him one day on that big stage where things like Spotify don't matter at all...

  • Grammaurai

    Grammaurai Washington, DC

    You're absolutely right that the vast majority of streaming platforms are unfair to indie musicians as a primary means of revenue-gathering. However, I disagree about the usefulness of such platforms in terms of reaching new listeners. In fact, I know from experience that that's not true -- I know from experience that, had a random Passenger song not come across a Jack Johnson Pandora station, I would never have found him, and would never have heard the song that literally kept me from killing myself, and inspired me to get professional help. I find new artists all the time on streaming platforms through pure serendipity. That said, when I do find new artists who I truly believe in and want to support through Spotify, Pandora, or other services, I make it a point to purchase music direct from the artist or label, and support them through shows and personal endorsement. Word of mouth counts for a lot once the listeners are actually there. But it's way too simplistic to say that listeners don't make new and important discoveries through streaming services, and you may be handicapping new independent artists by trying to convince them otherwise. It's a totally personal choice.

    You're absolutely right that the vast majority of streaming platforms are unfair to indie musicians as a primary means of revenue-gathering.

    However, I disagree about the usefulness of such platforms in terms of reaching new listeners. In fact, I know from experience that that's not true -- I know from experience that, had a random Passenger song not come across a Jack Johnson Pandora station, I would never have found him, and would never have heard the song that literally kept me from killing myself, and inspired me to get professional help. I find new artists all the time on streaming platforms through pure serendipity.

    That said, when I do find new artists who I truly believe in and want to support through Spotify, Pandora, or other services, I make it a point to purchase music direct from the artist or label, and support them through shows and personal endorsement. Word of mouth counts for a lot once the listeners are actually there. But it's way too simplistic to say that listeners don't make new and important discoveries through streaming services, and you may be handicapping new independent artists by trying to convince them otherwise. It's a totally personal choice.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hi Jon, you know that I respect you and what you do. I just feel that it's not for me, and I have a different approach. I do wish you the best too, my friend!

    Hi Jon, you know that I respect you and what you do. I just feel that it's not for me, and I have a different approach. I do wish you the best too, my friend!

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Thanks for visiting and your comment, Sam! I fear that the communities you cite not only need to grow, but grow outside of the artist's closed circle. Too often it's only musicians listening to musicians. When there is a need for a true discovery platform opened (and not needing any registration) to feature indie music on a global scale. I hope we'll see it. In the meantime, I think indie radios, podcasts, blogs are on the forefront of the indie world and we need to support them with all our forces.

    Thanks for visiting and your comment, Sam! I fear that the communities you cite not only need to grow, but grow outside of the artist's closed circle. Too often it's only musicians listening to musicians. When there is a need for a true discovery platform opened (and not needing any registration) to feature indie music on a global scale. I hope we'll see it. In the meantime, I think indie radios, podcasts, blogs are on the forefront of the indie world and we need to support them with all our forces.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Thanks for your comment Pat. I think that if artists were providing links to their own websites or at least a true indie platform there will be no need to go to Spotify to listen to them. And I agree with you that word of mouth and fan support is much more important than thousands of plays on Spotify, which not only pays nothing, but gives you no idea who likes your music...

    Thanks for your comment Pat. I think that if artists were providing links to their own websites or at least a true indie platform there will be no need to go to Spotify to listen to them. And I agree with you that word of mouth and fan support is much more important than thousands of plays on Spotify, which not only pays nothing, but gives you no idea who likes your music...

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey Grammaurai, thanks for your comment! It might be true for certain artists that are perhaps a bit more mainstream, that they can get discovered on these platforms, and you can get lucky, no doubt... But I think for a lot of artists, most of their listeners come from word of mouth, gigs, and social media interaction. For those, being on streaming platforms is really not a gain, but ultimately a loss. In the end, as you said it's a choice everyone has to make. I've made mine, I encourage my fellow artists to do the same for the reasons I've stated here, but in the end, I only want great artists to succeed, and I will cheer for them if they do!

    Hey Grammaurai, thanks for your comment! It might be true for certain artists that are perhaps a bit more mainstream, that they can get discovered on these platforms, and you can get lucky, no doubt...
    But I think for a lot of artists, most of their listeners come from word of mouth, gigs, and social media interaction. For those, being on streaming platforms is really not a gain, but ultimately a loss. In the end, as you said it's a choice everyone has to make. I've made mine, I encourage my fellow artists to do the same for the reasons I've stated here, but in the end, I only want great artists to succeed, and I will cheer for them if they do!

  • Erin At Eleven

    Erin At Eleven Scotland

    Food for thought indeed, going to give this a long hard think before I register with Spotify or anything. Totally agree with the principle. Good, informative article. Cheers :)

    Food for thought indeed, going to give this a long hard think before I register with Spotify or anything. Totally agree with the principle. Good, informative article. Cheers smile

  • #RKC

    #RKC France

    Hopefully you changed your mind since last week about Spotify, you defended in a discussion with such heart and soul. It's never too late to understand basic & good sense things.

    Hopefully you changed your mind since last week about Spotify, you defended in a discussion with such heart and soul. It's never too late to understand basic & good sense things.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey Erin, thanks for visiting and glad it made you think too.

    Hey Erin, thanks for visiting and glad it made you think too.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey RKC! It looks like you don't get the concept of playing devil's advocate, but that's OK. I choose to remain positive and try to find ways to change things. Not every one will agree for sure.

    Hey RKC! It looks like you don't get the concept of playing devil's advocate, but that's OK. I choose to remain positive and try to find ways to change things. Not every one will agree for sure.

  • Mike

    Mike Brighton

    Pat, Spotify doesn't have any shareholders and has not made a profit once in 10 years! New technology comes along all the time and given that this is a consumer driven market the industry has to provide it's services across a range of technologies in order to survive. When the piano roll was invented in around 1900 everyone said the music industry was dead, who would buy sheet music when the roll played the songs for you? Sheet music sales went up as more people wanted to learn the tunes for themselves. That trend of figuring it out has continued for over 100 years through every challenge the industry has faced. The current problem is that the industry hasn't figured out how to make streaming services work for the artist. Interestingly it probably won't work that out until the streaming services work out how to turn a profit, or until something else comes along.

    Pat, Spotify doesn't have any shareholders and has not made a profit once in 10 years!

    New technology comes along all the time and given that this is a consumer driven market the industry has to provide it's services across a range of technologies in order to survive. When the piano roll was invented in around 1900 everyone said the music industry was dead, who would buy sheet music when the roll played the songs for you? Sheet music sales went up as more people wanted to learn the tunes for themselves.

    That trend of figuring it out has continued for over 100 years through every challenge the industry has faced. The current problem is that the industry hasn't figured out how to make streaming services work for the artist. Interestingly it probably won't work that out until the streaming services work out how to turn a profit, or until something else comes along.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey Mike! Thanks for your visit and comment! Spotify might not have shareholders (although they are on the brink of an IPO that I know of) but the others have... I hear you that the industry has yet to figure out how to work out the new technologies, but I'd much prefer to see anything else come along than what is in place with these guys who keep fighting in court to cut royalties payment by any possible mean, thus making them the enemy of songwriters and artists.

    Hey Mike! Thanks for your visit and comment! Spotify might not have shareholders (although they are on the brink of an IPO that I know of) but the others have... I hear you that the industry has yet to figure out how to work out the new technologies, but I'd much prefer to see anything else come along than what is in place with these guys who keep fighting in court to cut royalties payment by any possible mean, thus making them the enemy of songwriters and artists.

  • Jayber.C

    Jayber.C Rome

    Brainy writer, interesting reader. You're actually in good company of such artists like Peter Gabriel or Prince that are not on Spotify et similia. My fear is, for example, that if you're not there you are destined to be forgotten. But... well... we are indie and rather unknown... (ok, i am more unknown than you... :)... ) and being forgotten is not our risk! Anyway, go straight and good luck!

    Brainy writer, interesting reader. You're actually in good company of such artists like Peter Gabriel or Prince that are not on Spotify et similia. My fear is, for example, that if you're not there you are destined to be forgotten. But... well... we are indie and rather unknown... (ok, i am more unknown than you... smile... ) and being forgotten is not our risk!
    Anyway, go straight and good luck!

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey Jayber.C! Thanks for your comment! Well, I could be in much worse company than with Peter Gabriel and Prince, really! :D As to be unknown and forgotten, that's what we are already, so I don't see much risk there TBH! ;)

    Hey Jayber.C! Thanks for your comment! Well, I could be in much worse company than with Peter Gabriel and Prince, really! biggrin
    As to be unknown and forgotten, that's what we are already, so I don't see much risk there TBH! wink

  • RLSpencer

    RLSpencer EARTH(Terra)

    It's been a rough ride and many companies who profess to want to help the INDIE musician just line their pockets or want to line their pockets by taking advantage of folkes wantin their music heard. Reverbnation wont do much but offer a free service then try to hound you into paying a fee for "wonderful opportunities" which seem to be them getting paid upfront for ops that never quite materialize. meanwhile the artist keeps paying fees for this and that never recouping their investment. I said screw it and I give all my music away for free and try to make money playing out. why worry about a single song sale when I can earn two hundred dollars an hour(thats lawyer money) and sell ceedees for ten bucks, have folkes give me tips and buy me beers treat me like a GOD and clap and cheer when I finish working. It is work. Never PAY to PLAY.

    It's been a rough ride and many companies who profess to want to help the INDIE musician just line their pockets or want to line their pockets by taking advantage of folkes wantin their music heard. Reverbnation wont do much but offer a free service then try to hound you into paying a fee for "wonderful opportunities" which seem to be them getting paid upfront for ops that never quite materialize. meanwhile the artist keeps paying fees for this and that never recouping their investment. I said screw it and I give all my music away for free and try to make money playing out. why worry about a single song sale when I can earn two hundred dollars an hour(thats lawyer money) and sell ceedees for ten bucks, have folkes give me tips and buy me beers treat me like a GOD and clap and cheer when I finish working. It is work. Never PAY to PLAY.

  • KiKi Skinner

    KiKi Skinner Everywhere, UK

    I totally agree. I call it being raped in broad daylight. I stand by you dude and I will let my associates know about this as well. Something's got to change. And for many to say that if you do not use these platforms for your music that you will not be seen or even promoted is absurd, let's go back to the "vinyl" days, the black wax, when word of mouth, the DJ's spinning the tunes they like, and just rocking out anywhere, anyplace, was the norm for music creators. That's what I'm waiting for, but until then, WE all will keep carrying the torch for Music Creators.

    I totally agree. I call it being raped in broad daylight. I stand by you dude and I will let my associates know about this as well. Something's got to change. And for many to say that if you do not use these platforms for your music that you will not be seen or even promoted is absurd, let's go back to the "vinyl" days, the black wax, when word of mouth, the DJ's spinning the tunes they like, and just rocking out anywhere, anyplace, was the norm for music creators. That's what I'm waiting for, but until then, WE all will keep carrying the torch for Music Creators.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey RLSpencer, thanks for visiting! I agree that playing live and selling your CDs and merch is the best way to earn some living. I'm too old for this TBH, but it's pretty obvious to me that no streaming platform of any kind is here to help artists. Times are harder than ever on the interweb!

    Hey RLSpencer, thanks for visiting! I agree that playing live and selling your CDs and merch is the best way to earn some living. I'm too old for this TBH, but it's pretty obvious to me that no streaming platform of any kind is here to help artists. Times are harder than ever on the interweb!

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hi KiKi and thanks so much for visiting and your wise words! I think radios, podcasts and blogs like yours are the true supporters of indie music and I very much prefer to support and link to you all who are in it with your passion and heart than any of these platforms!

    Hi KiKi and thanks so much for visiting and your wise words! I think radios, podcasts and blogs like yours are the true supporters of indie music and I very much prefer to support and link to you all who are in it with your passion and heart than any of these platforms!

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