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The Problem with Streaming Music

I gotta eat, y’know?

I like streaming music. I like it better than finding some homemade video on YouTube. As a musician, I’m often referred to YouTube but too often, there are a zillion cover versions by people and I need to hear the original (and perhaps a live version) by the original artist. Streaming sites let me find actual official releases. Usually.

But the problem for us artists is that streaming sites want to pay based on their revenue. Maybe that will end up paying us a boatload of cash, but I doubt it.

The way it works is they take all the money they make from ads and/or subscriptions, take their cut (usually around 30%), divide the rest by the total number of streams* played, and pay based on that. It seems fair on the surface, but so far, it isn’t. See some of the many articles musicians have posted that basically say, “my song got played a jillion times and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

I can’t think of a single industry where the price paid for the product is solely determined by the revenue of the distributor. That being said, I don’t know what the answer is. We can’t expect the steaming sites to pay more than they make, not for long anyway. Or can we?

I don’t currently have a lot of stake in this, but I think we as artists should stand up together and say, “I’m not allowing my music on streaming sites until the payment is proper.” But, I don’t know what that number should be. Should I get a buck for every hundred streams of my song? Or every ten? I don’t know a good answer to that one.

* One stream is a single song played once. A song played ten times is ten streams. Another way to look at it is that popular songs will get paid proportionally more.

Posted 2015 06 24 at 5:07 PM

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