Streaming stores or scheming stores – are artists being unfairly paid?

Using digital streaming services to get your music out there is pretty much unavoidable. If you want your music to be heard, it needs to be on the relevant platforms. The argument over these stores paying out fairly has been going on for some time. Are these platforms just greedy? Do they prioritise well known artists? Most importantly, are independent musicians being treated fairly?

BBC statistics on streaming services

As you can see, over the past few years, streaming has risen to be the biggest source of revenue for the music industry. Physical sales have started to decrease rapidly, and these figures are being replaced by the money made from streams. The number of downloads has also shrunk massively. It seems people are happier paying for streaming platforms.

I guess we can’t blame the consumers, streaming platforms do cater to everybody. Overall, they’re great value for money, as you can have all the music you want in just one place. With streaming becoming the most popular way to listen to your favourite tracks, these platforms must be earning a whole heap of money. So, where does it all go? Why does this argument even need to be voiced? Surely there’s enough money there for everyone?

Donald Duck money gif

🗣 You spoke, they listened

It’s been an ongoing battle to get UK MPs to sit and listen to the concerns over the unfair pay and the way independent musicians and artists feel as a result of this. If every artist who felt mistreated pulled their work from streaming platforms, what would we have left? Not a lot, I imagine.

However, it has been put forward that the split rate of these royalties should be 50/50, instead of the current statistics where artists only receive around 16% of the money earned. It seems highly unfair. After all, the hard work is put in by the artists, so why shouldn’t they reap the rewards?

🎙 #BrokenRecord

MPs have suggested that there is a complete reshuffle in pay. This is following on from the #BrokenRecord campaign started by Tom Gray. It’s suggested that an artist could receive as little as £0.80 for 1,000 streams. It makes it seem impossible to make any money from your music. Tom Gray has said that, even the artists you will have heard of, will not make enough money to pay their rent. Perhaps this is why we see such high prices at concerts and gigs. Also, why a lot of musicians need to take on other brand deals or inflate their merchandise pricing. With COVID-19 affecting the whole world, how have musicians been making any money?

Tom Gray profile photo via Twitter
Tom Gray via Twitter

It’s important to note, that #BrokenRecord is not, by any means, a suggestion to scrap music streaming platforms. It is simply a push to get the people at the top to listen and hear the frustrations of these underpaid artists. Streaming platforms allow people to pay a small subscription fee to essentially borrow the music, but there is no exchange for each song they listen to. Tom Gray has suggested that instead, people should be paying to rent the music. I guess it’s like Netflix, we pay a fee and can pick and choose what we want and when. Before that you would pay to rent a single DVD or VHS from a store, return it and then pay for another.

Spotify is believed to pay between £0.002 and £0.0038 per stream, while Apple Music pays about £0.0059. YouTube pays the least – about £0.00052 (or 0.05 pence) per stream.

This money is then sent to whoever owns the rights to the track, which is then split up between everyone who helped to create it. It’s not going to stretch far at all, is it? This is why MPs have acted and come together to discuss these concerns. They seem to agree that the music industry needs to become a more equal playing field.

It’s been put forward that the government should enforce an equal shares right. Whereby all artists and musicians receive an equal amount of the earnings generated from their music. What do you think about this? Surely we can all agree that something needs to change?

🗨 Spotify’s response

Spotify have created a website dedicated to clearing things up. They’ve published Loud & Clear where their aim is to be more transparent with artists. The website is all about sharing data, streaming economy and information about the royalty system. You’ll find a calculator on the site, so you can see where your tracks compare within the platform.

Spotify Loud & Clear track calculator

This doesn’t necessarily mean that artists will be financially better off, but it may help them understand the system a little deeper and no longer feel like they’re being cheated. Spotify have added features like a tip jar where artists can use Cash App, PayPal or GoFundMe to earn extra money. They can select a song as their artist pick and link this up with their payment method, fans can then choose to tip them. Another new feature Spotify have added is the option to sell merchandise. You can add a merch bar to your profile for free. It’s a great idea for people starting out, rather than having to create a whole website dedicated to personalised items.

It looks like Spotify are trying to be more helpful towards musicians and independent artists, but above all else, what artists really want is to be paid fairly. We can’t let Spotify take all the negative feedback though, all other streaming platforms are also paying poorly. Where do you stand on this? Are you happy with the way streaming stores are paying currently? Or are you an independent artist that’s tired of the excuses and wants to see some change? Hopefully now it has reached the attention of parliament, something will be done about it.

If you’d like to read more about the #BrokenRecord campaign, here are some sources for you 👇

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