If I begin this post with the question “Is streaming a viable business plan?” half of you will click away, whereas the other half will have a passionate reply at the ready. Such is the world of musicians and songwriters, a vast spectrum of social awkwardness ranging from multimillion selling, major deal signing to suitcase shlepping and coffee-shop jobbing. All the more difficult to get a unified stance on the issue to evoke some sort of change.
For what it’s worth, here’s my proverbial 2 cents (or should that be 0.076 cents?)
Yes to Streaming
We are moving further away from the physical world in all aspects of our lives and we can’t reverse on allowing people to rent, as opposed to own, their digital music. I would not be surprised if the concept of purchasing an MP3s will be the next thing left behind in the dead-end branches of musical evolution. Streaming already counts towards the official charts in the USA and Germany and will now also be included in the UK.
No to Non Disclosure Deals
We should not accept the lack of transparency in label transactions with streaming services that are tied up in non-disclosure agreements (this goes for Spotify as well as Youtube). Major labels are invested in the services as shareholders and therefore take slices from both sides. Tom Yorke and Nigel Godrich bought attention to this last year, pointing out that streaming services are skewed towards organisations with a vast back catalogue and only pay lip service to independent artists and small labels.
So… hang on…
Spotify made a loss last year and claim that they pay out 70% of their monthly revenue in royalties to copyright holders (i.e. me or universal records). As artists are making pittance and streaming services are paying out, it seems the only party winning here (or even bi-winning, if I were to allude to a rather old meme) are the major labels. This indeed does beg the question whether streaming is a viable business model… for the streaming services themselves.
In some ways I’m in a much better position as an independent artist. I am my own label and have distributed my album via an online platform that does not take a cut of my royalties. The tiny amounts that do come in from streaming services don’t have to be shared. Record contracts often don’t include a streaming clause at all and sometimes even still charge the artist costs that would only incur with physical goods, i.e. packaging and breakage fees.
On the other hand, I’m a tiny label with no clout and little representation. Artists and labels such as myself are scammed out of our fair share of advertising revenue made by giants like Google. We need a community of artist to represent us because, at the moment, no one’s fighting our corner.
Which brings me to the next question..
Why don’t we build our own? I strongly believe that most of the problems we face can be solved amongst ourselves. If there’s money to be invested within the artist community, why don’t we invest it in developers to create our own, artist friendly streaming service for those who own their copyright? To me, this seems like the most obvious solution and way forward. If you’re a developer or have a pot of gold and would like to work with me on this, please get in touch.
But in the mean time… How about that Transparency
I asked a Youtube representative at Berlin Music Week last year how many views equate a payment and I did not get an answer. If streaming services are going to continue to cash in on advertising revenue against videos we create, the least we can ask for is transparency. I want to be able to audit companies such as Youtube, to see exactly how much money has been made off my music and would like to see royalty payments made accordingly.
Last week I was invited to join the FAC‘s artists streaming debate at Metropolis studios. It was so uplifting to be in a room full of talented and kind musicians who all see the importance of sharing ideas and experiences. The more we can work together, the easier life will be for all of us. If you’re an artist, you can register with the FAC for free for their newsletter and invites to more events like this one. I’ll post an update on the event itself here soon!