Are Spotify & Pandora Killing Music?

2743756315_68501e40c4_bLast week, Thom Yorke of Radiohead caused something of an uproar when he proclaimed that he was pulling his music (or at least the stuff he held the rights to) from the online streaming service, Spotify.

He wasn’t worried for himself, really, but for the bands and musicians looking to sell their stuff and promote their stuff and generally make a living by making music, arguing “[it] cannot work as a way of supporting new artists’ work.”

Why? Well, because Spotify pays 0.4 pence per stream… in the US, artists get paid $0.0018 cents per stream. 

And the horror stories continue…

  • Another artist says that 5,000 streams of songs from his latest album paid less than £20.
  • A singer said that his song played on Pandora 1 million times and he got paid less than that of a single t-shirt sale.

So, uh, any musician or band hoping to make a living by selling their music on streaming music players should probably re-evaluate their strategy.

Or, wait, do bands have a strategy? No. Because, like authors, their sole job used to be making music, not marketing it or having any kind of plan in place.

And, like authors, they now face an over-saturated market where the floor of pricing has fallen through, but the bar for competition and standards keeps getting higher. 

This isn’t music’s fault

There’s still a lot of good music being created. Artists are using new tools to become more creative and unique and imaginative than ever before. They’re just not getting paid for it, because music is more or less Free these days, unless people make a conscious effort to support you.

That’s where the biggest problem is: most consumers don’t use Pandora or Spotify as a promotion / discovery tool to find and buy new music (like I do), they’ve replaced their music consumption habits with radio streaming services completely – so much so that there was a 2.3 percent decline in legal digital downloads in the first half of 2013.

This isn’t Pandora and Spotify’s fault

Pandora and Spotify are trying to figure out how to make internet radio sustainable. I think they need to work directly with bands and have a whole team dedicated to syncing up not just a sales cycle for albums, but a promotional effort for everything involved: band website, tour dates, etc.

Why can’t a band customize their little bio page? If that popped up with the band’s website or Facebook Page or both, then consumers might be willing to get a little more involved. Hell, bands might even pay for the service.

Right now, though, both of them are working hard to acquire the rights to the music by paying industry labels exorbitant fees, so both internet radio & musicians suffer.

Meanwhile, YouTube chugs away, giving away pittances to artists and making no attempt to do away with illegally uploaded music. The Dead Kennedys got a few hundred dollars for 14 million plays of their legally uploaded stuff, much less everything else.

To me, this is proof that bands need to actually wield the power of the Internet for themselves. How? Well, I’ll get back to you on that… but the real problem is that musicians have been busy making music, without paying attention to how music is being consumed around them.

Music has stayed the same, but distribution and promotion have drastically changed. The real question is: How do you make people pay for something they have been taught is now free?

Read more at For Bands.

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs via Compfight cc

5 thoughts on “Are Spotify & Pandora Killing Music?

  1. Great piece, Blaise. I just wrote a post citing it. I’ll be really interested in hearing your thoughts on how bands “should be using the Internet for themselves.”

    1. Thanks Kevin, I just read your post, too – good stuff! I definitely think that the barriers facing bands and writers right now are analogous in a lot of ways… and writers might even want to watch what’s happening to music, because music has become commoditized a little earlier than books. That’s what I want to look at next – how do people treat a digital creative “product,” exactly?

      1. I think you’re on to something with the digital “product” idea. It’s almost as if a thing that is so easy to obtain and that has no substance must have no real “value.” If that is what’s happening, then there’s not much hope for artists of any stripe!

  2. Here in the Philippines the music business is just going into this model. An excellent insight that can spur discussion here.

    1. Glad the post was interesting to you and thanks for reading! The music business is getting turned on its head right now, and I think the next generation of musicians is just starting to realize it.

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