It shouldn’t be a surprise to you that physical music album sales and even digital downloads are experiencing a rapid decline. If it is, you should probably crawl out from under that rock of yours and join reality. The problem is two-fold.
First, pirating has taken a significant bite out of Big Music revenue. This isn’t a new issue. You remember those mixtapes (actual cassettes) that you used to make for that special guy/girl? Congratulations, you set the precedent for music thievery. Pirating has only become easier with the inception of digital music files. Copying and pasting 1’s and 0’s is so damn easy. How easy? Check out this video whose sole purpose is to educate the layman on how to anonymously pirate full movies (unEARTH Music Hub does not condone or endorse any action or software used to steal food out of the mouths of hardworking musicians and their starving babies. Use at your own risk. Don’t be a dummy.). You just became a pirate in less than three minutes. It’s that simple. But before you decide to delete your credit card info from iTunes and become the next Captain Jack Sparrow of the music world, let me tell you a story about a Boston University Ph.D student. Joel Tenenbaum was recently ordered by a jury to pay damages amounting to $675,000 for pirating thirty songs. That’s $22,500 per song! While this was clearly a punitive hail-Mary designed to dissuade the average person from pirating music, I think that cases like this one only served to usher in the new form of music consumption known as streaming.
Music streaming is the second massive contributor to the decline in traditional music distribution. If you been listening to our award-winning, world-famous Ground Sound Podcast, then you already know our individual opinions of for-profit music streaming services like Spotify are split right down the middle. These companies make literally millions of songs instantly accessible to anyone with a computer or smartphone which, in theory, should be a win-win situation. The idea being that, as a musician, more people will listen to your work and you get paid for the listenership. Simple business model, right? You would think so. I’m certainly no expert on the subject of royalty disbursement but I would imagine that if you’re making money by streaming an artist’s music, you should also be prepared to pay them a fair amount per play or, at the very least, have everyone be treated equally. This is not the case. Big Music decided to put their dirty hands in the pot and negotiate for a larger slice of the pie, leaving the little guys left with absolutely nothing.
Oddly, few people are talking about how much money they are actually making through Spotify, but it’s estimated that the average play is worth an abysmal $0.005. That’s half a cent…if you’re getting anything at all. An artist needs to rack up 200 plays to make $1. How are we letting this happen?! Is the general population truly oblivious to the tremendous effort and cost involved in making music? Surprise! Songs don’t just pop out of artists like perfectly polished Easter eggs. These creative humans have dedicated a large amount of their time, money and soul to create a tangible piece of art for your listening pleasure. Studio time is expensive! Rehearsal space is expensive! Gas is expensive! Instruments are expensive! Craft beer is expensive!!! Strike that last one. But seriously guys, when you buy music, you’re not just paying for a song, you’re supporting the artist and the process.
I’ve engaged in more than one conversation/argument/fist-fight with underground artists whom adamantly defend Spotify; more specifically, it’s marketing potential. I get it. It’s working for them because it affords them the opportunity to have their band’s material appear next to a more established band’s music as ‘suggested music’. From that perspective, it’s a great system, but I want to see them get fair compensation! Please don’t mistake me for one who is resistant to change, especially when dealing with new technology, but when cost of unfair business outweighs the potential benefits of said technology, we have a problem.
In short, if we are going to perpetuate this streaming trend, then we need to demand fair treatment and payment for all bands involved. So in the meantime, maybe pay full price for your music. Demanding free music is going to drive away all the truly talented musicians leaving us with nothing but awful new music.