Streaming services have revolutionised the way we access, consume and pay for music. First, we stopped buying physical media. Then we stopped paying for music, since we can listen with ads. Now we have a plethora of streaming services – Spotify, iTunes Radio, Pandora and a multitude of others – that are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. And although I’m grateful for the fact that I can discover and connect with interesting artists, this piece from The Conversation explores how information technology, the production and distribution of music, including streaming services may be influencing our perception of the value of music and the signals we send about music itself:
Whenever you listen to a streamed song, like it but don’t buy it, and instead stream it again – especially on YouTube – you are casting a vote for the future nonexistence of professional musicians. It’s not a vote for the nonexistence of music itself, but a vote for the loss of the profession. You are voting for the end of the difference it makes to have people practising for six hours a day and spending months in a studio, making it one’s life project to do those things well.
There’s much to think about here – it’s written by a philosopher so it comes from a different perspective – but what resonated with me was the impact of technology on musicians ability to make a living.
For an artist to make the minimum wage in the US requires 1,000,000 plays on Spotify.
2000 plays on Spotify amounts to one iTunes album sale, as JJ Heller outlines on Inc. Magazine the costs associated with her recent crowd-funded Christmas album ‘Unto Us’.
Touring is also tough. A few years ago, Pomplamoose outlined their touring costs to travel with a full band. Barely worth it from a financial perspective.
Call it confirmation bias if you like but that’s why I will remind you when I promote music on this blog: Streaming is great for discovering artists but if you like their work, pleasse support them by buying their art so they can make more of the art you like.