The current music streaming market is a bustling place. A number of companies including Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, Songza, Google Play All Access, iTunes Radio, are vying for your ears and pocketbooks. Amongst the competitors a variety of pricing arrangements are available, including the ever-popular free streaming option with ads. Some players woo customers with their exclusive licensing rights to play music from a particular band or artist, while others showcase their algorithms that create customizable playlists for superior user experience. The effort of all these music streaming services has paid off–by the end of 2013, 29 million people were subscribed to one service or another.
Beats Music: Set Apart from the Rest
- markets itself as having better curated and customizable playlists in which you tell Beats Music where you are, what you’re feeling and who you’re with and it will craft an appropriate stream of music for you
- emphasizes that human experts, like former radio DJs, music critics, ex-record executives, are designing playlists to capture a particular mood or emotion
While Beats Music may have carved out a niche for itself within the music streaming industry, is this rise in music streaming ultimately a good thing for musicians?
I’m not so sure. Music streaming doesn’t really generate music sales—why would I buy music to build my own library when I can pay a low monthly fee for an unlimited library of music? Not only is the library unlimited, but where and when I can access that library is becoming more and more limitless as well. I can listen through my mobile device or computer, whether I’m online or not.
A recent Forbes article highlights the downward trend in music sales from 2013—overall music sales were down 6.3%, total album sales down 8%.
It makes me mad that music streaming services are profiting off of the hard work and creativity of musicians, squeezing out the musicians from getting the sales they used to.
On top of that, the free streaming services don’t pay out hardly anything in royalties to the rightsholders of the music. This article from The Guardian shows how independent artist Zoe Keating makes anywhere from half a penny to three pennies in royalties for each play her song gets.
So artists are making less in music sales because of the streaming services, and then they are not even collecting much in the way of royalties from these services either. These streaming services are robber barons exploiting the talent of musicians to amass wealth, leaving the musicians with little. Yes, these services might help an artist get discovered, but even if she gets discovered, people will not necessarily buy her music since they have total access to it already in their free or low subscription rate to the streaming service. So unless the artist is well-known enough to make money from concerts or gets mega-attention from a song going viral, she better keep her day job.