Are Streaming Services Damaging Music Culture?

The rise of streaming services has brought up conflicting narratives. Some say music streaming is bad for artists while some argue streaming saved the music industry. So which side is telling the truth?

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Are Streaming Services Damaging Music Culture?

Before we jump to conclusions, let us rewind time to the golden age of recording albums, the time when artists can make a hefty sum of money by selling cassette and CD albums. The time was late ‘90s when CDs were in the $15 – $20 range. The money was good back then.

After Apple opened the iTunes store in 2003, the playing field changed but artists and labels were still getting good money for their work even when a song cost a meager 99 cents. Then greed took over distribution companies. By the end of the late 2010, artists got a measly 10% off their hard work if they’re lucky.

“So, artists are not making bank with streaming services now?”

It depends. Streaming is great for some, but unless you’re Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran, you’ll only be seeing pennies and dimes. Spotify claims they pay between $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream. That translates to $6 to $8.4 per 1000 streams. Indie artists say they make much less than that. Seriously, though, small-time artists can make more from selling merchandise directly to their fans or performing on clubs.

Artists are not the only ones who feel they’re being undercut by streaming services – songwriters feel the same way too. The bad news is, those streaming services are not planning to shell out more cash for songwriters.

In March 2019, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon, and Google opposed the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) ruling to increase songwriter’s royalties by 44%. Apple Music was the only odd one out. They chose not to appeal to the ruling. It was a sad day indeed.

“Is the music culture all about the money?”

Of course not. Let see it from the listener’s point of view. A streaming service, like Spotify, makes it easier for music listeners to recommend new music and playlists. But there lies another disadvantage of music streaming — instead of listening to albums, people now gravitate toward listening to playlists.

“What’s wrong with playlists?”

A playlist generally consists of songs from one genre or a group of similar genres. So if you enjoy listening to electronic music, you may receive recommendations about new songs in the electronic music genre or something related like ambient music and such. What you need to understand is that these recommendations are designed to maximize profits for the service. Your exposure to new music and talents are just secondary thought.

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