I’ve been reading a lot about how streaming services like Spotify are underpaying musicians. Rapper Vince Staples recently performed at a SXSW Spotify Event in Texas. He said, “Shoutout to Spotify. Thank you for giving me this check to make up for what youve done to me and all my musical friends. Later, he told the crowd, listen to your favorite album 1,000 or 2,000 times so everybody can get an album sale.
I thought about his comment and realized, I would have never heard of Vince Staples had it not been for Spotify. When I was younger, I would go to Best Buy or Media Play (RIP) and carefully decide which album I wanted to buy. I would base my decision off of songs I heard on the radio and the music that my friends were listening to. I would also frequently buy albums from bands that I already knew I liked. With the introduction of Spotify and SoundCloud, I started listening to a much larger variety of musicians. Lesser-known artists, like Vince Staples, were now on my radar, and I could listen to them without having to fork over the 15 bucks for a CD. I can tell you, without a doubt, I would never buy an album of over half the music that I play on Spotify. It would just be too expensive, and too time-consuming to buy each particular album. If these streaming services didn’t exist, I wonder if musicians like Vince Staples would have even made it to where they are now…
Another reason why streaming services deserve more credit is that they are increasingly becoming a LEGAL way to obtain music. One of the major reasons the music industry isn’t as lucrative as the 90’s is the ballooning piracy of music. A European Commission research report found that Spotify is reducing illegal downloads, with every 47 streams leading to one fewer bootlegged track.
I think musicians and record labels would agree that streaming services are helping the music industry wrestle back lost sales due to piracy. I also think that smaller artists are now able to reach a mainstream audience (and with it, mainstream revenue) that they otherwise would have never reached. I can’t comment on the exact royalties that are paid out to musicians and record labels, but it seems like the various streaming services may need become more competitive with their royalty payments if they want to avoid a mass exodus of musicians to either another competitor or to a brand-new streaming service.