In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a row going on out there regarding payments from streaming services. Spotify appear to be the focus of the anger, particularly from artists, and musician Jon Hopkins waded in last week on Twitter, with a tweet claiming that he only paid £8 for 90,000 plays of his tracks in October. Music manager Erik Neilsen then joined the debate, highlighting the fact that his band A Genuine Freakshow made £7.29 from 1,923 plays on Spotify during the same month. A Genuine Freakshow are self released, while Jon Hopkins current project with King Creosote is released through Domino, one of the more highly regarded independent labels around today. Going on these numbers, Hopkins would have earned around £350 for those 90,000 plays if he had self released, so that must be the best thing to do …. or is it?
The label gives an artist up front finance, marketing and promotional support and often success through association with others on that label. Self release gives you control and ownership, but a constant struggle to raise money for recording, marketing and promotion and while the per unit return may be higher the volumes are often significantly smaller. That impacts on other areas, such as live income, where the audiences will bear some relation to the number of people who have bought, or heard, your music.
Which brings us back to Spotify. Their services, and others like them, are popular with users who can explore a world of music at relatively low cost. If there’s a problem, perhaps it lies in the apparent difficulties the labels have in applying new models to old contracts and the subsequent trickle down of income to artists. Streaming services aren’t going to go away, they’re growing, particularly as the mobile market develops and we all look for phone upgrades with added functionality and data access. However, artists, musicians and labels all need to get to know how to get the best out of them, both in a financial and promotional sense.
Just to make things even more complicated, here comes David Touve from Washington & Lee University who compares the value of an i tunes download to a stream. Based on 250 plays he calculates that the artist share of an i tunes track per listen is $0.0028, but 250 plays on Spotify generates $0.0033 per play. Go figure