Music

Spotify – The Musician’s Friend or Foe?

Streaming music has become a social norm recently. Playlists override albums and Spotify has taken over the music industry and CDs are becoming an object of the past. However, is the streaming of music instead of physically purchasing the music better or worse for the thousands of musicians who want their music to be heard? Has listening exposure taken over the money motive that used to hide behind the stage-names and fame?

Here’s the truth. Spotify is user-friendly, not musician friendly.

Let’s look at the facts. If a signed artist was to sell their CDs at $12.00 through retail stores such as HMV, the artist themselves would receive $2.76 per CD. The retail store takes 30% of the profit and the record label takes almost half at 47%, this leaves the artist with a mere 23%. For a solo artist to receive the US monthly minimum wage of $1260 they have to sell 457 CDs – not so bad considering that there are likely hundreds of stores around the world/nation, each only having to sell around 4 CDs.

Now let’s compare this to Spotify. For a signed artist, their song would need to be played 1,117,021 times in order to receive $1240. That is almost 3000 times more exposure needed to make the same amount of money. $0.0011 per play – for every 1000 plays the artist receives $1.10. Think that for an upcoming artist who hasn’t had much exposure, many have begun to only provide their music online. Are they being paid what they should? Does Spotify exploit new musicians?

Many would debate that musicians shouldn’t be in it for the money. They should be producing music because they enjoy it. Don’t you think that is rather hypocritical considering that only 17% of Brits love their job? Only 33% of Brits are in well-paid jobs that they like/love. So is the argument that musicians shouldn’t care about money valid when a third of Britain’s workforce is fulfilled financially and with the enjoyment of their jobs?

However, does Spotify provide musicians with exposure to a wider audience?  Spotify allowed listeners to find music that they would have otherwise never heard of – yet the competition for listeners increases massively. If more musicians can place their music in an “international marketplace” then there is a smaller chance a listener will find their music amongst the shadows of some of the biggest musicians in the world, as well as their small-scale competition. Streaming, therefore, makes it easier to share music between large groups of people. If one person discovers a band they like, it only requires a share button to be pressed and the artist has double the exposure on both social media and the streaming site itself. Yes CD’s can be shared, but the time it takes for 10 people to click on a link is much faster than 1 person sharing 1 CD. It is creating a fast-moving music sharing revolution.

CD’s have become an inconvenience for the forever adaptable millennial. A person’s music taste often changes by the week or by the day, so they cannot simply be buying CD’s every time they find 1 song on an album that they enjoy. Spotify enables music consumers to change what’s on loop for them. They have the ability to manipulate playlists based on their current enjoyments and moods. CD’s remain fixed. Despite this, CD’s such as Ctrl by SZA include interludes and transitions that can only be understood when listened to chronologically rather than being shuffled through Spotify.

Then there is also the practical argument, that people don’t have the space for CD storage. Listening to music whilst on commute has become a regular occurrence for the vast majority of millennials. Spotify allows the music to be portable and taken wherever. CD’s cannot be stacked in bags and taken out on the train. The demand for a wider variety of music in one listening session has integrated itself into the social norms. Playlists as opposed to albums – musicians do not receive the full appreciation that went into creating their albums, only the singles receive attention, the rest only considered mediocre.

Is Spotify changing the way we listen to music? Yes – we have adapted to the increased access we have on the internet and it has trickled down into our listening habits over time. Musicians will have to adapt in order to keep up with trends and maintain their name on the map (or discover page – the new top goal.)

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