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As Music Streaming Grows, Royalties Slow To a Trickle 665

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
concealment sends this excerpt from the NY Times: "Late last year, Zoe Keating, an independent musician from Northern California, provided an unusually detailed case in point. In voluminous spreadsheets posted to her Tumblr blog, she revealed the royalties she gets from various services, down to the ten-thousandth of a cent. Even for an under-the-radar artist like Ms. Keating, who describes her style as “avant cello,” the numbers painted a stark picture of what it is like to be a working musician these days. After her songs had been played more than 1.5 million times on Pandora over six months, she earned $1,652.74. On Spotify, 131,000 plays last year netted just $547.71, or an average of 0.42 cent a play. 'In certain types of music, like classical or jazz, we are condemning them to poverty if this is going to be the only way people consume music,' Ms. Keating said. ... The question dogging the music industry is whether these micropayments can add up to anything substantial. 'No artist will be able to survive to be professionals except those who have a significant live business, and that’s very few,' said Hartwig Masuch, chief executive of BMG Rights Management."
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As Music Streaming Grows, Royalties Slow To a Trickle

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  • Re:42 cents a play? (Score:5, Informative)

    by FrankSchwab (675585) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:15PM (#42766715) Journal

    0.42 cents - $0.0042.

    Half a cent per play.

  • Re:Demand More (Score:4, Informative)

    by darkmeridian (119044) <`william.chuang' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:21PM (#42766787) Homepage

    What alternative does the artist have in selling her music? It sucks making pennies, but would she be otherwise selling her music in concert, on CDs, etc.?

  • Re:Cry me a river (Score:5, Informative)

    by EvanED (569694) <evaned.gmail@com> on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:26PM (#42766847)

    To be fair, Keating feels that the NY Times article was not very representative of her opinions [tumblr.com]; the article is a lot more down on the streaming income than she is.

    Her statements on the income from online streaming are pretty neutral; she's not totally gung-ho about it (like, say, maybe Johnathan Coulton would be), but she's also not really putting it out there in a complaining, "wah wah Spotify should be giving me more money" sense.

  • Re:Demand More (Score:5, Informative)

    by EvanED (569694) <evaned.gmail@com> on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:29PM (#42766887)

    ...but would she be otherwise selling her music in concert, on CDs, etc.?

    Yes. And Bandcamp [zoekeating.com]. :-)

    [Disclaimer: I am unaffiliated with Keating, but a large fan.]

  • Profit margins (Score:3, Informative)

    by hardtofindanick (1105361) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:29PM (#42766891)
    There are a lot of musicians and there is a lot of music around. Like it or not the field is saturated, competition is fierce and music is a commodity (and there is in fact a lot of free music around in case you were not paying attention). You need to deal with profit margins like we all do.

    The part I don't like is, we are supposed feel bad and sympathize because you are high and noble with your "art" and "culture".

    If you can't make enough money you are supposed find a different job (shocking, right?). A lot of people deal with it every day. You can still play your music on the side.
  • by kheldan (1460303) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:43PM (#42767019) Journal
    There's only one problem I see with your blue-sky thinking: People will gladly accept music for free (have for decades and decades, it's call RADIO) especially if there's no risk to getting it, but under your model concerts would probably be even more expensive than they already are, and they're expensive right now. Most people will say "Ugh, that's too much money, I'll just listen to the free recording, it's almost as good" and leave it at that.
  • by EvanED (569694) <evaned.gmail@com> on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:04PM (#42767221)

    As I've posted a couple times [I'm a fan so feel somewhat compelled to clarify that she's not really complaining (I have no further affiliation with her her)], Keating's views aren't well-reflected in the article [tumblr.com] and she's a lot less negative on the streaming model than the article seems to suggest. The vibe I've gotten is much more of a "here are numbers so you can have more intelligent conversations about things like changes in federal licensing regulations", and pick up basically no "wah wah wah Spotify should give me more money".

  • Re:Live Performances (Score:4, Informative)

    by icebike (68054) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:33PM (#42767499)

    I wonder how much time these artists actually spend on live performances. Intellectual property creation is the only business that I know of where you can do something once and get paid for it forever.

    Can you suggest a different model?
    (Don't start with performance. How many times a week do you go watch a live performance? Who has the time, the money to do that?)

    The benefit of a performance lasts till the house lights come back up.
    The benefit of you raising a pound of beans lasts a shorter period of time than the time to grow and harvest them.
    The benefit of you making a shirt lasts a couple years on average.
    The benefit of you building a Car lasts only 10 years or until the first crash.

    The benefit of recorded music or written literature, or architectural plans lasts forever, or at least as long as they continue to be sought out and used. Why shouldn't the artist/author/architect get paid more than once, if society benefits forever?

    Should we have a Panel of Judges decide which songs should be published, then pay the artists some estimate of the total value, and have them forever relinquish rights and the music is forever the property of society?

    You might make the case that copyrights last too long, and I might agree, but to imply that IP should be paid for exactly once per consumer stopped working the day people figured out how to make books, record music, or draw building plans.

  • Re:Demand More (Score:3, Informative)

    by foniksonik (573572) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:38PM (#42767553) Homepage Journal

    Why does some random cellist deserve my money? If she's a great artist then yeah, people will go or they'll buy the music. If she's an also ran then she should go get a job. The same holds true for any job. Either your good enough to get paid a living wage or you're not.

  • Re:Demand More (Score:5, Informative)

    by EvanED (569694) <evaned.gmail@com> on Friday February 01, 2013 @09:35PM (#42767979)

    The alternative is to switch to a job that actually pays money. Frankly, she should quit her whining. A cellist?

    Sigh. For the nth time in this thread, the article was misrepresenting her opinion and she is not negative on streaming. Her data dump was much more in the style of "here's information so you can have a more intelligent conversation" than "wah wah Spotify should be giving me more money". At this point I think I'm too lazy to even go get the link again.

    Nobody is going to pay money to listen to a cellist at a concert, or buy her CD.

    The last laugh is on you apparently because she's doing pretty well for herself. Statistically speaking, she appears to almost certainly make more than you.

  • Re:Demand More (Score:5, Informative)

    by PuckSR (1073464) on Friday February 01, 2013 @09:50PM (#42768081)

    It was played 1.5 million times, but that isn't 1.5 million people who wanted to listen to her. That is 1.5 million plays because it matched a station. Consider that she is a cellist and a has a rather eclectic style, I would imagine that anyone who created an "Amanda Palmer" radio station heard her quite a bit.

    This is the problem with using her Pandora plays as a "counter". How many of those were skips/ thumbs downs/ etc? Pandora frequently will loop a few select artists if they fit into a narrow bandwidth of music. That doesn't mean that people are demanding her music at that particular level. She may just show up a lot for anyone who creates a classical station and thumbs up more contemporary pieces.

    Further, she has been #1 on the Itunes classical charts a number of times. I wonder if all of that Pandora exposure from her 1.5 million plays contributed to that success? Can't be, people were buying her tracks on iTunes for no reason. She is just that fucking popular.

  • by Veroxii (51114) on Friday February 01, 2013 @11:05PM (#42768533)

    You misunderstand what the rest of the world does.

    You think programmers get to write fulfilling awesome pieces of code to stimulate their creativity? No... they write boring back-end database and financial software.

    You think lawyers all get to smartly outwit each other in their cerebral battles in court? No... it's mostly drafting contracts from templates and doing boring papery things.

    You think that doctor gets to save lives by cleverly doing differential diagnosis and finding the obscure diseases that no-one could? No... it's mostly the same snotty noses and strange genital rashes day in and day out.

    I could go on, but I think the point here is that work is not glamorous for most people.

    So if you have to play a pop cover in the bar to make ends meet - suck it up! Go experiment and be deep on your own time and dime. The rest of the world does too.

  • Re:Demand More (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2013 @11:06PM (#42768539)

    Or the other solution is, that now she knows what her music is worth, she now knows how many albums she needs to produce to hit the magic number for her retirement. Instead of whining, she should get to work!. . .With most creative professions, like architects, web designers, interior designers, cake decorators, hair stylists, tatoo artists, custom harley shops, floral arrangers, etc etc.... the motto is "Create! Create! Create!" When you stop creating you starve.

    It's time musicians were cut down from that huge pedestal they have put themselves up on.

    Let's break the numbers down. Ignoring soundtracks, she has recorded on 14 albums in 14 years. Her Pandora and Spotify payments netted her approximately $4300 together last year. Assuming one album per year, this gives us a yearly income of $307 per album. So when she retires in 25 more years (at 65), her oldest, and so most profitable album will have made her a grand total of $12,000 or so, assuming that listening stays constant even as her listener base dies off. For an album a year (let's say one song a month), which is about as much as you can expect from any artist (most give us a lot less), that seems like an awfully small number.

  • Re:Demand More (Score:5, Informative)

    by godrik (1287354) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @12:31AM (#42768967)

    I read the blog of Zoe Keating[1], the artist whose quote was extracted in the new york times article.

    You said: "Seriously though, this person is getting upset because they don't have a large volume of listeners, not because the songs are not paid enough for listening."

    This is not what Zoe Keating is complaining about. She complains that the artist on streaming platforms are made per play. Though, depending on who you are, you don't get paid the same per play. She claims that this is unfair. Basically because she is independent she can not negogiate a higher rate.

    As for live performance, it appears to only represent 25% of her income, while music sales represent about 45%.

    [1] http://zoekeating.tumblr.com/ [tumblr.com]

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