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As Music Streaming Grows, Royalties Slow To a Trickle 665

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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  • Demand More (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jdastrup ( 1075795 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:10PM (#42766645)
    Is negotiating a higher price not possible?
    • Re:Demand More (Score:4, Informative)

      by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <> 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:Demand More (Score:5, Informative)

        by EvanED ( 569694 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [denave]> on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:29PM (#42766887)

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

        Yes. And Bandcamp []. :-)

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

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

        by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @09:30PM (#42767937)

        "It sucks making pennies..."

        Now, wait a minute. Seems to me this isn't bad at all. I don't know that this is "down" from the past at all... in the radio days (not very long ago), 0.1 cents per play would have been a pretty good return. Especially when you consider that each play was probably heard by thousands of people on average, while Pandora (for example) probably only averages about 1.2 people per play. As much as 0.4 cents or so per play back then would have been a dream come true. And if you figure it on a per-capita basis, why, she's committing highway robbery.

        I see nothing in the article that indicates this is a lower royalty rate than back then. Further, in the article someone said:

        "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,"

        ... okay. But please explain to me how this represents any kind of change. How many rich cellists do you know? For that matter, how many cellists make much of any kind of money by actually selling their music to fans? Yoyo Ma and maybe at most a few others?

        If you ask me, this is non-news.

        • The problem is that people are only streaming music now, not buying albums and listening to the radio. So she's losing all of her sales income, and having to subsist more and more on her $4K/year streaming reimbursements and nothing else.

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

            by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @11:16PM (#42768601)
            No, the problem here is that she gets to see her raw listenership numbers. In the days of radio, she would have got a $50 cheque from ASCAP once a year, and not had any expectation of making a living off her music. Now she sees "OMG, 1.5M plays of my song, that's a lot!" and expects to become a millionaire rockstar overnight.
      • Re:Demand More (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Friday February 01, 2013 @11:31PM (#42768669) Journal

        Its simply gonna go back to the "old days" of the traveling troubadour, going from town to town and singing for your supper. The problem is the cartels have made damned sure you can give up on any kind of indie collective bargaining, they make sure they are the gatekeepers to the radio, MTV, etc so that you have to sell everything you have worked so hard to create for pennies to get anywhere.

        So this really doesn't surprise me, its either live hand to mouth or sign with a label and risk losing everything, see for example Meatloaf having to file for bankruptcy after "Hollywood accounting" said Bat Out Of Hell I, which still holds the record for longest charting on the billboard top 200 BTW, didn't make a profit, or how Cheap Trick is having to sue their former label for not getting a single cent from any digital sales.

        So its not like the big names get treated much better, the Internet has given all the tools to the musician but the downside of that is with so much competition the actual amount made per song is lower than its ever been and will go nowhere but down. The smart musician will be selling everything from t-shirts to keyrings and will have to do a LOT of traveling to make ends meet, if you are the kind of act that can only exist on recordings? Well things aren't gonna be good for you that's for sure.

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

      by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:30PM (#42766903)

      I don't actually understand why demanding a higher price is necessary. As an example, if I bought a CD for $10 with 15 tracks on it, I'd likely listen to those tracks a good few hundred times. That's a likely 15,000 plays for $10, aka between 0.6 and 0.06 per play. When you consider that only 10% of that is likely to ever see the artist, that's gonna be 0.06-0.006. By that metric, this woman is getting great value from the streaming services compared to me actually buying the music.

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

        by nzac ( 1822298 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:02PM (#42767203)

        Not everyone listens to their CDs 100s of times.
        I don't think i have have even come close for any CD, i might make it to 20 - 40 for a good album. Think how long 4500 min (100 plays of the album with 3min tracks) is if you believe that is the norm. No average artist will be listened to the required amount to achieve the breakeven price.

        Streaming eliminates the required investment to listen to something else so unless you get advertised on the front page and your whole album is worth listening to you wont anywhere near the same number of plays as a CD does.

    • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:35PM (#42766951) Journal

      when you hear old Jazz musicians talk about New York, they frequently reminisce about the day they got their Union card.

      the tech industry is so anti-union it would make people from the 50s blush.

      so basically thats the end of music. except for auto-tuned horse shit puked out by quasi strippers who can't sing.

      Truly, this is the Triumph of the Nerds.

      • by Dishevel ( 1105119 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:53PM (#42767121)

        Because as we all know there was no such thing as "Music" before the artists were protected by Unions and Major Labels.
        Now as the major labels and the unions are going down the amount of new music available to the public has dropped precipitously.
        Much like when the VCR killed the movie industry. Wish we never got those damned things.

        • by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:29PM (#42767461) Homepage Journal

          MOD. PARENT. UP.

          Really. If we were taking about nurses, or teachers, or even miners or ship builders, the urgency of this issue would be a thousand times more intense. But in the grand scheme of things? This is - I am afraid to say - JUST MUSIC. It's music. Fun if you can write a nice tune, great to listen to. But frankly, not worth our angst here. You don't make a living making nice music? My commiserations, but perhaps you should not be expecting to make one any more than I do in my profession (UI design, if you must know).

      • by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:00PM (#42767181) Homepage

        I'm all for unions. And for copyright reforms. But not so much for propping up unviable business models and industries. If being a professional musician stops being something that can pay the bills, then so be it. If it's important enough, we'll figure something out. A negative income tax for all persons, maybe. (Because there's nothing about artists that makes them more deserving of welfare than anyone else in similar financial straits)

      • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:29PM (#42767459)

        when you hear old Jazz musicians talk about New York, they frequently reminisce about the day they got their Union card.

        You know that the reason you got your union card was so you could play clubs, right? It wasn't so you could play your song once in a studio, and then kick back and collect a monthly royalty check for the rest of your life.

      • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @09:25PM (#42767907) Homepage []
        "A basic income is an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement. It is a form of minimum income guarantee that differs from those that now exist in various European countries in three important ways:
                * it is being paid to individuals rather than households;
                * it is paid irrespective of any income from other sources;
                * it is paid without requiring the performance of any work or the willingness to accept a job if offered.
        Liberty and equality, efficiency and community, common ownership of the Earth and equal sharing in the benefits of technical progress, the flexibility of the labour market and the dignity of the poor, the fight against inhumane working conditions, against the desertification of the countryside and against interregional inequalities, the viability of cooperatives and the promotion of adult education, autonomy from bosses, husbands and bureaucrats, have all been invoked in its favour.
        But it is the inability to tackle unemployment with conventional means that has led in the last decade or so to the idea being taken seriously throughout Europe by a growing number of scholars and organizations. Social policy and economic policy can no longer be conceived separately, and basic income is increasingly viewed as the only viable way of reconciling two of their respective central objectives: poverty relief and full employment.
        There is a wide variety of proposals around. They differ according to the amounts involved, the source of funding, the nature and size of the reductions in other transfers, and along many other dimensions. As far as short-term proposals are concerned, however, the current discussion is focusing increasingly on so-called partial basic income schemes which would not be full substitutes for present guaranteed income schemes but would provide a low - and slowly increasing - basis to which other incomes, including the remaining social security benefits and means-tested guaranteed income supplements, could be added.
        Many prominent European social scientists have now come out in favour of basic income - among them two Nobel laureates in economics. In a few countries some major politicians, including from parties in government, are also beginning to stick their necks out in support of it. At the same time, the relevant literature - on the economic, ethical, political and legal aspects - is gradually expanding and those promoting the idea, or just interested in it, in various European countries and across the world have started organizing into an active network. "

        See also: []
        "What good is it to get more money and more benefits for fewer and fewer remaining workers while they wait for their own jobs to be lost to automation and improved design? Yet, this has been the strategy of most unions for many years. The failure of the US American automakers in Detroit shows how, in the long run, unions creating private welfare states within individual corporations does not work well anymore for union members or anyone else in society these days. The companies become less competitive relative to other companies that pay less and embrace automation and better design, and so they fail, taking all the union jobs with them.
            We are possibly past the point where union actions related to single companies make much sense. If unions are to have any major role in the future, it may likely be as part of larger efforts to rethink the underlying basis of our economy and society, like by somehow being part of a national effort for a basic income, or comprehensive single-payer health care reform, or reforming education, or things like that."

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

      by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:35PM (#42766959) Journal
      It's almost like people have forgotten what broadcast radio was, still is, and that online streaming is more or less the 2013 equivalent of broadcast radio. Remember how we had to pay a subscription fee to listen to the radio? You don't, because we never did and never will. Places like Britain where you pay a license fee for owning/operating receivers doesn't count, and I'm not talking about satellite services like XM, either. The way it used to work is radio stations would give public exposure to artists' work, and in turn if people liked it they'd go to a record store and buy a copy. Of course that entire business model is now hopelessly broken and everyone wants everything to be digital and stored on their PMP, and so-called 'internet radio' is not in any way equivalent to the broadcast radio of old, in part because you need an internet connection to receive them, so you're already paying for that -- and why should you have to pay twice? I don't think that internet radio is going to ever be a viable sole income source for artists, and frankly I don't know what's going to end up replacing the old business model, but I am of the opinion that expecting to make a living off your music being played streaming online is not realistic. We are in a transitional era for the music business, as the old industry is still in it's death throes, and it's replacement hasn't risen out of the chaos yet.
      • Re:Demand More (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ZipK ( 1051658 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:56PM (#42767149)
        Streaming services like Rdio, MOG and Rhapsody are poor analogs to broadcast radio, as the listener chooses exactly what they want to hear from a vast library of music. Given the ease with which these services can be streamed through home music systems, as well as the growing connectivity of mobile devices, these services become more of a replacement for a personal collection of music than the advertising service of broadcast radio. Even services like Pandora, which don't give you specific choice, provide individualized programs that are a great deal closer to a library replacement than is/was the single-program of broadcast.
      • Re:Demand More (Score:5, Insightful)

        by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:01PM (#42767199)

        I would not even think of it as transitional. Some big bands did charge Radio stations royalties for playing their songs. Obviously, those fees were payed by Radio stations with revenue from advertisers. This allowed larger radio stations to play "the big new song by ...".

        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. Example: A big Radio show in Detroit hits roughly 200,000 listeners every time it's played. For a month, the song gets played a couple times a day, then vanishes from the air as a "new" song takes it's spot. Rather quickly, over the course of a year a "good" song goes from twice daily to never. Such is the way of music.

        Now as an artist, I don't count on listeners for revenue and never have. Like you mentioned, I rely on them to like the song enough to go buy it. Whether that's a CD/DVD, Vinyl, or itunes makes no difference. The "PURCHASE" is the revenue. And it's always going to be nothing -> lots -> nothing. This is why artists put out "new songs" and "new records". They even make money from concerts because you know.. people like the artist enough to want to go see them "Live".

        This person is complaining about two things: First is revenue that has _NEVER_ been there for artists. The second is that they don't get enough of that revenue that has never been there.

        To be a bit more concise, I don't mention royalties intentionally. In fact there are numerous potential revenue boosters I neglect. Not important for what the artist is complaining about.

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

          by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:04PM (#42767217)

          Oh, and another quick point. Some forms of music are always condemned to poverty. If it's not popular, people don't listen or buy the music. Comparing "Pop" or "Rock" to Jazz has always showed a wage/income disparity with musicians.

        • 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] []

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

      by Stoutlimb ( 143245 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:38PM (#42766977)

      This is the value the market has decided in this case. To quote the whiner: "'No artist will be able to survive to be professionals except those who have a significant live business, and that’s very few," (emphasis mine).

      That's right. Unless you're actually willing to put time and effort into the industry, you're not going to make very much money. There's nothing wrong with that, welcome to the real world. No more free rent. The rock star lifestyle just slammed into the real world where people work hard every day to pay their bills. Why shouldn't musicians have to "sing for their supper" like everyone else does?

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

        by Velex ( 120469 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:20PM (#42767359) Journal

        Undoing a mod to open my gob (sorry there kheldan), but I find this right here the most interesting part of the whole mess.

        14th century: You're probably not a musician, not in Europe anyway. Or at least if you are the hit of the day goes something like this: Pie Jesu Domine, donna eis requiem *thwack*

        15th century: You're a musician. You get paid to perform. You perform to get paid.

        16th century: You're a musician. You get paid to perform. You perform to get paid.

        17th century: You're a musician. You get paid to perform. You perform to get paid. If you're very lucky, you might get a fat patronage, but chances are you probably aren't one of the few composers who gets this deal.

        18th century: You're a musician. You get paid to perform. You perform to get paid. If you're very lucky, you might get a fat patronage, but chances are you probably aren't one of the few composers who gets this deal.

        19th century: You're a musician. You get paid to perform. You perform to get paid.

        20th century (at least the latter half): You're a musician. You probably get paid to perform in a local cover band or in a generic orchestra. You perform to get paid. Or hit the jackpot, get signed on to a label, and become a quad-zillionaire and ensure your great-great-grandchildren will never need to work a day in their lives.

        21st century: You're a musician. You get paid to perform. You perform to get paid. People on the other side of the globe can be exposed to your music. Most people won't give you a dime for the copy of the recording they have no matter how much it brightens up their day or helps them define who they are, but some people (like me) will still be willing to hand over some cash to get an official CD (SD card with FLACs or similar in the future?) with printed artwork and a lyrics book with more artwork and photos of your band. There's no need for us to meet in person. We can conduct this exchange entirely over the internet and via courier services. If you're very lucky, you might land a nice deal for a movie or video game, but chances are you probably aren't one of the few composers who gets this deal.

        So, basically, what I'm trying to do is illustrate what I'm assuming your point is. The 20th century with its quad-zillionaires is the abberation here, but at least the 21st century is brighter for the average musician when compared to any century before (except the 20th).

        The MAFIAA and artists who think they're entitled to be quad-zillionaires or whine about how the quad-zillionaire rock star is a dying breed as though that's always how it's been since the beginning of time (which it hasn't) deserve absolutely no sympathy. There's a reason I'm learning new frameworks for my day job instead of getting serious about learning how to play more than a few simple tunes on my guitar. One of those activities gets me paid; the other does not. (Although it might get me something that rhymes with paid--maybe I'm actually a starving artist too! Look how clever I am! Give me quad-zillions too!)

        I really only have a passing understanding of music history and don't listen to nearly as much classical as when I was a teenager, so please feel free to correct my timeline if I'm off, but I'm pretty sure I've got the gist of it (I hope). *ducks*

        • I agree with the point you're making; outside of the 20th century and very start of the 21st centuries, nobody is going to become mega-rich being a musical artist.

          However, I do note one important caveat:

          21st century: You're a musician. You get paid to perform. You perform to get paid. People on the other side of the globe can be exposed to your music.

          There are a lot of Internet indie musicians (Zoe Keating is one of them) who have a world-wide following, but don't perform live in other countries because it'

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

        by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @09:47PM (#42768073)

        This is the value the market has decided in this case. To quote the whiner: "'No artist will be able to survive to be professionals except those who have a significant live business, and that’s very few," (emphasis mine).

        That's right. Unless you're actually willing to put time and effort into the industry, you're not going to make very much money. There's nothing wrong with that, welcome to the real world. No more free rent. The rock star lifestyle just slammed into the real world where people work hard every day to pay their bills. Why shouldn't musicians have to "sing for their supper" like everyone else does?

        "The rock star lifestyle just slammed into the real world where people work hard every day to pay their bills." Really? A cellist leading a rock star lifestyle? Are you that desperate to make a point that you don't bother to think about what you are saying? Her point is there's very little demand for live performance so it's not that's she's being lazy as you claim. Her living in the past would have come from modest sales which have been replaced by streaming her music which has resulted in a drastic reduction in income. This constant claim that only live performances are worthy of your hard earned dollars is irrational and a claim that only showed up when the internet provided an option to paying for music. I haven't been to a live performance in 20 years but I still buy music regularly, all be it most of it is from the 60s,70s and 80s. The only ones that will survive are big corporate backed groups and indies that strictly do it as a hobby, translated not very good. It takes time to become good especially when it comes to learning an instrument. They say Jimmy Hendricks would walk down the stairs then to a local movie theater and watch a movie the whole time playing his electric guitar without an amp. Hard to have that kind of dedication when you have to work 8 hours a day at a Starbucks. The whole take away should not be that artists are greedy rock stars it's that the streaming model only makes money for the companies streaming. Where's the righteous indignation at artists being taken advantage of? So it's okay for corporations to make money, it's only greed when artists make money?

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

      by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:40PM (#42767001)

      Is negotiating a higher price not possible?

      It will have to come to that, eventually. A higher percentage of the gross seems reasonable.
      This situation [] is becoming common knowledge.

      The cost to the streamer companies is substantial, in terms of storage, bandwidth, and billing/payment processing. They will not want to give that up willingly, but as numbers like this become common knowledge, they will have to start paying more back.

      The problem I see is that if there is a Label involved the Label is going to get the bulk of the micropayments as well. (They already take the bulk of the money from CD sales, even the big name artists are hard pressed to garner 12% of the revenue from a CD sale).

      It appears to me that from an economics point of view that the price of music has been pushed down to the lowest point until a technology change allows artists to get into the streaming business for the price of a web site. The revenue just isn't there to hold the artist's interest.

      The idea that artists can make a living performing is just not going to happen. Too few venues and too many wanna-be artists and nobody wants to go sit in some smokey bar every time they want to listen to music. Live music is great and all, but when you end up paying $30 for a nobody artist and suffer thru the entire evening for 3 good songs you quickly sour on the whole idea.

    • by Trogre ( 513942 )

      A slightly more realistic option might be to cut out the middleman.

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

      by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @09:09PM (#42767793)

      Is negotiating a higher price not possible?

      That's not what she's asking for.

      This is what she's asking for:

      " incorporate the needs of artists, not just record labels. What are those needs? Linking of avid listeners with artists for concert tickets, merch, music purchases, etc; crowdsourcing tours; providing listener stats and location data, maybe even emails; your idea here, etc, etc. Lift all the little boats. If this quixotic strategy doesn’t work, then I guess I’ll have to change my perception instead.

      I was disappointed in the NYTimes I’m often disappointed in the press. A 30 minute interview full of nuance squashed down to one sentence taken out of context and used to prove some other point. I know, I know, I’m naive. I’ll keep trying." []

      Here is her revenue breakdown:

      45.55% Music sales
      26.38% Live Performance
      23.90% Sync/Master Licensing
      2.69% ASCAP
      0.89% Soundexchange (i.e. Pandora)
      0.38% Spotify
      0.21% Google Adsense []

      No wonder she's trying to use streaming to try to maximize her other much more significant revenue sources.

  • Shuffle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jythie ( 914043 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:11PM (#42766665)
    Every time there is a change, every time there is something new, every time there is a shift, the publishers find a way to twist the numbers so artists get an even smaller cut of the profits.
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:12PM (#42766675) Homepage Journal

    No longer do you need a sleazy music company executive to steal your rights and material, a posh recording studio, expensive band or studio musicians. You can now make up your own music in the comfort of your own home and sell it yourself. Perhaps, after all the megastars and millions and billions extracted by an industry, we are coming back to the common music of the people, no more difficult to obtain than to go down to the pub and listen to a band of minstrels who wandered into town.

    You want quality music, you pay for quality music. You want garage music, you pay far less.

    • by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:45PM (#42767037) Homepage

      Those minstrels got paid - and generally paid pretty good. They got to eat while many of their fellows were starving on the little plot of land they were working for the Earl or whatever. And they wandered from town to town because no town could afford to keep them very long.

      Make no mistake, these folks were living pretty high compared to the rest of society in those times.

      Sure, you can make your own music for yourself. Don't plan on selling it, though, because everyone else can make their own music also. Or, you can listen to other people's music for free - just pay the membership fee for the service and you have your choice. Of course, not even the streaming service is very profitable, much less the artists - there is no money in it anywhere.

      Music for the last hundred years or so has been driven by promotion. You hear about it because people are paying to make sure you hear about it. There are (were?) magazines dedicated to music promotion. AM and FM radio have been driven because of promotion. Free concerts have existed because of promotion - where the artist gets paid but nobody paid any admission. This is all coming to an end and the end of the road is no more promotion - you hear about what you hear about and you don't hear about anything very much.

      Maybe it is a more eglitarian form of entertainment, but it means the end of things like a common cultural reference. A band is never going to escape their locality, which might be geographic or it might be a very narrowly focused group of people, or both. It means that you can never talk to someone that you just met about a band you both have heard of.

  • I have a hard time getting worked up about their dire predictions. Let's pretend the worst comes to pass; as a consumer, the downside for me is that the crap being produced is even less varied than previously. If that's really a problem, then a need will develop for more interesting music, and inevitably, someone will address that need.

    These "artists" are not owed a living. They are not exempt from capitalism because of their chosen profession.

  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by doroshjt ( 1044472 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:16PM (#42766729)
    I'm surprised that an Avant Cello musician isn't pulling in the coin
    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

      by QRDeNameland ( 873957 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:05PM (#42767237)

      I'm surprised that an Avant Cello musician isn't pulling in the coin

      I read the article when it first appeared on the NYT site a few days ago, and even though my taste gravitate to things like 'Avant Cello', my reaction was quite similar.

      I mean, she got 1.5 million plays in six months. Even if she didn't get a dime from it, at what point in the past could anyone playing Avant Anything get that kind of exposure?

      Then I checked out her website [], to see that she seems to have pretty full touring schedule, and on her Press page there are at least two [] articles [] acclaiming her success at leveraging online marketing.

      I like your music, lady, but sheesh, cry me a river, will ya?

  • by flyneye ( 84093 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:17PM (#42766743) Homepage

    The royalty model is screwed, old, antiquated and invites corruptions from many sources.
    Provide your music free to the world and charge for live performance.
    Your free music is your very best promotion.
    Musicians now have the power to control their own destinies on a level playing field. The cream will rise and the crap will fall, thus guaranteeing much better entertainment than the music industry would provide when it was relevant. If your "avant cello" music doesn't bring crowds to performances, you are either performing at the wrong venue , or perhaps you should practice. Perhaps targeting your promotions would be a better consideration. New York will have better opportunities to fill rooms than say, in Cleveland or Oklahoma City.
    Free the music and charge for performance, you can't go wrong. It's nearly idiot proof.

    • 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.
      • I think the concert model is incomplete. There is the associated fandom stuff as well. I've been calling it the web-comic model but it's been around longer than that in various bits and pieces. Give away the culture. Build fans, loyalty, credibility, and goodwill. Sell stuff. By 'stuff' I mean real physical goods. The kind you can't DRM, the kind that require limited resources. T-shirts, album art, custom concert posters, limited edition signed cover art, etc. Mugs, hats, pens. Things from cheap

    • by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:21PM (#42767371) Journal

      I don't think artists should be given a certain income level, but live performances aren't a garuntee of success. I pay for all of the music I consume. The last concert I went to was in 2003. I'm not a big concert guy. The bands I would want to listen to are only playing in a city, late on a week day night with bad traffic, poor parking. Its just not worth the effort. You have a much bigger audience that just wants to listen to music on demand. There essentially is no way to entice a customer like me to go to a show. The promotion of free music ends up being a lost sale, because that's what I really wanted in the first place the music, not the crappy stage show.

      But like I said, its not a problem I created, nor one I can fix. A good number of musicians are just basically screwed. They'd be better advised to make a living some other way that pays better.

  • This has been the case throughout history. For every Mozart or Beethoven, there were 1000s more just singing or reading poetry aloud to a small drunk audience at the pub.

  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:21PM (#42766785) Journal

    Manufacturing workers in the US lost their jobs by the millions through no fault of their own. Thats the way the economy works. We aren't condemning anyone to poverty. If you want to do nothing other than make music, you get what the job pays. You can try to do something else to earn more money, if you'd like. The economy of a free society in uncertain times is a harsh mistress.

    • What's interesting about that is how black and white the music industry is. If you're a top act, like the ones signing that ad, your label really does take good care of you. You make tons and get to basically blow your life away doing whatever you want, for the roughly 10 years you keep putting out new records and selling out venues.

      It's the rest of the musicians, the majority, that get shafted by the RIAA business model.

  • 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.
  • Pandora's fees (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:39PM (#42766993)

    Pandora pays at least 2 cents per listener hour. That's the minimum. The maximum is 25% of revenue generated during that playback. So the artist should be getting paid whichever is larger. []

    $1,653 equals 82,650 hours.
    82,650 hours over 1.5M listens means average length of song is 3.3 minutes.

    So, if her average piece is longer than 3.3 minutes, she's getting ripped off.
    Otherwise something fishy is going on. Is BMG taking a big cut?

    It seems to me that 25% of revenue is way more than fair for what is essentially radio play.

  • by godrik ( 1287354 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:54PM (#42767129)

    I am not really surprised. It looks like the amount of offer in music grows with time. There is more directors and composers than before. According to [1], there are 2.5 more music director and composer than 3 years ago while the number of musician appears to have decrease by roughly 10% in the same time. Since 99, it went from 52K people to 67K people. So there are 15% more people to pay. Meanwhile the US population only increase 12% [2].
    I do not think the average entertainement of famillies changed a lot but if anything the music budget went down. So I am really not surprised.

    Moreover, I feel like Internet concentrated music interest on a smaller number of artists which performs better than anybody else for no good reason. I mean gangnam style from psy shipped more than 6 millions albums in not even a year [3].

    I do not know the artist that is speaking and I never listen to her music. But she is a cello artist which is not a popular style. So of course making money out of it is difficult. Yet her income increased according to her own numbers [4].

    The real numbers we lack are the numbers from 10 or 15 years ago. How much money did an independent artist make in the 90's ? Is it really worse in 2013? (I ma not saying it is not, I am asking a real question)

    [1] []
    [2] []
    [3] []
    [4] []

  • by asmkm22 ( 1902712 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @07:57PM (#42767161)

    I just looked at the spreadsheet in question (found here: []) and found that all told, she made 82k in a six month period. She's hardly living hand to mouth at some dead end job she hates.

    Does her income from streaming services compare at all to what she gets through iTunes? No, but it's just a little extra icing on the cake for basically no work on her part, especially considering her style of music is unlikely to have much of a traditional fanbase (radio, top 40, etc). The nice thing about it all is that, as she gains more media exposure and traction, the basic infrastructure is already in place for her to make more as she gains new fans.

    Again, 82k in six months is hardly a starving musician, especially considering the fringe nature of her music.

  • So.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by boethius ( 14423 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:00PM (#42767187)

    We're using an "avant cello" artist to make a point about how dismal fractional royalties are? Should we also be outraged if a "classical banjo" artist or "neo-Accordionist" also aren't making a sustainable living on completely passive revenue streams like Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, etc. etc.?

    While we're at it why doesn't the guy who races dirt-track on the weekends complain that he's not making a sustainable living at what he does. What about painters, sculptors, writers, actors, and other artists... perhaps they should be complaining too that someone isn't providing them with a sustainable living.

    Should they, realistically, be making $50-$80K a year selling streaming music? More importantly is there even a remote shot that an "avant cellist" would have made that kind of money in the pre-Internet days? I'd say the chances are essentially zero that an avant cellist would have a break-out year and make even a sustainable living. There's an occasional break-out classical artist - VERY occasional - but most of them make money from performing not from CD sales.

    The truth is that artists - even the most talented - from time immemorial have had to do something else to make a real living and pay the bills. Perhaps not the best example but I was watching a little thing on luxury RVs - ah, my idle TV watching habits - and they interviewed Bret Michaels. He spends over 200 days a year on the road performing. THAT is how he makes a living - by working his butt off. If this gal expects to make survival income from just creating music and watching the big bucks flow in from Pandora or Spotify she's just dreaming. If she really wants to make a living she'll have to do it by building a reputation performing and, as the article indicates, that is very, very hard to do.

    Honestly $2000 for 6 months of doing absolutely nothing to promote your music - ESPECIALLY "avant cello" - doesn't seem like a bad chunk of change to me.

    A fairer perspective might be huge artists like the Rolling Stones or Rihanna or Katy Perry or Justin Bieber - what kind of money are they making on these services? No doubt it is much much more and are they and their business managers content with the revenue streams from these sources? Probably.

  • As video equipment explodes in variety and lower cost, and Joe Schmoe gets an idea for a "killer you-tube" video — or a wedding videographer edits last weeks video — I'm constantly struck by the complete lack of options for the DIY cinematographer.

    When you post something on YouTube with a musician's music, you get the take-down; yet, people persist in trying it.

    So, why hasn't the RIAA, who *supposedly* represents the better interests of content providers, come up with a licensing plan that would enable the would-be Spielberg to legally use music in the production of their comedy/sci-fi/drama/whatever video?

    I've talked to a *lot* of people who don't keep up on copyright/patent/trademark issues, and overwhelmingly they say they wouldn't mind paying $25—or more—to license a song for their video. Baby showers, weddings, and other home-made content are ripe for a balance of producer and user, yet the music industry thinks suing people will solve their problems.

    Dammit, we live in an age where setting up a system of home-user licensing commercial music should be easy. Not only that, but the mechanism for indie artists to profit from this system should be relatively easy to set up!

    Why is this not happening?

  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Friday February 01, 2013 @08:59PM (#42767729) Homepage

    My main use for Rhapsody and Pandora, and even for streaming "radio" stations, is to discover music. When I find stuff I like, I try to buy it on CD (and then rip the CD to FLAC and never touch the disc again).

    What I like best about Rhapsody is that it is a world-wide web for music, where I can listen to the entire track or entire album and decide if I like it. (Sometimes it takes me a few listens to decide whether I like something!)

    For example, on Rhapsody I went to the "Electronic Music" section and looked at what was most popular, and found a band I had never heard of called "Zero 7". I bought a CD by them. (It's called Simple Things and I do recommend it; I like every song on that album.)

    I go to the page for bands I like, and click on one of the "related" links, and find bands I had never heard of. And sometimes I buy CDs.

    When I was in college I pretty much bought music by bands I already knew. Now, with the help of the Internet, I'm branching out and finding all kinds of new stuff.

    Trust me, I have never heard of this avant garde celloist, but with an Internet service there is at least a chance I might. So, instead of looking at this as lost revenue, she might want to look at it as advertising that pays her (albeit not very much).

  • by Zoe Keating ( 2832103 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @05:16AM (#42783757)

    I expect you've all swarmed off by now, but in case you haven't I will hopefully either clear up some of your misconceptions.

    I am not complaining about my royalties. I put my data out there to show how things work for a moderately successful unlabeled non-mainstream artist. That I am not big was exactly the point. There is little out there in the way of facts as to how regular artists actually make their livings (but lots of opinions on how they should). And as far as streaming goes, most artists are not getting royalties directly, but through a label. Those artists might not be not allowed to talk about royalty splits in their contracts, and in some cases might not even know what they are. I am my own label, and so for better or worse I can talk about these things.

    In doing so, I've attracted a lot of attention from the press and that is how I ended up being interviewed by the NYTimes. The author took a snippet of our conversation and used it to his own ends. I am sure most of you have taken a critical reading class and so you must know that you shouldn't believe at face value everything you read. Most authors have a story they want to tell and they use their subjects to prove that story. If I had been more wise and had a PR handler, I would have demanded a transcript to publish at the same time as the article. Believe me, I'll do that from now on.

    I was not talking about me in that quote. He asked me: Do you think income from streaming will ever replace income from sales? I remember that I the number of listeners grows it will be lucrative for a mega-artist who has millions and millions of listens. I said in Spotify's case it will be even more lucrative for that mega-artist's label because they have an equity stake in the company. I said that I don't think streaming will ever be a money maker for non-mainstream genres like classical or jazz....because there just aren't enough listeners of fringe genres to reach critical mass. So, given that it takes 200 listens on Spotify to make the same money as the sale of 1 song on iTunes, I said we could be condemning these genres to poverty IF streaming is the only way people will listen to music.

    Now here's the other part of that interview that was left awesome as it is, I don't think streaming is the only way people will listen to music. No matter how much of a killer app Spotify is and how Daniel Ek would like it to be how "every single person on the face of this planet" listens to music, I don't think that will happen. But SINCE YOU ASKED dear interviewer, if streaming was the only way we listen to music, then yeah, the fringe could be in trouble. So what fringe artists have to keep doing do is this: make sure fans know they should express their enthusiasm for an artist's music through either direct music sales and/or attending concerts, because streaming isn't enough to live on.

    That's roughly what I said. Now, do feel free to tear THAT apart, because I'm very interested in the discussion and love a good debate.

    Anyhoo, there are two things miain I'd like to change about the current system....and neither of them is about getting more royalties.

    1) When someone buys my music on Bandcamp, I get an email address (and an address if they purchased a physical copy). On iTunes, I get a zip code, from streaming services, I get nothing. I'd like to see music services help artists solve the problem of figuring out where their listeners artists know where to tour. Controversial: who does listener data belong to? The listener, the music service, the copyright holder, some, all or none of the above?Discuss

    2) I'd like to make the basic royalty calculation the same for all parties. It's not clear that is is. Also 18% of Spotify's profits that goes to labels (4% to each of the big 4 and 2% to Merlin). On a balance sheet Spotify doesn't have profits today because they're investing in growth (although I'm sure no one works for free). If you can't reverse the label equity problem, and you re

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal