Published on January 9th, 2013 | by Alan Cross


The Hard Truth: Streaming Services Good for Consumers, Not So Good for Musicians

I feel for musicians.  They’re just looking to make a fair buck from the fruits of their labours.  Physical music sales aren’t there anymore except for those at the very top.  And even then, selling plastic isn’t what it used to be.

Digital downloads?  They’re on the rise, but they don’t provide anywhere near the margins that physical media used to.

And then there’s streaming.  This is the future.  Adoption rates by consumers are on the way up because, frankly, it’s a simple and easy way to access virtually any music you could possibly want.  When I want to sample an artist, I don’t take a chance on buying a CD or even a download anymore.  I just dial up on my streaming music services and listen as part of my subscription plan.  Only if I really, really like an artist wll I bother with buying a CD or some vinyl.  I love streaming.

Streaming is awesomely convenient for the music fan.  Unfortunately, it’s not so good for the artist.

Each listen on a streaming service results in the artist getting a fraction of a penny, which means that there’s practically zero money to be made.  Plus there’s evidence that streaming cannibalizes whatever physical sales you have left.

But not streaming isn’t really an option, either.  Oh, you can try to opt out, but refusing to let your music be streamed is like refusing to release your vinyl albums to be released on CD in 1989.  It’s like refusing to allow iTunes and other online retailers to sell your stuff digitally.  You have to do it because that’s where the music fans are.  This is where things are going.

The Globe and Mail looks at this issue in an article on the realities of music streaming.

Lars Ulrich and Sean Parker hugged.

It was an embrace no one would have predicted just over a decade ago, when the outspoken Metallica drummer was the face of music’s anti-piracy campaign against Mr. Parker’s file-sharing company, Napster. But a lot can change in 13 years, especially in the music business: Mr. Parker is now a director of legal music-streaming service Spotify Ltd., while Mr. Ulrich is a newly minted music-label owner, hoping to squeeze profits from his band’s legacy.

They shared a stage in New York in December as it was announced that Metallica’s entire catalogue would be available on Spotify, the Swedish subscription music service that puts 20 million songs at users’ fingertips. Metallica’s Sad But True rang through the room as the two men literally embraced, but no one acknowledged the song’s irony: The grievances might be buried, but there’s no proof that Spotify will save the music business.

It’s yet to be seen whether Spotify and other streaming services can turn a profit – let alone provide record companies, music publishers and musicians the same kind of cash record sales used to. If streaming fails, an industry that once earned more than $10-billion (U.S.) annually will have to go back to the drawing board, in another setback to traditional media’s struggle to survive in the digital age.

Continue reading.




About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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