I can’t stop listening to Roy Blair. He’s one of my favorite artists now. This past summer, I saw the pop artist perform at the Voltage Lounge in Philadelphia.
I watched his Spotify monthly listeners grow every month over the past year, eventually reaching almost 1.2 million. But as I watched his songs gain streams, I wondered what do these streaming numbers actually do for him?
It turns out, streaming does little to compensate artists.
Spotify pays artists about $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream, and that revenue can be split into even smaller pieces among the record label, producers, artists and songwriters, CNBC reported in January 2018.
Musicians are grossly underpaid by streaming services, and while titan companies, like Spotify and Apple Music, might be convenient for listeners, we shouldn’t stop there when it comes to supporting our favorite artists.
This starts with going to these artists’ shows, buying their music and sharing it with friends.
The way in which consumers interact with music has changed drastically since we entered the age of streaming. The consumer is closer to the artist than ever before, and yet artists are paid close to nothing for their streams.
“There’s a balance between growing the industry of streaming services and paying artists what they deserve,” said Isaac Schein, a freshman music technology major.
Even the most well-known artists make less than executives and streaming profits have affirmed this trend. Philly’s own Lil Uzi Vert made an estimated $900,000 off of his 1.3 billion streams hit “XO Tour Llif3,” while his label raked in close to $4.5 million, Fader reported in September 2017.
If we as responsible consumers want to fully utilize the benefits of streaming, then we should also acknowledge what our support actually does, and maybe more importantly, what it doesn’t do for the artists we love.
“When you’re like us, at the foundational stages of a band, you’re never really thinking about how much money you’re gonna make off of it,” said Troy Simpson, a junior finance and management information systems major. Simpson is the keyboardist and singer for Della Croix, an indie-pop band that he started with his best friend this year.
“It would obviously be great if Spotify and other streaming services would be able to kick back a little bit more of the profits because they obviously make so much money, it would be great if they could kick back some of that to the artists,” Simpson added.
Spotify and Apple Music have normalized paying artists fractions of cents, and the top 10 percent of most-streamed songs make up for 99 percent of all music streamed, Pitchfork reported.
But if you can’t afford a ticket to a local band’s show, talk about them to your friends or on social media.
“I think the biggest thing that’s going to help out with music today is to spread the word and to support,” said Scout Cartagena, a sophomore glass major and a fan of small, local bands, attending their concerts regularly. “Even if you can’t financially support an artist, go talk to someone else who maybe could.”
Attending concerts and purchasing merchandise are the best ways to support an artist because this is how they receive the majority of their revenue. Irish rock band U2, for example, made 95 percent of their total earnings in 2017 from touring, and they were the highest-paid musical act that year, Business Insider reported.
In 2017, the music industry generated $43 billion — the highest in 12 years. Still, recording artists only took home 12 percent of that, with the majority of revenue coming from touring, Business Insider reported.
We have the opportunity to close that gap by supporting our favorite artists — especially local musicians — in person at their shows.
“When you’re at the very beginning stages, people have to realize that the act can’t grow if people don’t support the artist. I know that it can be a little difficult sometimes to take a moment and share the record or take a moment and tell your friend, ‘Hey, I just found this new band,’ but it all has to come from somewhere,” Simpson added.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated U2’s nationality. U2 are an Irish rock band.