Are You Troubled by the Economics of Streaming?

March 25, 2022

I've seen the posts go viral in my social media feed. Music listeners are discovering the travesty of royalties paid to artists from various streaming services, and many are rightly appalled by it. My personal business philosophy has been to view streaming services as ways for people to discover my music, while continuing to create and present directly to you art that you'll want to own outright - the music, the artwork, lyrics and liner notes. I have been extremely grateful to my supporters for recognizing how much of an impact it has when you buy music directly from the artist.

Bandcamp is a different kind of music service. Their model monetizes the connection between artists and fans in a different way, making their money on a small percentage from each of those transactions they enable. Bandcamp has recently rolled out a fan app that allows you to queue up a ton of music to listen to ad-free, with the hope that you'll become a fan of that artist and spend some money directly on their work. 

They've also rolled out a live-streaming platform, allowing us artists to stream directly from our webstore, and again placing you in intimate contact with the opportunity to buy our music. (I will be part two entirely different kinds of Bandcamp livestreams in April).

Most of us who've been at this at least ten years can remember when recording sales constituted a big chunk of our annual income. When Something Worth Standing For came out in 2008, CD sales were a quarter of my income. How are we doing now that streaming has become ubiquitous? 

In the table below I reframe some of those numbers you've seen thrown around. I borrowed these stats from Seth Fitzjohn's recent article at ProducerHive, so they are a reasonable recent snapshot for this discussion. Royalties are a complicated business, and the streaming services with tiered subscription plans, operating in different countries with different structures, and frankly revising and amending agreements with regularity, it's pretty hard to nail down solid numbers for long. Top tier artists often get a share of ad revenue too, but that doesn't trickle down much.

What might be useful is to know that the folks who hand out Gold and Platinum records view 1 album sale is either 10 song downloads or 1,500 streams. It's easy to see how much artists miss recording sales when it comes to money in our pocket, especially when you consider that most of us "independent" artists are shelling out several thousand dollars just to make those recordings. 

So, that's why I'm really thrilled to have been with Bandcamp since late 2009. While there are other options for artist-friendly streaming (notably SoundCloud), Bandcamp has been good to work with, they're doing good work, and they have made it possible for me to make up some of that lost revenue. I invite you to visit, browse around, share some feedback with them, find something you love and connect with some new artists. If you are one of those music fans who have been troubled by this "new music economy," this is a great way to help in a real tangible way and perhaps find some new favorites. 

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