Music Streaming Platforms: Have They Ruined the Industry for Artists?

Written by: Naqib

Edited by: Martin

Visuals by: Mischka

Within our devices, an incredible world of music is accessible at our fingertips. Music streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music have completely changed how people listen to music nowadays. By introducing monthly subscriptions at very affordable prices, it has never been easier to access music as a consumer. While these platforms may provide benefits for some artists, it can be very difficult for smaller artists to make a living from their cuts from these services. With Spotify cutting even more royalties in exchange for better algorithms in recent months, it is only one of the factors that are negatively affecting an industry where up-and-coming artists are being left behind because of a system that only focuses on big names and creating profits. 

In a global situation where up-and-coming musicians are struggling to make ends meet, the music industry continues to demonstrate its greed and lack of initiative for providing new artists with enough money to make a sustainable living. With the restrictions of a pandemic, musicians have been confined in their homes and have not been able to tour or perform live in many countries which contributes to a large part of their income. In a YouTube interview, up-and-coming Texas artist Mobey, mentioned that “The majority of my income comes from playing live shows, it was looking to be 50-70% of what we expected to make on the year” (KUTX Austin YouTube). With these factors, small artists are finding it increasingly difficult to make it in the industry due to the lack of investment into new talent. 

Small artists on Spotify and Apple Music can expect to make little to nothing considering the payouts that these services pay out. An artist on Spotify can expect to earn an average of $0.003 per stream or around $3 per 1,000 streams for one of their songs (Orpheus Audio Academy). On Apple Music, artists can expect to make slightly more with an average of $0.01 per stream, or around $10 with 1,000 streams (Apple.com). These figures clearly show how small artists are very underpaid and can barely make any money with the payouts that the services are giving. A brand-new artist would find it very difficult to promote their music outside of their social media accounts which may not even have a substantial amount of followers. This means that they probably cannot gain large amounts of streams on their music since it is not being promoted by a record label due to the lack of  exposure they have on social media. Even if they were to hit around 1,000 streams, it would not break even with the amount they had to pay for music distribution platforms needed for their music to be available on the streaming platforms such as DistroKid, whose cheapest plan is $20 (Best Friends Club).

However, the success of these streaming platforms has benefited consumers greatly. Music is now cheaper than ever to purchase and listen to, with millions of songs available for monthly subscriptions as low as 149 PHP a month for both Spotify and Apple music. Only a decade ago, people were still buying individual songs and albums from platforms such as iTunes or buying physical copies such as DVDs. An album CD in the 2000s would cost around 970 PHP, proving how music streaming platforms have benefited consumers in the sense that the price of music has lowered drastically and increased accessibility. 

With the takeover of music streaming platforms, many artists are finding it increasingly difficult to make a sustainable living from their passion for music. Before, smaller artists would have a better chance at making more money through radios and playing gigs, but now streaming services have cut their payouts by a substantial amount. However, consumers are finding it increasingly easier to purchase and listen to music thanks to these platforms. The tradeoff may seem beneficial for consumers who provide the industry with income, but it is greatly affecting a new generation of artists who will be responsible for the future of the industry. A simple way these platforms can empower new artists to keep making music is to increase their payouts per stream for their music. Hopefully the music streaming industry will continue to make similar changes in order to improve the situation of their artists. 

Works Cited

“How Much Does Spotify Pay per 1,000 Streams in 2021 [Free Calculator] – Orpheus Audio Academy.” Orpheusaudioacademy.com, 22 July 2020, http://www.orpheusaudioacademy.com/spotify-pay/. Accessed 3 Oct. 2021.

“Apple Music Insights: Royalties – Apple Music for Artists.” Apple.com, 2021, artists.apple.com/support/1124-apple-music-insights-royalty-rate. Accessed 3 Oct. 2021.

‌“DistroKid Pricing Explained: Plans, Discounts & ‘Hidden’ Fees – Best Friends Club.” Best Friends Club, 29 Jan. 2021, bestfriendsclub.ca/distrokid-pricing-explained/. Accessed 3 Oct. 2021.

Austin, KUTX. “Prepared for the Worst: Being a Musician during COVID-19.” YouTube, 7 Oct. 2020, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ckz-LnrrRIE. Accessed 3 Oct. 2021.