Hi, Gareth here.
I recently cancelled my music streaming subscription. In this post I'm going to cover why, as both a consumer and creator of music.
Let me go back a bit. I used to have a really healthy music collection; if I liked a song or an album I'd buy it. Sometimes if an album was really special I'd buy it on vinyl (in fact that has carried on throughout, and has played a part in my decision-making).
And then streaming came along.
I resisted the charms of having all of the music at my disposal whenever I wanted it, but in the end I had to dip my toe. What transpired was an ocean of content and a family plan...I still bought the odd album here and there, mostly on vinyl though. I started on Google Play Music, moved to Spotify and then back again, ending up on the recent YouTube Music. Both Spotify and YouTube Music seemed intent on managing everything on my behalf, giving me updated playlists whenever I opened the app. I found them quite overwhelming, and in the end it made me wonder what value I was getting from them. Sure, it's great to hear about an album, open the app and start playing it straight away, but honestly I was beginning to avoid that action, a reaction against the 'everything immediately' culture that seems to have crept into our society. I began to feel like I would be doing myself a favour by reintroducing anticipation and focus into my music consumption. That's what I get with vinyl; it's an experience. I order a physical product or go to a physical shop, and sit down to listen to it, to feel engaged by it. I wanted that feeling for everything else, and it made me realise that having access to everything had made me a passive listener.
I've been a professional audio creator since 2011. It's been mostly music for TV (check out Scream Street on CBBC, it's a hoot), also releasing albums and EPs, and more recently podcasting. When I made the switch to subscription-based music streaming, there was a voice at the back of my head that said 'this is less fair to music creators, you get next to nothing when your music is streamed on Spotify'. I did it anyway, the consumer in me won that battle; I wanted all the music, and I wanted it immediately thank you. On top of that, it was really helpful with research for work, but in hindsight that was just an excuse if I'm honest.
Let's look at those figures then. There are plenty of royalty calculators online if you want to check for yourself.
In 2020, 1000 streams on Spotify will give the creator £3.44. Er, wait. What about if the artist is signed...that money will go to the label. So for 1000 streams the songwriter will receive a fraction of £3.44...do the maths, that's £34.40 for 10,000 streams. £344 for 100,000. That's not even close to a month's rent. 1m streams? £3,440. And signed artists are getting a smaller portion of that, although logic dictates with label marketing they are more discoverable.
Let's compare that to something like online platform Bandcamp. As a distributor, Bandcamp takes a 15% revenue share for music released via their website. That means as the creator you receive 85% of each sale. If someone buys your album for £8, you get £6.80. Sounds a bit healthier for one sale doesn't it? Oh, and you set the price, which means you're in charge of creating something fair for your audience. You can also set the amount of times visitors to your page can stream for free, a pretty neat feature for those who genuinely want to try before they buy.
This year the music industry was hit hard. Live and touring musicians saw their work cancelled overnight. I had delays in my TV composing as the first lockdown happened. I was lucky that my quarterly TV royalties kept coming but there's been an autumn dip as things get going again. For musicians though, many rely on touring and live performances to give them a salary, because they certainly don't get it from streaming. Suddenly you have most live and touring musicians relying on music streaming to give them an income. Or rather, not.
I met a guy called Tom Gray at the start of the year at an industry event. He was talking about the streaming model being broken back then, and the lockdowns have magnified his message, adding pressure to the record labels and streaming services to rethink their strategies. If they don't figure out a better way to pay creators, at some point there won't be any creators left to pay, it's really that simple. If you'd like to know more about that, search for #brokenrecord on social media.
So here we are, I've just bought and downloaded my first album since cancelling my streaming subscription. It's Moral Panic by Nothing But Thieves. Seems apt. As a consumer I'm going to reconnect with listening, and as a creator I'm going to do my best to support other creators. For me it feels like the right thing to do on a day like Black Friday.
2018: the year of the open mind
It's around this time of year that it's natural to reflect on the months gone by, and especially if you run a small business. My year has been, well, unexpected. I started out by doing a couple of voice over jobs, launched Real World Sounds and recorded eight broadcast-ready sound packs, proceeded to make six music library albums, launched an audio brand for kids, did some more voice over and soundtrack work, created a sound environment with foley and voice over for a Ted Talk art installation and more.
It has been very fulfilling. For many creative people it helps to concentrate on one area and develop their skills and networks. For me the wide variety of work this year has been so rewarding, that I know it's the way forward. It's so easy to put yourself into a category: composer, painter, sculptor etc. If 2018 has taught me one thing it's this: it's not for you to put yourself into a category, others will do that for you. My voice over clients don't care that I'm a composer. It doesn't matter to my composing clients what else I can do. I'm known to them for that thing.
My new year's resolution is to keep developing creatively. There are things I have planned that will feed into this, and for everything else my mind is wide open.
Have a very happy New Year and a creative 2019.
Types Of Plane (Or Is It Santa's Sleigh?)
The last month or so has been a busy one, with various voice over and sound design jobs supporting the launch of Screenless.
Screenless means high quality audio content with music and sound design; no screen required. You can read all about it here.
When I realised that the final Wibbly Rhyme of series 1 - 'Types Of Plane' - would be released at the beginning of December, it seemed to me to be an opportunity to Christmas it up and release it as a single. I roped in some friends for the Wibbly Rhyme and the single (shout outs are coming, thank you thank you thank you), and it is quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I've ever recorded 🤔
I would like to ask for your help (note the word 'help' and not 'money'!)...it would be so appreciated if you could support this release by doing one, or more, or all of the following:
- buy the single
- stream the single
- add the single to your Christmas playlists
- rate the single
- leave a comment wherever you buy / stream your music
- tell your friends
- share the single on your social media channels
- share this post on social media
- share the release posts on social media (next week)
Like I said, even if you do one of those things I would be extremely grateful, it all helps! If it means the little 'uns spend slightly less time glued to the telly box this Christmas then I would consider it job done.
All the best,
p.s. As a thank you in advance, here's the artwork.
Well, a curse and a blessing really. I realised the other day that my mood is directly tied to the amount of creativity I'm consuming. I previously thought it was tied to stress levels, general contentment etc. It wasn't until I was flicking through Twitter (oh, the irony) and seeing new things being released or created that I noticed my mood physically changing.
I saw some new animation transitions for the next Android OS (see, the curse of the creative brain). I saw the band Lo Moon tweeting and made me think of their debut album I discovered this week. I saw Paddington 2 has been released, really looking forward to seeing that. The Last Jedi deleted scenes? I'll put the kettle on! Oh, and the look and feel of that Blue Zoo animated short 'Via'...it all came out of the brain of concept artist Izzy Burton. How cool is that?
I then saw that Will Belcher of Aardman is nominated for an animation award for Shaun the Sheep. I saw that composer and sound designer Matt Bowdler invited female composers to make an album using his soundsets and sample libraries to celebrate International Women's Day and raise money for Women's Aid.
On top of that I'm busy creating. Two library albums are at the mixing stage and I'm gearing up to release my first Real World Sounds sound pack next week.
So if you need to add a spring to your step today, look around at all the new things being created. You won't have to look very far.
It was such a thrill to be invited to talk to Wez Allard on Skwigly's animation podcast series: Animation Composed. Skwigly has been my go to website for animation news for a long time, and if you're interested in animation it's well worth checking out.
You can listen to the podcast below (I'm around 52 minutes in, but it's a cracking podcast if you want to listen to the whole thing).
Source (with bio info and track listing): Skwigly website
Children's Media Conference (CMC) Sheffield 2017
As an ex-teacher of key stage 1 children I've found a place as a composer that feels like home: children's media. The projects and productions I've been involved with so far in the kids' media world have been a wonderful experience, and so it's no surprise that when I first attended the Children's Media Conference in Sheffield last year I found myself surrounded by people who feel the same.
CMC is a wonderful celebration of the fantastic story telling and experiences we grown ups can provide the younger generation. Everyone seems passionate about the need for getting it right, about helping young people with certain issues, about the responsibility the industry has as a whole to give children a positive experience as possible.
That's why I'm going again this year. Of course it's a chance to have some meetings and network, but on the whole it's a chance to listen and learn, to recharge the inspiration batteries and to remember why the children's media industry is so valuable to our society.
If you're going feel free to say hello!
On a Facebook group recently someone asked about the benefits of subscription websites, where you pay a monthly fee and have access to job applications. I thought it might be useful to anyone looking to get into the business of making music to talk about my experience of them. At this point I have to point out this is merely MY experience - I have no idea how successful they are as a whole.
Over the years I've dipped in and out of these services. I won't mention any by name as the experience has been the same. You pay a fee, read the slightly detached ads (major label requires...feature film needs an outstanding composer etc) and apply blind. This could be a cover letter or a pitch (yes, often you have to work without a pitch budget or even contact with the potential hirer). Many times I've done this and many times I've not succeeded. By the way, I've learned to not use the word 'failed' after realising it's usually nothing personal, more that your take on it doesn't fit with the hirer's take; it doesn't mean you're not good enough.
Anyway, I've never been hired through a subscription website, and I think I know why. If there are, let's say, 100 applications for a job, there's a one in 100 chance of getting it. In contrast, for a regular TV pitch process generally a handful of composers are invited to pitch (again, I'm talking about my own experience). In addition you should be able to speak to the producers and decision makers to find out how best to approach the project, either verbally or by finding out their likes and dislikes. Very often finding out what someone doesn't like is a good steer. The bottom line is that everyone wants the best for the project, so decision makers will want to give you the best chance to succeed.
But surely the subscription websites allow access to those companies. How will I be included otherwise?
My simple answer: take the tenner a month and save it for networking events, for conferences, for lunches and informal gatherings. Get to know who you want to work with. Do your research and make it personal.
How to network is another topic entirely, but ultimately talking with human beings about shared passions is much better than paying to become a number.
Tommy Vs Cancer
EU: in or out?
There's an important day around the corner. On Thursday, 23rd June, the good citizens of Britain will decide if it wants to stay in the European Union or go it alone. I've found the lack of impartial information sparse at best, and less so with regards to how it will affect me personally and in my work.
The reason for this is that it has never happened before. No one can say for certain how things would be if we left the EU as no country has ever left. On the flip side, no one can say how our membership will be affected by staying in, given that a vote to stay in will probably be seen as approval of every penny being sent to Brussels, when in fact most of us don't know how much is spent on membership and what the club benefits are.
So I'm conflicted. The TV series I work on was made possible in part by access to a European fund. Would the TV industry in the UK be as healthy (or healthier) out of the EU?
One thing I am certain of is that this will be a vote of emotion. The people I have spoken to are divided between those (like me) who have more questions than answers, and those who feel strongly about one or the other regardless of the facts and figures. I'm guessing those people will be more likely to vote.
I'm interested to here what you think. Do leave a comment here or on FaceTwit and let's have a conversation. If the media wants to report the personality battles going on then fine, let's figure it out on our own.
All the best
Posts by Gareth Davies.