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.
Posts by Gareth Davies.