MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Advice on everything from getting your music heard to setting up a label and royalties.

Moderator: Moderators

Post Reply

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by CS70 »

desmond wrote: - The market for not wanting to buy (and re-buy) CD's at £10-20 a pop any more
- The market not valuing music as being something that needs to be paid for, or owned
- The high availability of "free" music (in the old days of course, we still had "free" music, because of radio - the difference being, although the end user didn't see the costs, the radio stations *were* paying to play that music.)

Without doubt, the last one. The actual culprit, if you want, is a political and executive environment which has allowed recorded music to be stolen without consequences.
It's like if people were going around stealing cars or stuff from shop at random and there was no response from anybody. Like in good old "jungle law" times.

Even in old days, radios were very careful to put commercials or fades well placed to reduce the amount of people lifting tracks when played (I know - my and my sister in our early teens did try!). And the quality of what you got was very far from what you could get if you bought the stuff. Not so, of course, for digital copies.

"The market" is not about the people who buy (or not) and how much they buy or not.. - it's about the rules, it's the place where things can be bought and sold, and the possibility of secure transactions.

In reality, we don't know whether or not people would want to buy music or not - because when anyone can easily take it for free, there is no market. The unfairness is simply there: recording music is not a viable trade _even if you make it big_ because your product can be had for nothing.
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 7798 Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:00 am Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by blinddrew »

But that's true of virtually any digital product and yet there are still plenty of people making their living like this.
It comes back to the lowest common denominator thinking. Say you make your music available on a pay what you want basis. Some people, fans, will pay your recommended amount, some, superfans, will pay more, some will pay less. Some, if you allow it, will take it for free.
But are those last ones actually lost sales or are they potential future fans? Or would they simply never have paid and therefore not listened if that was the alternative?
I think most people are better than the lowest level but they just need a prod to show that their money is going to a worthwhile cause.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 19341 Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by CS70 »

blinddrew wrote:But that's true of virtually any digital product and yet there are still plenty of people making their living like this.

It seems so at first, but there are important uniquenesses to music as digital content: it's small in size, it's a solitary experience, it's digitally safe and 90% of the product *is* the digital content.

Not so for others. For example, for software, most of the serious money has been historically made licensing to businesses - for which it is always been possible to enforce property rights and payment. And it's now made in services, where there's no sale at all. There are, of course, some open source digital products whose funding does not come from sales, but are marketing exercises from companies with sizable financial muscles, which reap their benefits in marketing terms or as control of a given standard. For consumer software, there's all kind of licensing enforcement (ilok, anyone? Windows activation?) and using cracked products comes with a risk of virus infections etc - which helps keeping the average joe away.

Games might have suffered more if they were the "old style" ones - single player, single computer installation. But 99% of the big games nowadays have an online component which is fundamental to the customers, and that means that cracked copies simply don't work where it matters. Hence gamers buy games - at quite hefty prices - and there's a flourishing indie game market (very competitive, but definitely working well).

And of course, there are the small software producers aimed mostly to the consumer market that are indeed killed by piracy. :)

For movies - there's two aspects: one, of course the product is more than the digital content: it's about the cinema experience and the timing. You want to see the big Star Wars movie with your children when it comes out, not three months later. Second, it's the size - movies of HD quality are massive downloads. It still happens in droves of course, but the evidence is that the effect is not as big (big movie companies keep existing and making big movies, the successful one make quite a lot of money). Sure they could do more, but it's not a market killer - you can't download cinemas (or gadgets or merchandise).

Similar arguments can be done for most digital content which is not music like. Just like shoplifting, a degree of stealing always exists and is physiological. It's the free for all that makes a market impossible.
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 7798 Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:00 am Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by blinddrew »

The parallel that sprang to my mind as i wrote was with comics and cartoons.

EDIT: But all of this is getting away from the thrust of the thread.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 19341 Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by James Perrett »

While we may hark back to the old days, it is worth thinking about how many artists actually recouped their advances from the labels. As I understand it, very few ever did but it was the tiny number who were extremely successful who subsidised most of the others. Does streaming allow the same cross subsidies to exist?
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 12243 Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by blinddrew »

That is a very good question. Especially coupled with the absence of the front-loading effect of hard copy sales that Hugh talked about earlier.

On the positive side, overall music industry revenue is back up to 2004 levels.
I know that going back 16 years isn't normally a positive but it is part of a steady growth.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 19341 Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by RichardT »

James Perrett wrote:While we may hark back to the old days, it is worth thinking about how many artists actually recouped their advances from the labels. As I understand it, very few ever did but it was the tiny number who were extremely successful who subsidised most of the others. Does streaming allow the same cross subsidies to exist?

For labels with top artists, I guess opportunities for cross-subsidy do exist. But an increasing number of artists at the lower or even middle tier of sales are not bothering with labels at all. So they are on their own - but they have the freedom to do what they want to do.
RichardT
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2240 Joined: Fri Aug 13, 2004 12:00 am Location: London UK

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by CS70 »

James Perrett wrote:While we may hark back to the old days, it is worth thinking about how many artists actually recouped their advances from the labels.

Few, and very slowly, from what I read. With labels using all sort of tricks to get much more than the percentage apparently agreed (including fees and additional cuts which were justified maybe in the 50s but still well in use in the 2000s).

As I understand it, very few ever did but it was the tiny number who were extremely successful who subsidised most of the others.

Yes, that's how I unerstand the model as well.

Does streaming allow the same cross subsidies to exist?

In a sense, yes - Spotify pays a huge share to successful artists' labels, and they potentially can invest them in new acts.

In practice they do very little if any "new acts": the internet means also that most artists need to build their own following before getting on any serious label's radar. Playing it safe is the rule and A&R is almost inexistent, from what I see. New acts are usually not very new - they are already locally successful. It may still happen, but usually as a consequence of a producer or other actor "in then know".

What labels do is to try to take an already locally successful act and bring it into a national or international dimension. Recording costs have become much smaller, but the marketing investment for doing that is as significant as it's always been, and I guess label use some of the revenues they get from already successful acts to that purpose.

On the other side, the accounting method of Spotify is skewed to favor the bigger artists (don't recall the details at the moment, can probably find out) at the expense of the smaller ones, so small acts (or small labels) maybe lose more than they used to do with mortar and brick shops (but I am not sure, I haven't looked at that aspect of the "old" model).
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 7798 Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:00 am Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by BigRedX »

I've just been through my CD Baby statements for the various streaming services and going back over the last 12 months for a single track (my "best selling" one) of 2' 59" duration the payments appear vary from $0.001 to $0.01 per stream. I'm assuming that this is before CD Baby take their 9% cut? This track only gets a handful of plays per week split across all the various services, so I don't make very much, but if the band were more popular I would suspect that it would add up to be a "nice little earner".

Therefore I can only assume that if your music is popular and you still aren't making a lot from streaming, then someone else is taking the lion's share of the revenue, probably the record company. Therefore the problem isn't the streaming services themselves, but with all the "middlemen" taking their cut of the revenue stream before it reaches the people who actually produced the music in the first place. How "fair" this is will very much depend on when you signed your recording contract. I can understand those who are bound by deals made before the rise of the internet and streaming services for music consumption being more than a little upset, as it is unlikely that 10 years ago many would have predicted that this would be the way that the majority of listeners would consume music. However if I did have a recording contract from back then I would be looking very closely at the small print for how income from hitherto unknown revenue streams would be divided between the record company and the artist. And AFAIAC, anyone signing a recording contract in the past 5 years only has themselves and their legal advice to blame, if they consider the split to be less than fair.

IIRC none of the streaming services on their own turn a profit. Amazon and AppleMusic are supported by their parent companies, Spotify has been artificially propped up by investment capital and an over-inflated IPO, with investors hoping that in the long term the company will somehow figure out how to make money from advertising and the subscription services. So from that angle my average of $0.005 per stream looks like being pretty good value for money.

In the end the problem is going to be the age-old one of record companies being seen as unfairly exploiting musicians, although how true that is these days is probably the subject for a separate thread.
User avatar
BigRedX
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1478 Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:00 am
RockinRollin' VampireMan

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by DC-Choppah »

- The value proposition of the internet media companies (You Tube, etc) has always been to give people access to copyrighted music for a fraction of the alternative cost. That value attracts people, and while they are there, you sell them advertising. Same business model as a stolen goods salesman charging a small fee to give people access to a pile of stolen property.

- The copyrights for music were not enforced, so the product has been devalued. This can come back (and is coming back).

- A stream is the same as a download. To say otherwise is to deny reality. The penny rate should be the same. Ownership is access. 24 Hr access to a song is ownership. It is up to the distributor to keep track of who has or has not paid for their copy.

- The cost of the enforcement of copyright is a business expense for the digital music providers and must be born by them.

- Internet digital music providers are distributors.
User avatar
DC-Choppah
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1830 Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:00 am Location: MD, USA

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by blinddrew »

DC-Choppah wrote:A stream is the same as a download.

Must we go through this again?
The other points are debatable (as we've shown previously) but this is just factually wrong.
User avatar
blinddrew
Jedi Poster
Posts: 19341 Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am Location: York
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...

Re: MPs to investigate whether artists are paid fairly for streaming music

Post by CS70 »

blinddrew wrote:
DC-Choppah wrote:A stream is the same as a download.

Must we go through this again?
The other points are debatable (as we've shown previously) but this is just factually wrong.

I think the "ownership is access" point is quite a good explanation of what DC means?

It seems a bit of a syntactic distinction only. For example, technically you don't own any software (they're all just licensed to you) but in practice most people using Word or Cubase etc would say they own it?

If I can stream a song anytime I want, it's the same as owning it, isn't it? The only difference is that the license is not perpetual... but then also a CD is not really perpetual, because at a certain moment it will not play anymore..
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 7798 Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 12:00 am Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page
Post Reply