Music streaming hits sour note with artists
Once hailed as a saviour of the music industry, the model is under attack for what it pays to musicians
But it has been suggested that Spotify pays a fraction of a cent per stream. If you are a big name artist or label with an extensive back catalogue attracting a lot of plays, it will soon add up.
It’s the newer artists – who Yorke, Godrich and other objectors say they are sticking up for – that stand to lose out, even if the exposure they get from being on such a service has the potential to make them more popular.
“Streaming is a very different model to traditional models of unit sales. It works on a much longer term basis,”explains Deezer’s Mark Foster.
“ When you buy the CD or the download that’s it – the artist gets paid once and doesn’t get paid again, whether the fan listens to the track or the album once or a thousand times. It’s a single transaction.
“Streaming is a longer term model. The more hits you have the more revenue you generate.”
Because of this, he says, the rate per stream is obviously going to be less than you would pay for a one-time download.
Spotify, for its part, denies the charges of “killing music”, and argues that streaming helps discourage music piracy, where artists and labels were getting nothing.
In one report, it claims music piracy has fallen in the Netherlands since the service launched there, from 32 per cent in 2008 to 22 per cent in 2012.
But although the artists are getting paid something for their work, the Musicians Union in the UK is arguing that it’s not enough and has called for Spotify to increase the amount it pays
The Musicians Union of Ireland said the risk is that people who can no longer make a living out of the music industry as a result of recent developments will end up giving up .
Organiser Des Courtney said the long term future of the arts could be under threat.
“Artists all want their art to be broadcast as widely as possible; that’s how they earn their living. That’s not the issue,” he said. “The issue is how do we protect their image rights and earnings potential in a world where all this stuff is up on YouTube etc and for which artists are not being paid.
“[Streaming] may well turn out in the future to be a more effective way of doing this, we don’t know yet.”
If artists decide it’s not worth their while to continue, that could have other implications, he said.
“The arts themselves will be under tremendous pressure. We won’t have artists if they can’t make a living. It’s a question of trying to find a balance,” he said.
Artists such as Yorke are not against digital distribution – the band famously gave away their album In Rainbows – and the singer is apparently backing a new service called Soundhalo, which allows you to buy and download tracks and videos from live shows shortly after they are performed.
The Radiohead star has vigorously defended his stance on his Twitter feed.
“For me In Rainbows was a statement of trust. People still value new music . . . that’s all we’d like from Spotify. Don’t make us the target,” he said.