Whether or not you’re a fan of American popstar Taylor Swift, it’s hard to escape hearing any of her songs or reading about her in the headlines. As well as currently enjoying a sell-out arena tour, one of the headlines for which she was recently renowned was removing her latest album, 1989, from music streaming service Spotify.
Swift essentially argued that the revenue per play from Spotify (fractions of a dollar), undervalued her work and she subsequently chose to remove every single track in her extensive back catalogue from the service.
What happened next was 1989 enjoyed record physical/digital sales, the likes of which not seen since the early noughties and a sell-out world tour. In other words, pulling herself from Spotify has likely not hurt her overall income for the year.
Most would agree however that Swift is not a representative example of the majority of musicians. Given this, when it comes to streaming, what approach should you take if you’re looking to get into the music industry or wanting to expand your fan base?
The pros of streaming
The main benefit of streaming is the sheer reach it has across the globe in terms of potential listeners, and hopefully, potential newly devoted fans!
Whereas in a pre-streaming world your music could only be purchased by those physically near a shop stocking your music, now wherever you are in the country people can listen to your tunes.
The effect of essentially making every music shop infinitely large so as to house every artist known to man was to make it much easier to sample songs before potentially purchasing the song(s) – call it a digital way of try before you buy.
As well as a great way to showcase your songs before anyone bought your music, the wider market of listeners made streaming a fantastic marketing tool for promoting your upcoming gigs and tours as many streaming sites allow event listings too.
This larger listening community not only means you’re being put before a larger consumer market which may buy songs or lucrative merchandise, but it could also put you before someone interested in booking you for a gig or even someone from an established record label that could help take your profile to the next level.
In the short term, even if those things don’t pan out, streaming is a great way of quickly and cheaply getting your music out to a large audience – you don’t have to ship your songs and nor do you have to pay for expensive big production runs when you’re not sure how many copies you’re going to sell.
The cons of streaming
The big downside to streaming has already been outlined by America’s current sweetheart, Swift.
Whereas physical or even digital sales of an album will see a few pounds trickle into your account for each sale, each stream on the popular Spotify platform for example will only return between $0.006 and $0.0084 per song play. It doesn’t take an Einstein to work out that that’s a lot of streaming to even cover a single mortgage payment.
Another downside is that with the growth of mobile phones that can seamlessly stream music, streaming is actually contributing towards cannibalising CD sales rather than boost them.
After all, what’s easier for most people, storing a huge hoard of CDs that are fiddly to swap when you want to play something different, or a pocket-sized device that holds your songs, phone and internet in the palm of your hand?
On a non-financial note, streaming also removes the option for your fans to have something tangible in the form of a CD or LP of your music. Music is mainly about aural delights, but it’s still always nice to have something palpable with regards to your favourite artist!
Yay or nay then?
Streaming is a great development for consumers – instantly available songs all at one small flat fee per month for unlimited streaming, but it can be good for bands and solo musicians as well.
The revenue model for musicians has changed, but streaming is a great platform for putting yourself out there in front of new ears and hopefully funnelling lots of them into coming along to hear you gig in person and support you financially in the modern day economy.