You plug the cord into your phone and rest your headphones gently in your ears, listening to your favorite song while the whole world around you melts away. In every lyric, you feel the excitement, the pain, the emotion behind the artist’s voice.
Although we may not have had the same experience as the artist who wrote it, we experience the same emotions as if the lyrics told our own story. Music inspires a variety of sensations, and that is what makes it so captivating. Music is singularly important in our everyday lives. We constantly yearn for more of it, and so it is natural for us to gravitate towards music streaming apps such as Spotify or Pandora to satisfy our need for music for the cost of nothing. However, we have to ask ourselves, how is this nonexistent cost benefitting the uber-talented artists that we love listening to so much? Is it even benefitting them at all?
One might argue there are plenty of income sources for artists besides streaming sites. Whether it be through a sponsorship or advertising, there is always a way for an artist to get their fair share of the profit that they rightfully deserve, right? Wrong. Here’s the catch – those sponsorship deals only concern bigger names in the music industry. Smaller, less noted artists are denied those opportunities. When these less-known artists make their albums available in stores, most people do not even bother to buy them. Instead, it is much more common for the public to listen to their favorite small artists on Spotify. After all, it is more efficient, practical, and not to mention, cheaper.
Now, one might ask, how do these artists benefit at all from music streaming apps such as Spotify?
According to Time magazine, the average amount that Spotify pays artists is somewhere between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream. As if the profit isn’t small enough, most of this amount goes to the record label, while the artists only receive somewhere around 15% to 20% of that $0.006. This means for every 100 streams, an artist receives roughly a little less than a dime. To the distinguished artists in the music industry, this is just extra money to add into their large bank accounts. For small scale artists, though, this money is an important source of their daily income. This miniscule payment is what is keeping them going, yet it is barely enough.
In a 2014 interview, Time found that the reason for Taylor Swift’s withdrawal from her Spotify contract was because of the payment, or the lack of it. This isn’t a phenomenon isolated to Swift; many other people support her claim that, “Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently.” Although Swift might not necessarily need this ‘extra income’, her point remains valid for artists of all income levels. To put it simply, these musicians are not getting their fair share out of streaming sites and apps.
So, the next time you open up Spotify to play your favorite song, consider the person behind the microphone, devoting so many hours to making the music. Think about how much they have given to listeners like us, and how poorly they – especially small artists – are compensated. Or, to really make a statement, go out and buy your favorite artist’s song as a gesture of gratitude.
Amelia Chen and Ellie Tsapatsaris
Graphics: Amelia Chen