In the 21st century, nearly every medium of art consumption has changed. Movie theaters and television have largely given way to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, while CDs and digital downloads have similarly been forsaken in favor of Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora. Because of the prevalence of DIY, independent releases, musicians have been hit harder than most artists by the streaming phenomenon. While unprecedented accessibility to literal billions of films albums and songs exposes users to a number of artists they may not have otherwise discovered, the affordability of monthly subscriptions to these services leaves creators such as yours truly with payments in the range of $0.006 per song. By that estimation, it would take roughly 165 streams to match one 99-cent iTunes purchase.
Some musicians and songwriters (including, famously, Taylor Swift) have resisted putting their music on Spotify, or have simply refrained from personally using it themselves. Others, like the band Vulfpeck, ingeniously compensated for the lack of, well, compensation by putting a silent album on Spotify and urging fans to stream it, earning them $20,000 before Spotify took it down. Ultimately, though, creators must face the fact that streaming is here to stay, and look for other ways to pay the bills.
While numerous performers rights groups fight tirelessly for legislative regulations, musicians brainstorm for alternative sources of income. These include busier tour schedules, more creative merchandising, and even crowdfunding from fans in order to keep making music. We will explore each of these more in-depth in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!