Streaming; it’s a hot topic on the indie scene. But not exclusively - it’s also being intensely debated by music-creators at all levels the world over and there are conflicting views on whether streaming is negatively or positively impacting music creators.
Some argue that streaming offers independent songwriters and artists a means of potential mass exposure which was previously unattainable without the backing of a major player in the music industry by way of an elusive ‘record deal’ with EMI or the like.
Others maintain that streaming is harming music-creators’ chances of ever generating more than a few pence from their compositions and recordings due to the seemingly ‘free’ nature of music streaming. Indeed, the fee an artist will ‘earn’ for one of their songs being streamed on Spotify, for instance, is a mere fraction of a cent.
At Kafkadiva HQ, the band have been doing some serious market research to help them decide whether or not their newest original recorded works will be made available for music listeners to stream in the future. And here’s what they’ve found out.
The ‘Numbers Game’
Indie artists who make streaming truly work for them are super-savvy. And make no mistake, they work hard to research and understand the process and what they need to do to build their presence on any given streaming platform in order to get noticed. ‘Getting noticed’ seems to be all about becoming as ubiquitous as possible so that all-important in-built algorithms recognise their name as a serious contender in the marketplace. It’s a slow burn to be proven over time as these mysterious algorithms begin to select tracks for inclusion in playlists that attract big listener numbers. It’s only then that the fractions of a cent begin to add up to create royalties worth receiving - but this still requires millions of plays.
One industry professional that Kafkadiva approached on the subject summed it up concisely, “A stream is not the same as a sale”. True. A listener may do just that, listen to your song…and then the next…and then the next. But another listener may hear your song, love it, seek you out, become a full-on fan, come to your gigs, buy your merch and everything you release - and then tell their friends how cool your sound is. And, well, that’s the goal, isn’t it?
There are some big-name artists who have withdrawn their catalogue from streaming platforms. Taylor Swift appears at the top of this list; 'Rolling Stone' has reported that Swift and her label, Big Machine, are only willing to make her catalogue available on Spotify via a paid ‘premium’ arrangement and that her catalogue does appear on such paid streaming services. Read the full article here.
There are various other big names following suit and, understandably, it’s had many indie artists thinking, “Hey, if they’re doing that then we should follow suit, it’s a no-brainer”.
But wait, let’s look at music ownership and share splits.
To come back to the aforementioned industry pro. He said, “A traditional record deal typically takes 85% of the recording rights and the artist gets 15%.”.
Right, so the upshot is that an artist who is signed to a record label already has a reduced share in their own music. And whilst they have the benefit of the support of a big industry player in the first place, their ownership share is vastly reduced. Then look at their ‘share of that share’ in the context of streaming royalties and it becomes much clearer why some big names have withdrawn their music from streaming platforms.
It’s exactly the same with publishing deals except a publisher’s share is usually 50% and not 85% in the case of a record company.
Now consider that an indie artist who is not signed to a record company or publisher retains 100% of the rights to their music giving them a more ‘advantageous’ position in the streaming marketplace. If an indie artist can exploit the streaming revolution and use it to their advantage by learning how it works and why it’s popular with users, they can benefit. Again, it takes a savvy and determined individual to make it truly worthwhile.
So, what’s in store for the artists of today and tomorrow?
The crux is that music streaming is not only popular right now but appears to be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. And while most of the music creators with which we’ve discussed the streaming topic have expressed some dissatisfaction with the paltry recompense they currently receive from the likes of Spotify and others, they feel that their digital recordings are better being heard than simply sitting on their hard-drives not being heard. They’ve also expressed that, overall, their fanbase is (if gradually) increasing as a result of streaming. Again, that’s the goal, isn’t it?
To conclude, even after the significant expense that’s incurred from recording a great new single, EP or album, making it available to listeners via streaming services does make sense to indie artists like Kafkadiva who own 100% of the rights to their own music.
Thus, after intensive research and discussion, Kafkadiva have decided that they will make their latest album, Dysfunctionormal, available on streaming platforms in the not-too-distant future and will endeavour to maximise its reach knowing that they retain all of the rights to their music. However, the physical album has been made available before then to give the band’s most loyal fans and followers the opportunity to be first-in-line to hear and buy their latest songs.
Above all, if you enjoy an indie artist’s music and would like them to have the means to create more, then simply BUY it. Support the creator directly. It's that simple. Streaming is a great way for music lovers and listeners to discover new music but music is not an entitlement and should not be free.
Thanks to all who've already supported Kafkadiva by purchasing 'Dysfunctionormal'. You're the people who truly rock!