Column: Is streaming good for the music industry?

Ayron Rutan, Staff Writer

In the age of the internet, the way artists create, share and monetize their work has shifted and changed in the last 20 years.

It all started when the file-sharing website Napster rose to fame as a way to download and share music for free. As many know, the reason Napster was shut down was the fact that none of the artists who had music on the site were compensated for their work. 

After the fall of Napster, it didn’t take long for new music streaming services to sprout up all across the world. Apple’s iTunes launched in 2003, Pandora was founded in 2005 and Spotify was released in 2006.

Each service offers its own business model in terms of how the company and musicians will profit. iTunes was probably the most ethical with them offering songs for purchase for $0.99 a piece. 

Fast forward to today, and those three same companies top the music streaming industry. Apple’s iTunes has transitioned into Apple Music with a subscription-based model. Spotify and Pandora offer free and premium versions. 

The music streaming industry is booming, with nearly one-third of Americans listening to music via streaming. But while streaming companies are making a killing, artists are making fractions per stream.

For example, Spotify– possibly the most popular streaming service on the market– only pays out about $0.003 to $0.005 per stream. On top of that, if an artist is signed to a major record label, they could get even less. Currently, artists who are on major labels only receive about 16% of their streaming revenue. 

While they may be devaluing an artist’s music from a monetary standpoint, an argument can be made for the benefits that streaming services can offer an artist in terms of marketing and distribution.

Spotify currently boasts about 172 million paid premium users worldwide. This means that the music on their platform is available to a large audience all over the globe. This is a huge benefit for independent artists who may not have massive marketing teams at their disposal. 

With so many pros and cons to music streaming services, many may wonder whether or not streaming is good for the music industry. While the concept of an online platform where music can be consumed and shared to a large global audience is a great idea, it’s obvious that it hasn’t done artists justice in its practice. 

While streaming is good and bad for the music industry, there are alternatives to help support musicians. The solution would be for the platforms to increase pay per stream and to act as a way for musicians to stray away from major record labels, so that they can get the most out of their music. Doing so would not only help up-and-coming artists make a living from their passion, but it would also help the big-name, beloved musicians keep the cost of their concerts down.

Streaming can be a huge asset to the music industry, but it must be done ethically to ensure that musicians are fairly compensated for the art that they put so much time and effort into.