At the time of the North American launch of Spotify, we were quick to jump on the bandwagon. The concept seemed pure, the idea of streaming music from our favorites artists without having to pay anything. It seemed too good to be true. And, as it turns out, it was. Maybe not for the users - the 20 million paid subscribers and 55 million users of the free service - as they continually get their money's worth, regardless of which category they fall into.
But for the artists, Spotify has come ton represent another false ecomony fr musicians trying to monetize their art. The fractions of a penny they earn per play aren't enough to sustain themselves, nor is it fair value for what they've put into it. There has been a smattering of dissent within the ranks, with some major labels and artists pulling their catalogs from the service and others (i.e. Google Play, iTunes, Tidal, et al), hoping to bring awareness to the terms they are subject to. But eventually, they all return.
We've breached this subject before, far too many times to remembers. There is no need to do that again here. The graphic below, tabulated and assembled by David McCandless speaks volumes for where we are as a music buying culture. An important thing to note, it uses the threshold for the US minimum wage, not how many albusm per service a band must move to become millionaires. Whether you buy albums physically, digitally, or partake in a paid streaming service for $10-$20 a month, see where your favorite method of music consumption stands, in regards to how it pays out to the artists you listen to. And, if you can, consider the following:
- Where does the money you spend on music go? If you have a $10 per month subscription to Spotify, how does your $120 a year get divided amongst all of the artists you stream?
- Streaming music is a rental; when your subscription is over, you don't retain ownership. Is that important to you?
- How can you best support the artists you care about? If you know that your favorite band sees a higher profit margin when you buy a CD direct from them, does that influence your purchasing?
The options are seemingly limitless; in 2015, you can consume and digest music in more ways than any chart or graph can possibly breakdown. But how you do so, and more importantly who you give your money to, will help to shape where the sale of music goes from here. And while they always tell you that every penny counts, it isn't always your pennies they are talking about. Even the bass player has to eat.