all about streaming music

About Streaming Music

The Truth About Streaming Music

The Times They Are A-Changin’

It’s hard to believe, but there are many music fans who have never listened to an 8-track or cassette tape. Record albums have become cool nostalgia items, but for the most part, people buy their music online, if at all. 

Instead of listening to local radio, and being at the mercy of the Program Director, listeners choose services that cater to their individual tastes and stream music through their cell phones or cars. Most people assume this is a good thing because the streaming services still promote the kinds of music people love while tailoring the output for individuals.

Competing Giants

Apple Music and Spotify logos

Spotify is currently the most popular streaming service in the United States, although Apple Music recently pulled ahead in terms of numbers of paying listeners. Apple Music launched about ten years after Spotify, yet now boasts nearly 60 million total subscribers. This is pretty, impressive considering Apple Music only went live in 2015.

Spotify is still king for now, though, with more overall users, although many of them listening for free. Worldwide, Spotify has over 100 million subscribers. When it started, Spotify started had 30 million items in its catalog. Today, Spotify adds 20,000 songs every day and has other features like exclusive live sessions and a New Releases tab that offers something for everyone.

In contrast, Apple Music has over 45 million items in its catalog and works hard to secure exclusive rights since Apple Music doesn’t allow free subscribers. For anyone already using Apple products and iTunes, all the products purchased over the years can be seamlessly integrated into the user’s library.

Who Gets Paid?

While we don’t write songs only for the money, it’s still good to know what happens to the money when people listen to your songs on a streaming service. You might assume that you’ll get credit every time someone listens to your song, but it doesn’t work that way. Streaming services like Spotify don’t actually pay that much to particular artists, because of the way royalties are calculated.

If one person listens to one artist exclusively, the $10/month (or whatever the subscription fee is) does not go toward that artist. The artist is paid based on how many overall times a song was accessed out of all the songs accessed that month. An artist who isn’t well known won’t make much of a dent in that overall number, even with a loyal fan base.

Playlists Are Changing Habits

streaming music on a cell phone

One feature that users love is the ability to generate playlists and get recommendations for a playlist based on what you already like. That kind of personalization is one of the reasons it’s so hard to get people to listen to the radio or learn about new music in more traditional ways.

As a singer-songwriter, you may be able to get more exposure through streaming services, but the competition makes it difficult to make a lot of money if you aren’t well known yet. In fact, some are complaining that the tiered payment system is basically wiping out the middle class of songwriters, making it impossible to earn a decent living.

What Does This Mean For Artists?

As is the case with radio, songs which are shorter in length tend to get played more. Exceptions notwithstanding, most “catchy” songs are three minutes long or shorter.  Some artists are re-cutting their own song, taking out instrumental parts and changing the structure to increase their songs’ chances of getting more plays.

The current free model also invites fraud, because it is easy to make several accounts and stream the music you are trying to promote on an endless loop, making it look like there are listeners. One suggested the solution is to change to a payment model where the money really does get split up by what you listen to.

Streaming music might be good for exposure for artists, but not necessarily directly lucrative. It does work to help build your brand. However, we should support and utilize those services who value songwriters, artists, and their work by paying them fairly. 

Unfortunately, streaming music is changing what kinds of songs are being written and how artists are being compensated. Without change, the overall quality of music could end up suffering.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE THESE RELATED BLOGS ON SONGWRITING:

When you enter a songwriting contest, you present your best work, hoping that your creation will be remembered long after the participants in the songwriting competition have moved on to bigger things. 

About us: Foxhedge Music is a management company and recording studio located in historic Leipers Fork. Our mission is to support and encourage songwriters. We believe they are the backbeat of Music City, while we continue to invest our time and resources in the Music City community. Through the Music City SongStar Songwriting Contest, we want to give songwriters a chance to have their music heard. We’re believers in creativity, chasing dreams and getting the chance to pursue your passion.

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