How Are Musicians Doing?

Streaming makes life easier for listeners, but not so much for musicians

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you get your music through streaming services, and there’s an even better chance that you aren’t paying for it. When was the last time you bought an album? Clearly, we have entered a new generation of music distribution and sales. Before the Internet, the main way to enjoy an album was to buy a physical copy or hope the radio plays that song you love. But today is much different. With the music industry going digital, nearly every song recorded and produced is available at our fingertips. How convenient! But there’s one problem, musicians barely make any money off of their work.

Illustrator: Lizzie Goncharova

Illustrator: Lizzie Goncharova

Nielsen research has determined that for every $1,000 sold in music, the average musician only makes $23.40. The average high-end royalty record contract will pay musicians $1 for every $10 album sale while low end royalty deals can pay as low as a measly 30 cents per album sale. As sales go digital, musicians continue getting the short end of deal. Spotify reportedly pays artists 0.5 to 0.7 cents per play or $5,000 to $7,000 for every 1 million plays. To earn a monthly minimum wage from streaming on Spotify, an artist would need 1,117,021 plays and 4.2 million plays on YouTube. As much as these numbers seem appalling, keep in mind that musicians weren’t making any more money before streaming became popular.

To earn a monthly minimum wage from streaming on Spotify, an artist would need 1,117,021 plays and 4.2 million plays on YouTube.

The effect of the streaming industry on musicians hasn’t been a completely negative one. With YouTube and the rise of free music sharing websites such as SoundCloud or Bandcamp, more musicians are able to gain a following. However, because any musician can post their music, it makes it more difficult for individual acts to make it to the top.

Because any musician can post their music, it makes it more difficult for individual acts to make it to the top.

While musicians have an easier time gaining popularity, they continue struggling to make money. Consider this: if there is a musician or band you really enjoy, support them. Buy their albums directly from their websites, buy their merchandise, and of course, see them live and promote them on social media.