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As Music Streaming Grows, Royalties Slow To a Trickle

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the go-big-or-go-home dept.

Businesses 665

concealment sends this excerpt from the NY Times: "Late last year, Zoe Keating, an independent musician from Northern California, provided an unusually detailed case in point. In voluminous spreadsheets posted to her Tumblr blog, she revealed the royalties she gets from various services, down to the ten-thousandth of a cent. Even for an under-the-radar artist like Ms. Keating, who describes her style as “avant cello,” the numbers painted a stark picture of what it is like to be a working musician these days. After her songs had been played more than 1.5 million times on Pandora over six months, she earned $1,652.74. On Spotify, 131,000 plays last year netted just $547.71, or an average of 0.42 cent a play. 'In certain types of music, like classical or jazz, we are condemning them to poverty if this is going to be the only way people consume music,' Ms. Keating said. ... The question dogging the music industry is whether these micropayments can add up to anything substantial. 'No artist will be able to survive to be professionals except those who have a significant live business, and that’s very few,' said Hartwig Masuch, chief executive of BMG Rights Management."

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665 comments

Demand More (4, Insightful)

jdastrup (1075795) | about a year ago | (#42766645)

Is negotiating a higher price not possible?

Re:Demand More (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766721)

That's okay. Slashdot will whine and cry about how they don't even want to pay for streaming music and fully advocate piracy.

Re:Demand More (1)

Githaron (2462596) | about a year ago | (#42766869)

If it is priced right, there are non-streaming alternatives, offline sycing, and several streaming vendors, I have no problem paying for streaming music. I have an issue when I am expected to pay retail/purchased prices for streaming/renting. Rdio's and Spotify's $10 per month price point is fine by me. I can easily and legally move for artist to artist without having to worry about buying crap. If I don't like a artist/song, I move to the next one. Now is only Rdio would allow local playback within their app.

Re:Demand More (3, Informative)

darkmeridian (119044) | about a year ago | (#42766787)

What alternative does the artist have in selling her music? It sucks making pennies, but would she be otherwise selling her music in concert, on CDs, etc.?

Re:Demand More (5, Informative)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#42766887)

...but would she be otherwise selling her music in concert, on CDs, etc.?

Yes. And Bandcamp [zoekeating.com] . :-)

[Disclaimer: I am unaffiliated with Keating, but a large fan.]

Re:Demand More (5, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | about a year ago | (#42766903)

I don't actually understand why demanding a higher price is necessary. As an example, if I bought a CD for $10 with 15 tracks on it, I'd likely listen to those tracks a good few hundred times. That's a likely 15,000 plays for $10, aka between 0.6 and 0.06 per play. When you consider that only 10% of that is likely to ever see the artist, that's gonna be 0.06-0.006. By that metric, this woman is getting great value from the streaming services compared to me actually buying the music.

Re:Demand More (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#42766931)

To be honest? Probably not for anyone who isn't already big. Spotify would probably rather drop small artists than set a precedent for paying much more.

There is this thing called a Union (4, Insightful)

decora (1710862) | about a year ago | (#42766951)

when you hear old Jazz musicians talk about New York, they frequently reminisce about the day they got their Union card.

the tech industry is so anti-union it would make people from the 50s blush.

so basically thats the end of music. except for auto-tuned horse shit puked out by quasi strippers who can't sing.

Truly, this is the Triumph of the Nerds.

Re:There is this thing called a Union (4, Insightful)

Dishevel (1105119) | about a year ago | (#42767121)

Absolutely.
Because as we all know there was no such thing as "Music" before the artists were protected by Unions and Major Labels.
Now as the major labels and the unions are going down the amount of new music available to the public has dropped precipitously.
Much like when the VCR killed the movie industry. Wish we never got those damned things.

Re:Demand More (5, Insightful)

kheldan (1460303) | about a year ago | (#42766959)

It's almost like people have forgotten what broadcast radio was, still is, and that online streaming is more or less the 2013 equivalent of broadcast radio. Remember how we had to pay a subscription fee to listen to the radio? You don't, because we never did and never will. Places like Britain where you pay a license fee for owning/operating receivers doesn't count, and I'm not talking about satellite services like XM, either. The way it used to work is radio stations would give public exposure to artists' work, and in turn if people liked it they'd go to a record store and buy a copy. Of course that entire business model is now hopelessly broken and everyone wants everything to be digital and stored on their PMP, and so-called 'internet radio' is not in any way equivalent to the broadcast radio of old, in part because you need an internet connection to receive them, so you're already paying for that -- and why should you have to pay twice? I don't think that internet radio is going to ever be a viable sole income source for artists, and frankly I don't know what's going to end up replacing the old business model, but I am of the opinion that expecting to make a living off your music being played streaming online is not realistic. We are in a transitional era for the music business, as the old industry is still in it's death throes, and it's replacement hasn't risen out of the chaos yet.

Re:Demand More (3, Insightful)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about a year ago | (#42766977)

This is the value the market has decided in this case. To quote the whiner: "'No artist will be able to survive to be professionals except those who have a significant live business, and that’s very few," (emphasis mine).

That's right. Unless you're actually willing to put time and effort into the industry, you're not going to make very much money. There's nothing wrong with that, welcome to the real world. No more free rent. The rock star lifestyle just slammed into the real world where people work hard every day to pay their bills. Why shouldn't musicians have to "sing for their supper" like everyone else does?

Re:Demand More (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42767067)

Performance only works for people who already have something of a reputation. And it works very poorly for small artists.
Seriously, are you going to drive across town to listen to a cellist for even a $10 dollar cover plus drinks?

For many artists, you simply have to look at it as extra week-end money, because you can't afford to quit your day job.

Too few venues, unless you want to play to drunks in a smokey bar for nothing but tips.

Re:Demand More (1)

Tharkkun (2605613) | about a year ago | (#42766987)

Maybe they should stop publishing any random idiot who makes music. It's their greed trying to get money from anyone with a microphone. Focus on developing true talent instead of writing songs for someone pretty who sells on looks alone.

Re:Demand More (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42767001)

Is negotiating a higher price not possible?

It will have to come to that, eventually. A higher percentage of the gross seems reasonable.
This situation [firstclassalliance.com] is becoming common knowledge.

The cost to the streamer companies is substantial, in terms of storage, bandwidth, and billing/payment processing. They will not want to give that up willingly, but as numbers like this become common knowledge, they will have to start paying more back.

The problem I see is that if there is a Label involved the Label is going to get the bulk of the micropayments as well. (They already take the bulk of the money from CD sales, even the big name artists are hard pressed to garner 12% of the revenue from a CD sale).

It appears to me that from an economics point of view that the price of music has been pushed down to the lowest point until a technology change allows artists to get into the streaming business for the price of a web site. The revenue just isn't there to hold the artist's interest.

The idea that artists can make a living performing is just not going to happen. Too few venues and too many wanna-be artists and nobody wants to go sit in some smokey bar every time they want to listen to music. Live music is great and all, but when you end up paying $30 for a nobody artist and suffer thru the entire evening for 3 good songs you quickly sour on the whole idea.

Shuffle (4, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#42766665)

Every time there is a change, every time there is something new, every time there is a shift, the publishers find a way to twist the numbers so artists get an even smaller cut of the profits.

Re:Shuffle (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#42766803)

Exactly, again, why is the money going to the industry and not the artists? Some things never change... it would be nice to see artists become a bit more business savvy, certainly wouldn't hurt them. And, if you don't want to perform, but rather profit hugely and forever off a one-time recording... even if it took you days to create, diminished profit margins seem fair.

Re:Shuffle (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766919)

People. Stop with the artist talk. They're entertainers that sing. Music doesn't pay much, entertainment does. Just look at the top 50 whatever music genre and you'll see what I mean.

So, if they don't want to be "starving artists", then, they should seek other revenue forms, live performances, private and public concerts, actually do something active, instead of just sticking in front of the scree and complaining that money isn't coming.

Oh yeah, another thing, that music, apparently through the new laws, is going to be bringing them money through out their entire lives, those of their childre, grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc etc, so, I can't honestly say I feel for them.

Re:Shuffle (4, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | about a year ago | (#42766955)

why is the money going to the industry and not the artists?

Because the "artists" signed the contract. It's the same reason the money goes to the company selling the software I write and not me.

What profits? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#42766905)

the publishers find a way to twist the numbers so artists get an even smaller cut of the profits.

Under the traditional model, sure.

But for something like Pandora or Spotify - just what profits are those the artist is being robbed of exactly? The amount of money those guys are charging makes me wonder how the artist is even getting as much as she says she is.

I still prefer to buy music for that reason, that I like to give an artist I enjoy some significant support. If all I ever do is listen to Spotify then over time there simply will not be as many musicians who work full time at it.

42 cents a play? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766667)

That sounds like an amazing high rate of return. I can't think of any music that I would consider worth paying 42 cents per play for.

Re:42 cents a play? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766747)

It is not 42 cents per play, but 0.42 cents per play. Or $4.20 per thousand plays.

Re:42 cents a play? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766751)

How about for 1/100th of that? It says POINT42

Re:42 cents a play? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766753)

Missing something? She meant less than half a cent, 0.42 cent (the editor dropped the required leading zero).

Re:42 cents a play? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766755)

You're off by a factor of 100. Go read the summary again.

Re:42 cents a play? (1)

TeRanEX (916440) | about a year ago | (#42766757)

That sounds like an amazing high rate of return. I can't think of any music that I would consider worth paying 42 cents per play for.

The summary says 0.42 cents per play. That's a 100 times less than 42 cents per play...

GREAT UNMITIGATED ROT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766971)

You were wrong on the Internet! Decimal places matter! This chicken is raaaawwwww!!

Not a bad start. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766671)

'No artist will be able to survive to be professionals except those who have a significant live business, and that’s very few,' said Hartwig Masuch, chief executive of BMG Rights Management."

Personally, that's what I would like to see. That's why I support live music.

I don't think streaming should be free, but considering how many times Pandora plays the same song during a workday based on my "seeds", I can see that adding up if you're even marginally popular. And did an "avant cello" player really expect to be in the same income bracket as the Rolling Stones. How popular is she in other media... really?

Re:Not a bad start. (5, Interesting)

Knuckles (8964) | about a year ago | (#42766877)

There is music that cannot be played live, or which does not work in a live setting, and which is still worth having (as a cultural contribution to humanity, I mean)

Re:Not a bad start. (1)

yurtinus (1590157) | about a year ago | (#42767093)

Popular enough for over a million and a half plays on Pandora alone in a six month window - which by my math comes to a hair over a tenth of a cent per play. So that puts her in... I don't know, what income bracket makes about three grand a year?

Re:Not a bad start. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42767109)

The thing is the world only need "very few" artists. Unless you are one of the few extremely talented artists give up on the arts as a career and find something else you are good at to make a living. Keep music as a hobby if you like it, but don't expect to make a living off it in a flooded market.

Get a real job (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766673)

the get a real f*in job

Re:Get a real job (4, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about a year ago | (#42766849)

What the AC said. I seem to remember this concept, but I don't remember which founding father said it:
"I study agriculture so that my son can study medicine or engineering, so that he can make enough money so that his son can study art and liturature".

I'm sory, but nobody ever intended artists to be rich in a meritocracy. Art is too easy. It is what you go into when you are *already* reasonably financially independent.

Re:Get a real job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42767031)

I'm sory, but nobody ever intended artists to be rich in a meritocracy. Art is too easy.

Do you seriously think that the creation of art, in whatever form but for this discussion let's restrict it to music, is easy? Have you ever attempted to learn to play, including reading music notation, the classic guitar, the cello, of the violin/fiddle? In the days of the "Founding Fathers" life was considerably less specialized so a person could grow their own food, build a shelter, and reasonably have some time to pursue other interests on a part-time basis. Today, good luck trying to build a house, grow your own food, and survive without the authorities shoving their hands into your pockets demanding payment of various economic rents. In a just society, the young would be free to explore their interests with the financial support of their family, and as middle-age approaches these same people would be ready to assume the burden of work to support the next generation. Forty-five years to enjoy life followed by twenty years working to support oneself, family, and the generation of youth behind them, and finally another twenty years to relax and once again pursue your interests financially supported by oneself this time and with no further obligations.

Re:Get a real job (2)

Howitzer86 (964585) | about a year ago | (#42767123)

Many jobs manage to be difficult and unprofitable at the same time. Often art is one of them. While I agree with the spirit of your post, I assert that art is not easy.

The Bar Has Been Lowered (3, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#42766675)

No longer do you need a sleazy music company executive to steal your rights and material, a posh recording studio, expensive band or studio musicians. You can now make up your own music in the comfort of your own home and sell it yourself. Perhaps, after all the megastars and millions and billions extracted by an industry, we are coming back to the common music of the people, no more difficult to obtain than to go down to the pub and listen to a band of minstrels who wandered into town.

You want quality music, you pay for quality music. You want garage music, you pay far less.

Re:The Bar Has Been Lowered (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#42766817)

RTFA, the profits ARE STILL going through the industry trickling down to the artist.

Re:The Bar Has Been Lowered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42767053)

> RTFA, the profits ARE STILL going through the industry trickling down to the artist.

For those still in contracts, yes. The industry self-corrects. That wasn't the point, obviously. Stop the flamebaiting.

Re:The Bar Has Been Lowered (3, Interesting)

cdrguru (88047) | about a year ago | (#42767037)

Those minstrels got paid - and generally paid pretty good. They got to eat while many of their fellows were starving on the little plot of land they were working for the Earl or whatever. And they wandered from town to town because no town could afford to keep them very long.

Make no mistake, these folks were living pretty high compared to the rest of society in those times.

Sure, you can make your own music for yourself. Don't plan on selling it, though, because everyone else can make their own music also. Or, you can listen to other people's music for free - just pay the membership fee for the service and you have your choice. Of course, not even the streaming service is very profitable, much less the artists - there is no money in it anywhere.

Music for the last hundred years or so has been driven by promotion. You hear about it because people are paying to make sure you hear about it. There are (were?) magazines dedicated to music promotion. AM and FM radio have been driven because of promotion. Free concerts have existed because of promotion - where the artist gets paid but nobody paid any admission. This is all coming to an end and the end of the road is no more promotion - you hear about what you hear about and you don't hear about anything very much.

Maybe it is a more eglitarian form of entertainment, but it means the end of things like a common cultural reference. A band is never going to escape their locality, which might be geographic or it might be a very narrowly focused group of people, or both. It means that you can never talk to someone that you just met about a band you both have heard of.

Live Performances (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766695)

I wonder how much time these artists actually spend on live performances. Intellectual property creation is the only business that I know of where you can do something once and get paid for it forever.

Revenue streams other than streaming? (1)

dubbreak (623656) | about a year ago | (#42766699)

People still like to purchase music. I really doubt radio airplay royalties were the majority of any musicians income and that's the analog.

Basically streaming is advertising to sell digital download (or physical, I buy vinyl since it usually comes with digital as well and like collecting the vinyl) and of course promote live performances. I know a few people in the music business.. one band is just starting out and while they aren't doing amazing they are doing ok (but have to tour to do so). It has never been easy for indie or up and coming, the thing is now indie and up and coming bands don't have to sign their souls over to some record label to make a name for themselves.

Re:Revenue streams other than streaming? (3, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | about a year ago | (#42766943)

Why would you purchase something that you can select to stream to a mobile device any time you want? Seems silly to me.

What streaming has done is given the power of the radio "request" to everyone and they all get their requests instantly. No need to buy anything, just make your selections and listen.

Oh, and if you want an MP3 file (for some unknown reason), that's what BitTorrent is for.

So who is getting paid here? Well, the streaming service is getting something, either a membership fee or ads. Both are a pittance because nobody is going to pay a high membership fee and the ads aren't generating lots of sales so they aren't very valuable. With that, the streaming service can pay the artists something - something like $0.0042 a play or about $500 a year.

There isn't any money in it. And there isn't anything that can be done to somehow push more money in or take more money out.

The problem with the "up and coming" band just getting by with touring is that there is no "coming". They might get enough exposure to net a better grade bar or two but nobody is paying for promotion. They are probably lucky if they can afford to stop off at Office Depot to run off some flyers to pass around. What the record label is for is paying for promotion - and making money by backing a few successful and a few more unsuccessful bands. They have seriously fallen down on that trying to control their risk, just like the rest of businesses today.

No risk = no reward. But that formula hasn't been taught very well in MBA class.

What "publishing" in general was 50 years ago was taking on 10 things, be it books, bands or whatever and promoting the heck out of them With reasonably good selection up front you had something like 7 flops, two moderate successes and one pretty good performer - which altogether paid for the promotion of all ten with some profit left over. The problem is the MBAs came in and decided they could make more money by getting rid of the seven flops without considering how you do that. So we have the entire spectrum of "publishers" trying to find the three successes without encountering any flops at all. Lots of really smart (and successful) people figured out a long time ago that you can't do that reliably and this lesson is being relearned every day. Unfortunately, MBA schools taught that you just had to be smart enough to find the three successes and all would be good. We are experiencing what happens when this is being applied across the spectrum of publishing - books, movies, music, software, magazines, etc.

Re:Revenue streams other than streaming? (2)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#42767029)

Why would you purchase something that you can select to stream to a mobile device any time you want? Seems silly to me.

Um, maybe because of...

There isn't any money in it.

If I like someone's music, and want them to make more of it instead of giving up because they want to be able to eat, why wouldn't I give them money? They have provided me with enjoyment.

Re:Revenue streams other than streaming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42767081)

These days I tend to purchase music directly from the artist or their own studio. Although I still buy music via on-line music services (7Digital, Apple iTunes) from time to time mostly for the older stuff that I cannot buy directly from the singer/songwriter/band. I do listen to radio stations that stream live over the Internet as well as over the airwaves because they sell advertising which I listen to between blocks of music or talk in the case of talk radio.

Doom and gloom, except when it isn't (4, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | about a year ago | (#42766717)

I have a hard time getting worked up about their dire predictions. Let's pretend the worst comes to pass; as a consumer, the downside for me is that the crap being produced is even less varied than previously. If that's really a problem, then a need will develop for more interesting music, and inevitably, someone will address that need.

These "artists" are not owed a living. They are not exempt from capitalism because of their chosen profession.

Cry me a river (1)

novalis112 (1216168) | about a year ago | (#42766737)

So you're telling me that you made a recording a few years ago, and now you just sit back and do nothing and a stream of money comes trickling in? Wow, that sucks. I feel for you.

Re:Cry me a river (5, Informative)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#42766847)

To be fair, Keating feels that the NY Times article was not very representative of her opinions [tumblr.com] ; the article is a lot more down on the streaming income than she is.

Her statements on the income from online streaming are pretty neutral; she's not totally gung-ho about it (like, say, maybe Johnathan Coulton would be), but she's also not really putting it out there in a complaining, "wah wah Spotify should be giving me more money" sense.

Re:Cry me a river (1)

novalis112 (1216168) | about a year ago | (#42766937)

I suppose, then, my response is for the NY Times author more than for Ms. Keating :)

I just find this whole idea of "OMG the music industry will collapse if musicians only make money from live performances" to be utterly asinine. As if musicians were born the moment recording contracts were invented or something...

Re:Cry me a river (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#42766995)

That's totally fair, and I'm sure there are artists who would be more agreeable to the article. I just feel compelled a bit to set the record more clear about Keating's attitude as I am a fan. :-)

Musicians Can Make A Living (4, Insightful)

flyneye (84093) | about a year ago | (#42766743)

The royalty model is screwed, old, antiquated and invites corruptions from many sources.
Provide your music free to the world and charge for live performance.
Your free music is your very best promotion.
Musicians now have the power to control their own destinies on a level playing field. The cream will rise and the crap will fall, thus guaranteeing much better entertainment than the music industry would provide when it was relevant. If your "avant cello" music doesn't bring crowds to performances, you are either performing at the wrong venue , or perhaps you should practice. Perhaps targeting your promotions would be a better consideration. New York will have better opportunities to fill rooms than say, in Cleveland or Oklahoma City.
Free the music and charge for performance, you can't go wrong. It's nearly idiot proof.

Re:Musicians Can Make A Living (1)

MonkeyPaw (8286) | about a year ago | (#42766917)

I know many musicians who play and record all the tracks on their recorded songs. Drums, bass, guitar, horns, keyboards, etc.

It isn't always possible for a small band (or a single musician) to play a song live. The recorded music can be quite complex or need 12 musicians to pull it off. Very few solo musicians would be able to do it unless they were well funded.

Re:Musicians Can Make A Living (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766945)

Yeah, I was just coming in here to say that I find myself completely UNsurprised as to her tiny revenue stream.

Who'da thunk it, trying to keep getting money over and over and over and over and over again for the exact same thing that you did a year ago turns out not to work.

Strange that. In my job, when I enter some paperwork, I keep getting paid in perpetuity for the rest of my life from that company.

Oh, no, wait, my bad, it works the exact opposite. I do somethign once, I get paid for it once.

If musicians want to be taken seriously, FUCKING WORK FOR YOUR PAYCHEQUE, YOU GODDAMN LAZY FUCKS! Why should I keep having to work while you coast along on something you did ages ago. Or even months ago.

Go out and perform, and get money from ticket prices and merchandise, you lazy bastard. Until such time, you can kindly shut the fuck up about your small royalty payments.

Re:Musicians Can Make A Living (4, Informative)

kheldan (1460303) | about a year ago | (#42767019)

There's only one problem I see with your blue-sky thinking: People will gladly accept music for free (have for decades and decades, it's call RADIO) especially if there's no risk to getting it, but under your model concerts would probably be even more expensive than they already are, and they're expensive right now. Most people will say "Ugh, that's too much money, I'll just listen to the free recording, it's almost as good" and leave it at that.

Re:Musicians Can Make A Living (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42767041)

This. The Royalty system has never been an efficient method for income.
It is supposed to be secondary income.

Primary income comes from albums, from live performances, from posters or videos or interviews, T-shirts too, hell, even figurines.
The special stuff you can't really get using a computer, even if you have a good printer or even 3D printer.
Music is the media of delivery for other content based on it.
Same thing happens with anime over in Japan. The anime itself is used to sell merchandise and DVD or Blurays that have massively improved visuals, uncensoring or special features and episodes. It works very well for the most part, despite the anime industry actually being pretty damn small. Much smaller than I thought.

How you go about getting merchandise and advertising it on your own is up to you.
Find the right sites, find the resellers the printers and the plastics experts.
Make fan sites on every site that exists, get a few friends to help out and even pay them for it.
Ask people what they want, do special requests, do fan arrangements, fulfilling fan requests is such a huge attractor, bitches love fan arrangements.
Albums don't really work as well on the internet these days.
But you can get around that by making very specific albums, smaller albums too.
Make albums that have songs of a very specific type, people tend to buy those.
Lovey dovey songs album, existential albums, sad albums, actiony dance albums, whatever the hell you like.
People eat this sort of crap up, they love it when an idol interacts with them, even more so when they do custom work for them.

It should more than double those rates if you do it right. But as someone mentioned just below me, musicians are indeed a historically low-paid profession, as with most artists.
The market is filled with so many artists in various fields, you need to make yourself stand out, and doing merchandise is one of the biggest ways to do that.

Unsustainable transfer and/or regression to mean (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766763)

Could it be that the mid-20th century distribution model created an unsustainable transfer of wealth towards performers? If you can't make a living performing "avant cello", perhaps this is just a regression to the mean. For most of recorded history, you had a few performers with patrons, some traveling minstrels scraping by, and a lot of home performances for nothing. It looks like we might be returning to that. Peak music, like peak oil. Come to think of it, aren't LPs and CDs made of petroleum based products?

Musicians are historically a low paying profession (2)

the_humeister (922869) | about a year ago | (#42766765)

This has been the case throughout history. For every Mozart or Beethoven, there were 1000s more just singing or reading poetry aloud to a small drunk audience at the pub.

There is no income guarantee for anyone (5, Insightful)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about a year ago | (#42766785)

Manufacturing workers in the US lost their jobs by the millions through no fault of their own. Thats the way the economy works. We aren't condemning anyone to poverty. If you want to do nothing other than make music, you get what the job pays. You can try to do something else to earn more money, if you'd like. The economy of a free society in uncertain times is a harsh mistress.

Re:There is no income guarantee for anyone (1)

Dogbertius (1333565) | about a year ago | (#42766881)

Wish I had mod points to spend. If you want to make a decent living, one has no entitlement to earn it through a single arbitrary career of his/her own choosing. Go where the money is, or learn to live with the constraints you've forced upon the situation.

And this is bad because...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766789)

the world needs more Avant Cello music?

42 cents per play is bad? (2)

DSS11Q13 (1853164) | about a year ago | (#42766809)

A CD costs ~$13 retail which normally works out to about a dollar a song. Subtract things like the record labels cut, distribution, physical materials (I don't know how much these are normally) and I imagine you'd end up with something like 50 cents per song for the artists. Anyone have figures on this?

Then you have to figure that this artist's music is getting far more exposure than they would through any kind of physical media or brick and mortar store...

What am I missing?

Re:42 cents per play is bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766871)

.42 cents, or .0042 dollars.

Re:42 cents per play is bad? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766893)

A CD costs ~$13 retail which normally works out to about a dollar a song. Subtract things like the record labels cut, distribution, physical materials (I don't know how much these are normally) and I imagine you'd end up with something like 50 cents per song for the artists. Anyone have figures on this?

Then you have to figure that this artist's music is getting far more exposure than they would through any kind of physical media or brick and mortar store...

What am I missing?

0.42 cents != 42 cents

For more info on math please see: http://verizonmath.blogspot.com/2006/12/verizon-doesnt-know-dollars-from-cents.html

Re:42 cents per play is bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766901)

You are missing a factor of 100. The summary talks about 0.42 cents or 0.0042 dollars.

Re:42 cents per play is bad? (1)

OutSourcingIsTreason (734571) | about a year ago | (#42766949)

The CD can get played 100 times. Assuming 10 tracks/cd times 100 plays, a CD sale is equal to 1000 plays and the royalty is about the same.

Re:42 cents per play is bad? (1)

phizi0n (1237812) | about a year ago | (#42767009)

There's many articles easily found that discuss the figures which vary wildly but $1/cd seems to be a typical estimate for the artist cut which then get broken down between all the artists that contributed... Some more stingy deals that this type of artist is likely to get can put it much much lower though. Even at $1/cd that breaks down to ~10c per song which is about as much as they get from 25 plays on these streaming services. Couple that with the fact that one person listening to an online radio stream is going to hear the same songs multiple times which could easily add up to over 25 plays in their lifetime and then 0.42c per play doesn't seem all that unreasonable when put into perspective.

If artists want more of the cut then they need to find ways to cut out the middlemen. Promotion and distribution aren't free and the more you can do yourself, the more you get to keep.

How about this (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766813)

It's my opinion that if your plan is to make money as a musician, then maybe you should rethink your career path.Leave the creation of music to those that are passionate about it and not just trying to make a buck.

Condmening them to poverty? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766815)

No, we're condemning them to getting a fucking day job like the rest of us mopes.

Alternatively, our dear cellist can get a gig in a house band, though that may clash with her sensitive artists' feelings.

It may pain all of us a bit, but perhaps as a society we can't afford to have full time professional avant guard cellists no one has heard of.

Re:Condmening them to poverty? (3, Insightful)

thesameguy (1047504) | about a year ago | (#42766939)

Gotta agree. The vast majority of people can't get paid what they want for doing things they also want to do. Most of us choose a career with a happy intersection of "good pay" and "not terrible job." Many are not even that fortunate, and have to go with crap pay for a crap job. Crap pay for a good doesn't seem all that terrible. I would also put forward the notion that if the only thing you are qualified to do is make music AND you have specific income requirements, consider making popular music. Being upset about low pay rates for obscure music is akin to getting upset about slow steam engine sales or the low street price of the abacus. Wanna get paid well? Best bet is getting involved in something that everyone needs, not something a couple people want.

Radio Royalties? (1)

BigDork1001 (683341) | about a year ago | (#42766851)

I would imagine the the royalties Ms. Keating would receive from the radio would be far less than what she's getting now from sites like Pandora. In fact, as an "avant cello" musician it's probably right around $0.00. I think she should be thrilled that people have heard her music 1.5 million times. How many of those 1.5 million listens then went on to buy her music? I don't know the music industry all that well but I would think far more money is actually made from album sales rather than radio plays. Radio/streaming is a way to advertise yourself to get people in to buy your product.

The radio plays it for free, go cry somewhere else (3, Interesting)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about a year ago | (#42766859)

Re:The radio plays it for free, go cry somewhere e (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42767039)

Traditional radio does NOT play songs for free. They pay royalties when they play songs, so does every coffee shop and grocery store you've ever been in, or at least they're supposed to.

Profit margins (2, Informative)

hardtofindanick (1105361) | about a year ago | (#42766891)

There are a lot of musicians and there is a lot of music around. Like it or not the field is saturated, competition is fierce and music is a commodity (and there is in fact a lot of free music around in case you were not paying attention). You need to deal with profit margins like we all do.

The part I don't like is, we are supposed feel bad and sympathize because you are high and noble with your "art" and "culture".

If you can't make enough money you are supposed find a different job (shocking, right?). A lot of people deal with it every day. You can still play your music on the side.

Condemning to poverty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766897)

If your hobby doesn't earn you enough monetary units to purchase food and shelter, perhaps you should find a job.

As an apprentice goldsmith working for my father... when I would whine my dad would look up at me with a big smile and say, "Well you can always go flip burgers if this isn't cutting it for you!"

If anyone is condemning these leeches to poverty it is they themselves. Certainly if she can perform "avant cello" she can bus tables, wash dishes, shovel horse shit...

Quit Whining and Follow Metallica's Example (2)

ClassicASP (1791116) | about a year ago | (#42766911)

Ya, Lars Ulrich led the charge against Napster way back in the day and got stomped like a fool for it.

Since then he's wised up and got back to work and today Metallica makes its bones doing bigger and better shows and more touring with more musicians along side them in the big 4 concerts.

The point is: if you aint making money, your music is probably just boring background music and nobody is willing to pay extra to see it live no matter how many times they play it over streaming radio.

Music itself has its own evolution and natural-selection and survival-of-the-fittest kinda thing going on out there. Thats why the harpsichord aint as popular as it used to be.

Exposure (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | about a year ago | (#42766925)

Isn't the point of getting your music played on the "radio" exposure? How much money did/do artists make per play on normal radio stations? For less-well-known or niche artists, it might be difficult to have your music played on a local or regional radio station, let alone nationally. Pandora, Spotify, etc. provide a variety of artists with national exposure. I'd be interested to see if the artist in question has noticed a correlation between plays on streaming services and her album sales. Or, how about her social network presence. More listeners means more fans, followers, Likes. I've heard of performers using social networking to essentially pre-sell a venue for a live show. There are ways to make money, just have to be creative and innovative - defining traits for most artists.

Sing for your dinner (1)

daemonenwind (178848) | about a year ago | (#42766969)

Good, I say.

This situation where a single performance (recorded and heavily manipulated) results in several multi-millionaires is an historical aberration long overdue for a correction. The fact that the artist is only sometimes one of the big earners is irrelevant.

For ages, musicians and performers of all types were told to, "sing for their dinner", with the implication being they should be both good enough to earn it, and humble enough to do it.

Live performance are the only way to make money? That's as it should be. Entertain people, entertainer, not the autotuner.

GOOD. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42766983)

This is a good thing that is happening. These days, anyone with a decent computer, a midi keyboard, and a little know-how, can produce something that is listenable, and even popular. Those with true creative genius (computer-based music included) have been lost in the crowd. The music industry NEEDS to be shaken up like this...at the very foundation...so that when true musical genius stands up, it gets the attention it deserves. Music, and art in general, is about creativity...not about making money. It should be a conduit to happiness...not simply a really easy way to make money. Drugs are a really easy way to make money. There's a reason why so many former drug-dealers got into hip-hop/rap or trance/electronic music. It's EASY MONEY. There's a formula you can go by to make easy money in music, just like drugs. And just like drugs, the only one who truly benefits from it (in a good way) is the music-dealer.

We need to get music back to what it's supposed to be.

DISCLAIMER
I'm a musician. I make music of all types, including hip-hop and trance. I don't consider myself to be a "true musical genius". This rant is not against any type of music in particular, although some seem to be more applicable to this than others.

oh well... (1)

ACluk90 (2618091) | about a year ago | (#42766989)

No artist will be able to survive to be professionals except those who have a significant live business

And how is this a problem? Even for classical music this should work out as those who listen to this genre are mostly able and willing to pay more than for a rock concert.
The music industry is always crying that there are artists who do not earn enough to live solely from making music. First off, it seems ironic to me that the publishers are complaining - those who make a boatload of money. Second, there will always be those who are just not good enough or otherwise do not play what people want to hear - and this is the way it is supposed to be. We cannot pay people who are doing something nobody wants.

Pandora's fees (3, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#42766993)

Pandora pays at least 2 cents per listener hour. That's the minimum. The maximum is 25% of revenue generated during that playback. So the artist should be getting paid whichever is larger.
http://www.digitaltrends.com/music/does-the-riaa-even-want-pandoras-golden-eggs/ [digitaltrends.com]

$1,653 equals 82,650 hours.
82,650 hours over 1.5M listens means average length of song is 3.3 minutes.

So, if her average piece is longer than 3.3 minutes, she's getting ripped off.
Otherwise something fishy is going on. Is BMG taking a big cut?

It seems to me that 25% of revenue is way more than fair for what is essentially radio play.

While I am sure that Ms Keating is a great artist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42767011)

Her experience means very little in the real world...

Show me the details on a more mainstream person, show me details on her pre-pandora pre-digital royalties.. was she even in a position to share her music outside of her hometown before being "self published" digitally? Its all well and good to cry about *ONLY* earning 1672$ from 6 months of airplay on a streaming service.. how much would she have earned in direct downloads at 99 cents a track over the same time? what about selling tape/cd/cassette/etc pre-digital?

Most artists make the bulk of their income from live performances even once they are "superstars" the tours are the big $$ items.. that never really goes away from the time you are a starving artist playing on street corners for donations, till the time you arrive at a stadium for 70,000 fans paying 100$ a ticket.. your still at the core a performer..

Re:While I am sure that Ms Keating is a great arti (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#42767085)

Her experience means very little in the real world...

As I posted above (not saying I really expect anyone to see it), Keating's views aren't very well reflected in the article [tumblr.com] ; they're actually pretty neutral. I think a story hit /. a while back about her saying she would rather have more listener data from places like Spotify than more money.

Show me the details on a more mainstream person, show me details on her pre-pandora pre-digital royalties..

Pandora beat Keating's musical life to the market by several years (2000 vs 2005).

Profits still high at music industry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42767023)

The music industry figured out that they can screw the musicians even more...

They become part owner of the sites...and keep the "per click to play" down to a low sum..
So they can tunnel back money via the part ownership direct to them instead of the musicians...

So soon we are back to the same time as before music rights...just the thing music rights was supposed to solve..give an income to the creators, not the leeches of an industry!

What was it like before digital (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42767033)

So here's what I don't understand. Before streaming, how much would an "avant cello" musician actually make? What would their distribution be like?

There's no denying that 1.5 million plays equating to 1600 bucks sounds like too little, but I highly doubt there would be 1.5 million listeners were if not for this distribution model.

artists should suffer for there arts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42767061)

and take real jobs contribute in a meaningful way to society, music and art are recreation not a career. embrace your destiny to die hungry and unappreciated and hope later generations appreciate your work

"Very Few" -- Relative To? (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | about a year ago | (#42767075)

'No artist will be able to survive to be professionals except those who have a significant live business, and thatâ(TM)s very few,'

I'm sure it is very few relative to a much larger number. It is probably also quite a few relative to a smaller number. Merely chanting this refrain does not make it a meaningful measure.

Copyright is not a free market system. It is a regulatory monopoly. That is a good thing, because zero cost reproduction means that artists would be under-paid if we did not have copyright. At the same time, however, the market does not naturally self-regulate. If we do not carefully monitor and adjust the strength of the regulation, the market can show shortages or surpluses.

Do we currently have a shortage of people entering the music field, or a surplus? Are we having a hard time finding people who want to get into music, or are there more people who want to be musicians than jobs? Is the music industry taking anyone it can find, even if they're a little raw, or is it cherry-picking the pretty people because it has a line of talented musicians around the corner to choose from? If the latter, then it suggests a surplus. It implies that our regulations are currently too strict, that we are paying too much. If we have a surplus in a regulated market, we should be happy that the price is decreasing, and we should be decreasing the strength and duration of the regulations.

too much offer, too hard competition (4, Interesting)

godrik (1287354) | about a year ago | (#42767129)

I am not really surprised. It looks like the amount of offer in music grows with time. There is more directors and composers than before. According to [1], there are 2.5 more music director and composer than 3 years ago while the number of musician appears to have decrease by roughly 10% in the same time. Since 99, it went from 52K people to 67K people. So there are 15% more people to pay. Meanwhile the US population only increase 12% [2].
I do not think the average entertainement of famillies changed a lot but if anything the music budget went down. So I am really not surprised.

Moreover, I feel like Internet concentrated music interest on a smaller number of artists which performs better than anybody else for no good reason. I mean gangnam style from psy shipped more than 6 millions albums in not even a year [3].

I do not know the artist that is speaking and I never listen to her music. But she is a cello artist which is not a popular style. So of course making money out of it is difficult. Yet her income increased according to her own numbers [4].

The real numbers we lack are the numbers from 10 or 15 years ago. How much money did an independent artist make in the 90's ? Is it really worse in 2013? (I ma not saying it is not, I am asking a real question)

[1] http://money.futureofmusic.org/how-many-musicians-are-there/ [futureofmusic.org]
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangnam_Style [wikipedia.org]
[4] https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AkasqHkVRM1OdGhjdExSMzYyMXFZUkZNSUJrY3MwNXc&pli=1#gid=0 [google.com]

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