A few days ago, I read this rather depressing article quoting Canadian singer-songwriter Danny Michel who reveals how music streaming services have devastated the music industry and hit virtually every working musician in some way.
As Danny revealed in a lengthy Facebook post, A peek behind the curtain: The expiration date on music, an artist earns $0.003 per play on Spotify.
Danny also revealed that sales for his song “Purgatory Cove” which was in the TOP 20 charts (CBC Radio 2 & 3) for 10 weeks and climbed to #3, earned him just $44.99 in 2018.
Now that’s a shocker, by any standard!
As someone who played music and loves it deeply, this made me really sad, because I want musicians to thrive and earn a good living from their art.
If young people no longer see music as a way to make a living, few of them would invest the many hundreds of hours it takes to perfect their craft.
For someone like me – and many people I know – having less music to enjoy would make the world a poorer, sadder and less beautiful place.
But as an entrepreneur, I also believe that on the other side of crisis is an opportunity (and no, that’s not what that Chinese word means).
So I racked my brain to figure out why musicians were facing such issues at all.
After all, musicians create content in audio and video format. And, I’ve spent thousands of dollars purchasing audio and video content in the last few years.
Which means the content creators I bought that content from are earning 6 and 7-figure incomes from their content.
Now, most of these are educational courses that the creator created once (much like music) and made available for buyers like me to access through a membership site.
And, pardon my naiveté for not understanding how the music business model for streaming music works, but I do know one thing – a musician is a content creator.
And if musicians are starving, it doesn’t mean music is no longer a lucrative career.
No, it just means the way music is being delivered to customers is broken.
BECAUSE IT DOESN’T WORK FOR THE CONTENT CREATOR.
With my limited knowledge, I believe this is because of one simple fact – musicians don’t own the rights to distribute their own content.
They sold these rights to record labels and digital music distribution companies.
So that’s the crisis.
Now here’s the opportunity.
And it’s one that was created by a field very different from art – the field of online education.
And with that boom came new tools and systems for educators and coaches (and just about anyone who has anything to teach or share), to create and launch a course online.
So now people are paying thousands of dollars for online courses in audio and video format. And the educators are making big bucks because they own the right to distribute their content.
Or you can use a WordPress plugin like MemberPress to set up a shopping cart or membership area on your own website.
That’s the bare minimum you need to invest to set up an online business that sells content nowadays.
So is this something musicians can do?
Can they reclaim the power to sell and distribute their content on their own terms, without paying a middleman so much that they have nothing left to survive on?
Will every musician now have to become an entrepreneur, with the product they sell being their own music?
Can they set up their own distribution store online, do their own marketing and keep 100% of the royalties?
Some people think musicians are natural entrepreneurs.
My answer: I don’t know.
But, as Danny says in his Facebook post, this new model of “free music” simply can’t last much longer.
I know there are already musicians selling their music online through their own websites. I don’t know how much they make from it, but it’s one option.
We know the old business model is broken and the musicians are hurting as a result.
Two things could save musicians and the music industry:
- Musicians become entrepreneurs. They reclaim the rights over their music and become the sole distributor and marketer for it, so they can control their own profits and keep 100% of the royalties.
- Universal Basic Income kicks in and saves us all from the drudgery of having to do anything but write, paint, create music, climb mountains, travel, or do anything else we fancy.
I have my doubts about #2, but I think #1 is very do-able.
What do you think?