Can This Company Save Streaming… And The (Independent) Music Industry?

So it’s quite likely that Google or Facebook is going to be purchasing Spotify fairly soon. Apple bought Beats. No streaming service, however, has proven profitable. It was just reported that Pandora lost over $11,000,000 in quarter 2 of this year. Eek.

Major labels are finding creative ways to screw their artists out of any streaming money that comes in. The labels strike deals with streaming services that keep streaming rates low across the board, while the labels receive massive, upfront advances and equity in the company.

How To Steal An Artist’s Streaming Money In 3 Easy Steps

Spotify and Pandora claim they pay out 70% of their revenue to rights holders. That may be true, but most of that money goes to major labels and NOT the artists.

Spotify claims that they pay about $.006 – $.0084 per stream to “rights holders,” but more and more reports are coming out (my statements included) that this is untrue – or at least isn’t represented in the artists’ statements who share them publicly. D.A. Wallach, Spotify’s official artist-in-residence, tried to explain this to me stating: “the rates we’ve quoted are averaged across the entire service.” But, why list a range if many artists’ rates fall below the minimum? Zoe Keating’s do. Mine do. Vulfpeck’s do. And many more. Sure, some of that money is paid out to Harry Fox and other collections agencies for mechanical royalties. But ever ask an independent artist if she knows how to get those mechanicals? Or even what mechanicals are? Yeah.*

Long-time readers know that I have been a strong supporter of Spotify since the beginning. There’s no denying that streaming is the future. And it can be very profitable. But we are approaching it all wrong.

Streaming Will Soon Be More Profitable Than Sales

Amanda Palmer was onto something when she said “Don’t make people pay for music. Let them.” in her Ted talk last year.

It is the best time to be an independent musician in the history of the music industry. YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook and Twitter have given musicians direct access to their fans. And fans direct access to musicians. Musicians can build a HUGE following from their bedroom – on YouTube or SoundCloud. Artists can break out from being featured on a Spotify playlist. And, very recently, startups like Patreon, BandPage, Kickstarter and PledgeMusic (with more popping up everyday) are inventing creative ways to help independent artists monetize this fan base  (because it’s increasingly clear that the large music companies don’t care about the little guys).

What all of these startups have in common is they enable artists to ASK their fans to support their art. They don’t force them to.

Patreon is the best example of using an “ask don’t make” model that works. Every creator on Patreon offers content for free and asks their fans to pay them a little bit for each new piece of content (be it a video, song, blog, podcast or comic strip).

We’re Looking At Streaming All Wrong.

Every time a new streaming service pops up everyone protests how little they pay out per stream. It’s true, unless you’re getting millions of streams, it’s very difficult to see any real income from this. There are some very rare indie artists who are making a very good living solely on streaming, but there are thousands of other artists who may have “1,000 true fans” but cannot monetize those fans into a sustainable living unless they’re on tour.

There has got to be a better way of monetizing streaming. And There Is.

Bandcamp is a digital download (and more recently a physical merch) store for independent artists (and labels). No major labels are allowed. Bandcamp only takes 15% (as opposed to iTunes’ 30%). And they boast that with their “name your price” model, fans typically pay 50% more than the required minimum.

To date, Bandcamp has paid out over $76 million USD to artists and continues to pay out nearly $3 million a month. Triple where they were 24 months ago. Everyday 6,000 unique artists sell something on Bandcamp. 50,000 unique artists sell something every month. And Bandcamp has had over 10 million paid transactions with over 85 million downloads. On Bandcamp, albums outsell tracks 5 to 1 (in the rest of the music buying world tracks outsell albums 16 to 1).

The reason Bandcamp works is because artists love it.

Independent artists have trained their fans to buy their music (and merch) on Bandcamp (and not iTunes). And why wouldn’t they? Bandcamp takes half of what iTunes takes and you don’t need a distributor to get your music up on Bandcamp.

With this “name your price” model, one fan paid me $200 for my new album and another paid $20 for a single.

Bandcamp gives artists control over their store and their price. It gives independent artists a way to monetize a (relatively) small, but loyal fan base. Many artists don’t even set a minimum price (like the screenshot of Phoebe Bridgers’ album above – for which I paid $25) and allow fans to pay what they want or download it for free (in exchange for an email – a model that also works well for Noisetrade).

Bandcamp gives fans format options in their downloads ranging from VO and 320kbps mp3s all the way up to FLAC and Apple Lossless files. Audiophiles can really only find such high quality downloads on Bandcamp. iTunes does not have a FLAC option. Pono you say? Is that a weird triangular object in your pocket or are you just happy to have gotten your wewe out of that pencil sharpener?

However, Bandcamp has not (yet) entered the streaming realm.

Bandcamp can create the new streaming model for independent musicians.

Sure, their download model is working, for now, but downloads are on their way out. They should approach streaming with the same philosophy as they approach downloads: let fans pay if they want. Don’t make them.

They don’t need to ever end their download store (as audiophiles will always like to get their hands on FLAC files), but have the download store in addition to a new streaming service.

Currently, every album on Bandcamp can be streamed for free. However, the app and website are not setup to offer a cohesive streaming experience. The streaming is meant to encourage a download.

Bandcamp should create a streaming services similar to Spotify. Every album they currently have available on the service can be easily searchable on the streaming app and a Bandcamp radio service could be setup similar to Pandora or Spotify radio, but will, of course, only play independent music. True music lovers will be happy to discover independent artists to support.

After every 4 streams of the same artist, a box could pop open asking that listener to support the artist.

A “would you like to support this artist” box with a name your price option would convert many more fans into paying customers than all the other streaming services combined.

Bandcamp Streaming could offer a My Music library with albums and tracks which fans can save. Curated playlists could thrive on Bandcamp like they do on Spotify.

Once a fan pays an artist something, anything, they are never asked again (but of course a donation box will always remain on the artist’s streaming page in case the fan would like to pay more).

This would offer independent artists AND LABELS a much better way to monetize their streaming catalogs than every other streaming service out there. Artists could train their fans to stream their albums on Bandcamp (and not Spotify, Beats, or any other service). Of course, artists would leave their music on Spotify, Beats, YouTube and the rest for discovery (like Bandcamp artists all have their albums available on iTunes).

 Why Withholding Music From Spotify Only Hurts You

This new model can save the music industry. The majors will continue to look out for their best interests and continue to pay their artists as little as possible. Tech and music can work together. Harmoniously. It just has to be approached in this light.

Ask your fans to pay you. Don’t make them. And they will. Happily.

* A previous version of this article stated that no self-distributing artist can sign up with Harry Fox Agency to collect mechanical royalties. I have since been notified by Harry Fox Agency that self-distributing artists can enter their information into an HFA database to collect mechanical royalties (at no commission). But, it is highly recommended that self-distributing artists signup for a third party publishing admin company like Songtrust, Tunecore Publishing or CD Baby Pro to collect these mechanical royalties from HFA in the US and other collections agencies worldwide.

Photo is a screenshot of Phoebe Bridgers Bandcamp page. One of my new favorite albums.

74 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “streaming is the future”

    Absolutely — if you own a streaming service. But it is worthless for artists.

    • Confused

      Hang on a second, Ari.

      Didn’t you just tell us that Band Page was going to save the music industry with ‘experiences’?

        • Confused

          Ya, I know they are different. That’s what I was pointing out. One week Ari says that company X will save the industry and musicians, the next week he says it will be Company Y. Eventually, Ari will have named every single company in the music tech space as the “Savior” of the industry.

          I guess that way he will eventually be right. 😉

          But it reduces his credibility (what’s left of it) to come out with proclamations like he does all the time. He seems like a guy who falls for whatever everyone says is ‘the next big thing’.

    • Tony

      It’s better to ride the wave and help affect change than get swept up in it. This industry will never learn..

      • Anonymous

        Wave? What wave? 🙂

        You don’t make money from audio-only streaming as an artist. On the contrary, you sell less.

    • cwf+rtb=wtf

      “pay what you want” worked out so well for radiohead and nine inch nails that they have released all of their subsequent albums using this highly effective model… oh, wait… nevermind…

  2. Anonymous

    Interesting idea. With a little luck it might become as successful as TuneHunter’s Discovery Moment Monetization.

  3. BT

    This artist is quite interesting but you lost my interest very quickly with all of the terrible links with yellow hands and massive out-of-place quotes. How do you expect anyone to actually read the article with all this crap in the way?

  4. TuneHunter

    Not a chance!
    We need NEW FAIR USE ACT to finish advertising based digital middle ages.

  5. David

    Once again, DMN makes allegations about the major labels and Spotify which are speculative and defamatory.

    Once again, I point out that if these allegations are true, then Spotify itself is telling lies to artists and the public. See in particular the section headed ‘Royalties in Detail’ in the following: Spotify’s own description of the royalty system is inconsistent with any major difference in treatment between major labels and independents or self-released artists. I am quite willing to believe that the major labels are cheating and Spotify is lying, but I would want better evidence than tittle-tattle to prove it.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Once again, I point out that if these allegations are true, then Spotify itself is telling lies to artists and the public.

      Telling lies? That’s strong language.

      Strongly massaging elements of truth? That’s more like it.

      • David

        Knowingly making false statements is telling lies. I would allow Spotify, or anyone else, a little wiggle-room for simplification in a document of this kind, but what is at issue is not a minor detail but fundamental to the purpose of the document itself. The main aim of the document is to reassure artists that they are being fairly treated, at least by Spotify, so if in fact there are major differences of treatment for different categories of artist, then the document slips over the borderline from simplification to deliberate dishonesty.

  6. Tony Gottlieb

    Sorry if this has already been said but, the $.0084/per play (in today’s dollars) is one hell of a long way from the “Three Plays for a Quarter” we used to pay in a 1960’s jukebox.

    Even the thugs who operated the machines then, without paying anybody, would be embarrassed by the ROI.

    • hippydog

      Thats where your comment does make sense..
      Those jukeboxes ONLY paid the owner.. so it was a payout of zero..

      NOW the payout from venues and restaurants etc is starting to become a significant portion of an artists earnings..

      Quote ” $.0084/per play”

      and how much do artists make from terrestrial radio..
      Canada pays out more then the US, but I suspect its payout isnt much more then that..

      • TuneHunter

        Hey hippy dog,
        Finally someone gave you example how stupid labels are and how nerdy business you buddy Ek is operating!

        Then he can be a $2-3B music store in six months if the industry changes the business model!

        • hippydog

          “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

  7. Anonymous

    Bandcamp is simply the best because the artists can have total control of their releases.

  8. Jeremy

    The statement of not one streaming service being profitable is false. I’ll let you go back and read your own DMN articles as a source of some smaller but profitable ones.

    And maybe one day artists will wake up and read between the lines. This article is really about one thing, labels and PROs ripping off artists. When you and every artist shift their focus to who is actually robbing them and stop criticizing and pointing fingers at Spotify and Pandora, I’ll know there is a glimmer of hope.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      The statement of not one streaming service being profitable is false. I’ll let you go back and read your own DMN articles as a source of some smaller but profitable ones.

      Examples of these diamonds in the rough of profitability?

      Actually, let’s not forget that there’s a streaming service that isn’t really that small, and actually makes a profit: YouTube.

      • Jeremy

        I read that 8tracks was profitable right on this very website. And mixcloud is profitable as well and has never taken outside investment. I’m sure there are others.

      • Anonymous

        “Actually, let’s not forget that there’s a streaming service that isn’t really that small, and actually makes a profit: YouTube”

        You have to start distinguishing between full and crippled streaming (music video vs. audio-only).

        The full kind will be even more successful than it is already when it finds its form. The crippled kind is dead.

        • Anonymous

          While we’re at it — the YouTube alternative the industry is longing for may be known as…


          It’s in Beta, but do check it out.

          (And nope, I don’t have anything to do with it.)

    • GGG

      I think it’s really just how the math works out, but it is skewed for majors/bigger artists. My statements for smaller indie acts have payouts ranging from .001 to fractions over .01. So let’s say DIYs, indies, etc DO avg out lower, at only .003-.005. Most of these bands aren’t even getting over 1K plays a song. So even though there is a ton of them, the volume of streams isn’t proportionally high. Meanwhile, major artists are getting hundreds of millions of spins at most likely higher payouts due to stake in Spotify. So if there’s 2 or 3 higher yield major artist spins to 1 DIY/indie lower yield spin, the average is still going to be higher.

      So I think it’s misleading in that DIY/indie acts aren’t averaging .006, but it’s not misleading in that it may every well be the avg across the service.

  9. Sonic Rip-Pin

    It’s the companies that are to blame they keep way to much money from the artist’s for doing nothing making profits off of others hard work some call it capitalism ,bit it is really thievery and stronger /aww need to be put in place for the artists. They deserve to be paid no different than a layer or a doctor or a policeman that provide a service . These companies are killing today’s music for this generation. Don’t stand for it people the time for real change is now!!!!

    • Music lover

      My best advice to you and all indie artist is to start you own web site and sell your music on your own . Cut the head of the snake off it has some initial costs but in the long run its worth it than you can’t get ripped off and you can advertise for yourself cause god knows places like I tunes ext. Don’t lift a finger to help artists they just steal all of the artists money. They or the real scum bags here REALLY . Break free of the machine musicians today than they will be on the out side looking in and loss all the free money they steal from hard working artist’s like yourself.

      • Save the music

        You guys are right its time to stop the thieves and get control of your music Your hard work NO one has the right to take money for nothing they don’t even advertise for indie artists they just take a cut for selling your music when the truth is good music sells its self. Support Indie artist’s pay them for what they do!!!!!!

  10. Anonymous

    Sorry, I don’t see them touching these types of rights or services with a ten foot pole.

  11. Verify Your Humanity

    Bandcamp lets you know the buyers’ emails. That’s a huge deal.

  12. Jamie


    hey dude, I am still reading your posts. Never happened before. You are the DIY musician’s man on the scene for sure. I got one question tho.

    You’re recommending in this post Bandcamp and dissing Spotify because they aren’t paying out what they “should” to the artist.

    But wasn’t it just a few months ago I was reading a post from you where you were shouting about how great Spotify is, quoting the amazing amount of money they have in the till to pay out to us artists, and no one else is paying that much, and get on Spotify because they are the best?

    Is that what’s going to happen with Bandcamp?

    Here’s my hit: only if they get big. In the USofA it works like this, companies like Bandcamp (read ex-Spotify here also) are the “little guy’s” friend as long as the company is a startup or small. The moment they get big enough to get bought, the policies and performance of the company will change.

    Because then they’re owned by the big guys, and as you so eloquently point out, the big guys don’t care about the little guys. They care about the bottom line. My hit is ALL companies want to be big enough to perform that way. If they say they don’t – it’s spin.

    Keep up the great research you’re doing, I’m reading it!!

    Jamie St Clair
    (country folk album you helped me with earlier this year We Will Abide)

  13. hippydog

    its too bad Bandcamp doesnt do the video thing..

  14. Ezequiel

    If Bandcamp is working staying independent, I say make an Independent streaming service that keeps labels out, so people start listening to only independent artists, and labels slowly fade away. If you want a signed artist song, torrent it.
    Don’t save the music industry, set it on fire, and start from scratch.

    • Jake Sully


      Burn the music industry to the ground and watch as other industires, venture capatalists, tech and telecom companies, the rich and other people and entities step in and save it, propping it up, to allow it to continue on like nothing ever happened.

      Yall ain’t bringing down the music industry or hollywood, it cannot happen, even if you succeed.


  15. Culture

    Are independent artists forced to have their music available on streaming sites like Spotify (excluding radio streaming sites like Pandora, etc…) ? If not then I don’t understand what all the complaining is about, just sell your music directly on your site case closed. If you’re signed to a major then your beef is with the label not Spotify

  16. cmonbro

    Real question Ari,

    Why do you think you are supposed to make money in music? Just because you make it? Because you have 1000 True Fans?

    This cottage industry of “the little guys” decrying everyone robbing them will never change the paradigm because their are superstars making millions. You don’t “deserve” to make a ton of money or even a livable wage of music just because you spend time doing it.

    That’s not the way this game works. It’s like the 6th man on the bench at the Rucker complaining that he isn’t making NBA Dollars because he can reverse dunk.

    Make music connect with your audience and be happy you can. If you are great, things will move forward and maybe someone will invest and you get bigger and maybe make some more money. Yes the labels are taking nice chunks out of Spotify and everything else but they also invest millions in breaking someone.

    The music industry is not a meritocracy. Never was never will be.

  17. Kevin Coral

    Yes, demean yourself further, musicians! Go hat in hand like a beggar with Kickstarter! Be like a crack whore and take whatever is offered you on Bandcamp! There! Now dontcha feel great?

  18. There is something...

    As much as I think that Bandcamp is a great service and artist friendly, the truth is that very few music listener use it. Casual listener will mostly never use it because you need to create a dedicated account and need PayPal too. iPhone users have already an iTunes account so why bother ? And I feel that Youtube service will somehow be tied to Android too (it doesn’t make sense not doing it).

  19. Jake Sully

    Save the music Industry? Really?

    This new model? Really?

    $25 bucks for a 5 song album? Really?

    First things first. Wow, $76 Milly, Arteests/Musos are bizzallin!!! What a shot in the arm of optimism I needed to keep at it!

    Hold up tho.

    Check it.

    $76 MIlly / 160,000 (artists selling something through bandcamp in a year as claimed by BC) = $475</b?

    Oops, forgot about the 15%! For arguments sake we will let the arteest take the $475, but, 15% of $75 MIlly is $11250000 for BandCamp.

    Now we are talking, I can work with that number. Time to roll up the sleeves and get coding and programming, fuck making music, that’s all bandcamps numbers tell me. Stick it to artists, make a killing, maybe make some music on the side after the day job of fleecing artists, that’s the new model.

    $475/year ain’t gonna cut it, and we know there are a tiny select few who actually ship tonnage, well in the instance of DIY Indie music, they push off the dock in more then a small rubber dingy that has duct tape covering a few holes that slowly leak, flimsy plastic paddle in hand, an old used fishing line tied to a stick they found on the beach in hand ready for the days catch.

    It works great for people in those little hipster circles who spread a few crumbs around to each-other or that recently out of high school or in university person who is out schmoozing it up with a lot of friends, friends who couldn’t really care about the music but who might toss a nickle in their hat all in hopes of latching on to someone rising to fame, so they can say hey I know that person when they are out trying to pick up some girl or boy, but the reality is for most people, its like standing on the meridian holding your hat out in hopes a person caught at a light sitting in their benz might toss a few pennies out the window into your hat. At least you don’t have to scrub their window for it.

    You musos want a great marketing tip? Go to a good D1 University, join a strong frat or sorority, schmooze it up all over the place, and booya, a solid core base of people who can help project you to the next level.

    Ari is playing the old Indie artist game, this is his marketing, this is his promo, he is fishing for sales and possible new fans, hoping maybe to make a mark on some industry insider who might be able to elevate him to a new level, at least i guess i guess.

    Also, I mean, wouldn’t a true DIY man be advertising and promoting Artists to create their own website? It’s so easy to do, who cares about BandCamp? Ari must have a friend or two at bandcamp.

    Sounds like another one of your tech buddies start-ups cashing in big ballin dollars off DIY arteests and musos trying just to give their music away any way possible, screaming me me look at me.

    There’s something fishy about all this stuff, all the time!

    Suddenly BandCamp and some new model is going to save some industry. Right.

    It’s no surprise, tech companies and telecoms are all over streaming like white on rice. If they can eliminate downloads etc. and meld the cloud to a monopolistic enterprise, then they will have full control over what enters and what exits, allowing them full rewrite of History at all times and full control over who does and does not rise to meteoric levels of awesomeness. Upload your Master to others servers and tow their lines to keep it there and have it played, else, recycle bin. Phone companies make a killing, tech companies and server owners make a killing, all my reasonable revenue streams, dry up like some river in the desert and sorry to say boys, there ain’t a cloud in the sky and monsoon season seems to have abated as we move into a drought which could last decades.

    Tech and telecom companies acting as a new age label media conglomerate, is a much more likely saving of an industry. But it isn’t WAR that will do it, it will be some boys in suits doing a few deals under the poker table as the turn card comes out and a subsequent lay down and shippage of a whole industry over to them, seamlessly like it never happened, all why every baby muso cuddles up with his elmo blanket at night sucking his thumbs in hopes he wakes up to a few good bandcamp stats that might boost his ego a bit to help give him reason to keep pursuing his dream of being the next Mcartney or whatever it is they dream about.

    Time to get out the hoe boys and figure out some new farming techniques, looks like the fertilizer isn’t doing its job anymore.

    One of the leading british musos just recently crossed $10k in BC sales, with a ton of albums, a ton of promotion and a ton of ground work, playing and building fans since the 90’s, writing blogs and other things.

    An excerpt from buddies site.

    Still, 10 grand from one sales platform at a time when ‘no-one pays for music anymore’… what does that mean?

    I guess for some of you, your reaction is ‘only 10 grand?? I thought you were LOADED!’, in which case, you perhaps need to take with a pinch of salt the over-inflated claims of success of some other musicians pretending to be making millions. ‘Fake It To Make It’ has long been the received wisdom of music promo, but we’re kind of beyond that now. Apart from anything else, it makes it very difficult to build honest friendships with the people who dig your music if you’ve been lying to them for years about how massively successful you are… it’s be a bit weird for anyone who thought we were making £100K a year to see where we live 🙂

    Ugh, every day and minute and second I spend dicking around with this ridiculous industry is further years off my life, the desire to quit and never look back is stronger then ever. The desire to get some balling tech startup and make music as a hobby on the side when the time, energy and money is there, is stronger everyday.

  20. Jake Sully

    Since I shut down my twitters and facebooks et all for good, not that i’ve even used them ever really, anyways, going to use this to say something to someone, one of my fans maybe, who knows what she is.

    Look, if i knew i could reel in a fish like you B, i would have reeled in another female fish for you to play with, and then bludgeoned you both to death, fileted you, cooked you over an open flame and enjoyed a nutritious and mineral filled meal.

    Why would i release a fish like that?

    That being said, some things just aren’t meant to be.

    Who knows what the future will bring. Wanna send me an autographed picture? I’ll send you one back, but neither of us seem to be coming out of our pockets to support each other…

    Thanks for the platform boys.


  21. Jake Sully

    Now excuse me as I go flip burgers, at least people who need burgers made to sell to their customers, are paying people to flip burgers.


  22. ja

    this article is all wrong. it is actually the worst time in history to be an independent, which is essentially what 99% of us must be starting out. self promotion on a sustainable level no longer exists on the sites you mentioned, both because it is prohibited and users are just not interested anymore in being solicited online by an artist they don’t already know from big promotion (read majors). until the conundrum of independent promotion is solved again, mark my words, you will not see an independent success story in many years to come for anything that has yet to get out of the gate in the last half decade.

    • GGG

      It’s not the outlets’ faults. It’s that everyone and their mother is now an “artist.” You can get decent to incredible promotion for varying ranges of money that you couldn’t get even 10 years ago. You can literally reach the entire world after uploading a song. You can’t possibly complain about promotional tools.

      Obviously the more you pay the better off you are (in theory) so there is something to be said about money still talking. But the issue is still clutter. While I’d never say there’s too much music in the philosophical sense, there’s certainly too much music in the sense of getting anyone to look at an article of you, let alone listen to a few songs.

    • Ari Herstand

      Well, quite a few (new/young) DIY artists are thriving on YouTube. Building massive fanbases and touring to them all around the world (with no major label help). They are also monetizing this fanbase through Patreon. And selling massive amounts on iTunes, BandCamp, Loudr, their own merch store, etc. Take David Choi, Peter Hollens, Boyce Avenue, Mike Falzone, Tyler Ward, Ron Pope, Madilyn Bailey, Chester See, Andrew Garcia, Julia Nunes, Pomplamoose, Ali Brustofski, Taryn Southern, Meghan Tonjes, to name just a few. All have built up their fanbases from scratch without the help of a label. All thanks to YouTube.

      SoundCloud also offers DIY artists the ability to build massive fanbases without label support. Pretty Lights is a perfect example of an artist who has shot up to stardom through SoundCloud (without a label)

      There thousands more who are working the ground game while utilizing the above services. Like I wrote in my BandPage article “Wild Child, who drew about 100-500 people a night on their last tour, doubled their net touring revenue by offering Experiences. Their manager said that another band he manages sold experiences on tour and it was the only way they could afford to stay on the road.”

      Artists need to get creative in how they build a loyal fanbase and then how they monetize it. It IS working. Many (clearly) just don’t realize it yet.

      • Anonymous

        Largely dream selling and totally useless without the back-stories.

        YouTube is also losing its luster, as you now see with the new superstar sean mendes posting to Vine now signed to Island, so the APP blowup is likely the next hotspot for these types of gimmicks. Covers as always. Usually there is some sort of set-up going on for most of these artists as well, some include label ins or family ties, others are trust funds etc.

        David Choi was signed to Warner etc. etc. in that soroity social site sharing crowd with Kina Grannis.

        Some others were at large influential D1 schools with very cliquey and connected sororities etc. etc. etc.

        Pretty Lights did not break due to SoundCloud, but i’m sure they would like to claim as such.

        Pomplamoose was/is all covers, they struggle/d gaining anything with their originals, even after blowing up as they did.

        I would also like to know how many of them were/are trust funders, cause that makes a massive difference.

        There is not one story of someone using these tools and breaking big without some back-story that contains either lots of money and/or lots of connections with some sort of set-up, made to look organic.

        A lot of them are from Cali too, a notoriously better jurisdiction to break big in music then most others and one that while is largely pay to play, seems to support a lot more then most places.

        It is definitely not working bro, but keep selling that dream!

        These very few stories of success, which all seem to be still grinding successes, don’t apply to about 99% of the people out there.

        Besides, who the fuck wants to float? Get creative just to afford to tour? I fly my man, really hard to do that in Music these days cause every motherfucker be trying to pull you down.

        Of course i’m not posting for a site sponsored by reverb nation etc. that needs to keep selling that dream, so i understand you are sort of towing some lines.


        • GGG

          And what was the percentage of success in 1954? 1964? 1974? 1984? 1994? 2004?

          You people talk like any asshole who decided to be in a band was living large and instantly successful prior to Spotify.

  23. DNog

    Did you ever think that your thinking could be completely backwards. Everyone says “how can we save the music industry? How can we get back to where artist were making a more than healthy living selling their art?” The music industry is an ever changing thing just like a growing artist. Maybe this is the way it was always supposed to be and the last fifty years or so we’re what was out of the norm. The artist got lucky because technology was in their favor. There is no “going back” or “saving” anything. You’re clawing at a door that you have no control opening and for all you know was never supposed to be there anyways. Adapt, evolve, or die artistically speaking.

  24. smg77

    Thank you for continuing to bring up that the labels are the bad guy in all of this…not the streaming services.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      That’s such a narrow view. If I do a deal with the mafia, is the resulting mess all the fault of the mafia?

      • Jamie

        Doing business with the mafia would be a very effective way of doing business. You would just need a small crowd of very big guys with baseball bats and guns standing at your back to make sure you didn’t get ripped off. Just like with the labels (anyone here who saw the film Searching for Sugar Man who thinks that label involved was an exception?).

  25. JayM

    All versions of streaming are troublesome for the artist, record company and the streaming company (still) at this point. Here’s the thing – for just a second, strip the “artistry” from this whole business and just simply think of it as a business, just leave your heart out of it if you are an artist for just a moment. The record business has always been a business that makes its money through the process of “duplication.” Somebody makes a (hopefully artistic and great sounding record) and is able to do so by utilizing the record companies capital. That capital is and has always been a financial “investment.” The record is then DUPLICATED and sold over and over. This is quite literally no different than creating a physical product like the “Ove Glove” and duplicating it and selling them over and over. For this examples purpose, if we all had a machine at home that we could make our own product on, we would. And likewise if there was a service that allowed us to pay .0084 cents every time we wanted to take our cookies out of the oven, we might elect to do that as well. – – Moving on – – Once expenses are paid for for that artists album (overhead) – each album or single sold from then on is the profit. (This all barring the fact that the label uses additional profits from the bigger artists to pay for the 20% of artists that did not sell past their initial capital investment.) For the label, this has always been the way that they make their money up until 360 deals showed up within the last 10 years which were built to capture revenue being produced by touring and promotional activities because record sales were so far down.

    The bottom line here is that a record companies core competency is NOT tech, it is general business and most of all Marketing. Once the product is duplicated – all there is left to do is market it.

    In the mid 90’s technology caught up with their business model and no amount of marketing was going to change the fact that simply duplicating a record and selling it over and over was going to bring in enormous profit as it had done in the past. The reason that record companies want stock in these streaming companies is because they are being REACTIVE rather than PROACTIVE which is pretty much the worst thing you could do in business right? Way prior to iTunes they have been trying to protect this model. Its obvious that somehow we HAVE to find the right pricing structure for what would be constituted as “ownership” of a song or record when this no longer exists and is not desired by the consumer.

    Here is where the streaming numbers get troublesome for me. – When iTunes came out I would say both the artist and the listener were somewhat pleased with this pricing structure. Right now at $1.30 per song on iTunes / .0084 per play on Spotify – is 154 listens. This indicates that Spotify views ownership at 154 listens of a particular song. The problem with this is that this number is clearly ambiguous. It doesn’t make sense for the artist, spotify or the labels. What streaming services need to do is provide realistic streaming numbers (plays) that correlate to “ownership” in realistic terms. We already defined and accepted them once (on iTunes) they just need to be acceptable to all parties now within the streaming model.

    The problem with “Bandcamp” is that “donating” creates unrealistic, bloated numbers. I gets us even further away from the idea of keeping the business of creating and selling music viable. There is nothing to calculate, because none of it makes any realistic sense. There is absolutely no correlations that can be made.. And that is important. We all need to be on the streaming bandwagon because this is how music will be distributed for the foreseeable future. What needs to happen is that the numbers need to be less ambiguous and everyone needs to work together to define those terms of ownership in a streaming world. Labels/Artists/Streaming services all need to become more savvy and stop fighting the future. The way its going now is that the label is going to bankrupt the streaming services keeping their own bottom line just above water, while passing none of that on to the artists. Its not working, thats clear..

    But donations arent the solution either.

  26. Cmonbro

    Real Question…

    Why the fuck don’t I get royalties from video games? I mean the gaming industry makes close to a billion dollars every major release, The songs within the games will be played ad infinitum YET… They are only gonna cut me a check once..


    Riddle me that!

    • Anonymous

      Every domesticated K9 on the planet is tugging on their pant legs for a belly rub, they call the shots and you take em or you fuck off.

      I’m surprised with the massive over-saturation they are still paying as much as they do.

    • GGG

      Same reason you don’t get paid for a film song every time someone puts a DVD in.

      • Cmonbro

        Shit you don’t get paid for any film played in US theaters because of some archaic law. But I get netflix royalties and cable royalties. In the era where most consoles are connected to the internet we should talk about this as an royalty opportunity..

        In game play and passive DVD watching are certainly not the same.

  27. Obie

    “What all of these startups have in common is they enable artists to ASK their fans to support their art. They don’t force them to.”

    The word you’re looking for is “charity”. You are advocating that artists beg for charity. And the answer is no, begging for charity will not save the music industry (or any other creative industry). Amanda Palmer is a shameless idiot. The only thing that could possibly save the music industry is enforceable property rights. Failing that, we’re fucked.

    • Anonymous

      oh but IP is evil, music is free for the people, share share share, right?

      Seems to me the local real estate market while at least 20% over valued right now in my jurisdiction, still clicks along, no one brings it down or applies illegal or unfair market practices and not only that, the prices and rents stay sky high and do not adjust according to the reality of where the market is and where the prices are mostly trading at.

      So we know people can prop things up if need be.

      Why is it that real estate markets are high and stable and don’t get attacked and why is it that IP and Copyrights are getting pummeled?

      GDP! The higher the real estate market the stronger the GDP, the better the economy etc.

      But most Copyrights don’t boost the GDP like that, however huge tech companies and telecoms and servers etc. utilizing those copyrights illegally and freely, boosts their businesses bottom line and others, which has a greater net positive to the GDP then copyrights as usual seems to.

      Thus any sort of legal action will be slow, and if it does occur, likely to be really greasy so as to leverage around enough to keep the money moving for those big boys.

  28. Anthony A

    Streaming revenue on YouTube are low because they have to offset the cost of hosting, encoding, streaming billions of “cat videos” with their earnings from monetizing premium channels. Pandora, Spotify, etc are low because banner and audio CPMs don’t pay nearly the revenue video ads do.

    Solution = move video distribution and monetization in house with services like Playwire, JWPlayer, and others. Zoe Keating reported YouTube CPMs of $.64 – leveraging an OVP’s and removing a few hands from the pot can yield artist $7-9 dollar CPMs in most english speaking countries. PS: mobile CPMs are double!

  29. Versus

    “What all of these startups have in common is they enable artists to ASK their fans to support their art. They don’t force them to.”

    This makes no sense. No one is forced to support an artist. However, if they want the art, they should pay for it. That’s not “force”; it’s called a living. The artist should not have to beg to be paid. If no one wants their work, that’s another matter; but if people want it, then they can pay for it, or do without out.

    Those who either give work away for free or treat payment as optional act of kindness by their “fans” are doing a disservice to all artists, including themselves. These are the equivalent of “scabs” who cross the strike line and accept the exploitative system.

    • steveh

      I agree with what you say.

      I am fed up with all these crappy “begging bowl” non-solutions for the woes of the music business.

      People are quite happy to pay fixed prices or gig tickets – why not also for albums?

      1. Music fan likes artist 2. Artist makes great album 3. Music fan buys album (digital or CD) 4. Therefore Artist is supported by Music fan. – WTF could be more simple than that?

      • Ari Herstand

        I understand the position. I’m an artist. Yes, I value art. But the fact of the matter is, the new generation of music consumers believe that music (and movies – and really anything on the internet) should be free. They don’t want to be forced to pay. However, if you ASK them, it’s being proven by Patreon, Kickstarter and Bandcamp, that the die-hards happily will to support the artists they love. Sure, sales will be less, but you can monetize this die-hard, loyal fanbase so much more (and longer).

        Or you can keep hoping and wishing that Spotify’s streaming rates will go up to a sustainable level for independent artists. Or that the internet would die and we could return to an era of solely physical sales…

        It’s not groveling. It’s not begging. I encourage you watch Amanda Palmer’s TED talk about the Art of Asking.

        • Anonymous

          and that’s why i take the stance i do.

          Stop being so passionate about free content and start getting passionate about free fucking rent and food and gas and toiletries and insurance etc. etc.

          Who the fuck gives a flying fuck about free music or movies, the dumbest stupidest thing around.

          Hey if there is a bunch of money to be made in making all my content free, then fine, free free free it is, but only if there is some sort of compensation somewhere, else its so stupid.

        • Anonymous

          “I encourage you watch Amanda Palmer’s TED talk about the Art of Asking.”

          Amanda Palmer’s “Art of Asking” = grovel, beg, rely on gimmicks, hold twitter auctions where you sell junk out of your closet to the dumbest subset of your fan base, do paid duets with amateurs, let fans draw on your tits at concerts etc.

          That’s your answer, Ari? Musicians should shamelessly debase themselves for spare change? What a joke.

        • steveh

          You didn’t answer my question Ari:- why are people OK to pay fixed price for gig tickets but not for albums?

          • Ari Herstand

            It’s where we’re at right now in our culture. The same question could be asked why are ticket prices to the movies fixed, but rentals/streaming is not?

            It’s what the consuming audience expects.

            Fans will support their favorite artists, you just have to give them ways that make sense to them. Forcing them to download audio files is clearly not what most fans want. So get creative. Sell experiences. Sell merch. Sell tickets. Get donations for content.

            Is it just the principle that rubs everyone so wrong? Music should be valued and at a set price? What if the amount of donations trump the amount the album would have made had it only been available for sale?

            Radiohead proved this. Amanda Palmer (via Kickstarter) proved this. Peter Hollens is proving this (via Patreon). Others are proving this every day. Call it groveling all you want, but these entities are striking it rich asking (not begging).

            We need a new mindset. It’s a new era. People ARE valuing art – but in the way that makes sense to them (not you).

          • steveh

            “Radiohead proved this.” Oh no they did not.

            The average price they gained from their “pay what you want” “In Rainbows” album was £2.00 ($3.00) per album.

            On the follow up “King of Limbs” Radiohead reverted to more regular album pricing.

            To quote wikipedia:- “The download of The King of Limbs is DRM-free. The MP3 download costs £6, US$9, or €7; the WAV download costs £9, US$14, or €11. Customers could also order a special “newspaper edition” of the album, released 9 May 2011, for £30, US$48 or €36 with the MP3 download, and £33, US$53 or €39 with the WAV download (shipping included). The “newspaper” edition contains “two 10-inch vinyl records in a special record sleeve, many large sheets of artwork, 625 tiny pieces of artwork, a compact disc, and a colour piece of oxo-degradable plastic package”.

            I guess you seriously blundered by using Radiohead as an example. They reverted to fixed album pricing! Admit it!

            In addition I read this:- “Two tracks not included on The King of Limbs but worked on during the same sessions, “Supercollider” and “The Butcher”, were released as a single for Record Store Day on 16 April 2011.”

            Why don’t you start supporting your local record store Ari?

            Your crappy propaganda that paying nothing for great recorded music is “what the consuming audience expects.” is just that:- propaganda. It ain’t anything like the whole truth. You are just playing a Goebbels game.

            You’re busted!

          • Ari Herstand

            “According to reports most fans chose to pay nothing to download the album. However, it still generated more money before it was physically released (on December 31) than the total money generated by sales of the band’s previous album, 2003’s ‘Hail To The Thief’.” – NME

            And I’ve read that the average price paid was $7 per download of those who paid… (yes about $3 if you average total downloads). Regardless, though, it doesn’t matter what the average price was. What matters is that it made more money than the previous release (which was actually released by a major record label with a huge marketing budget).

            Just because they went back to selling the album doesn’t make a difference. It was a new time (2007 versus 2011). They were a in a different place in their career. And technology had drastically shifted and evolved.

            That’s like exclaiming that CDs were never a sustainable model because a band releases a digital only album today when they released their previous album on CD.

            Artists must get creative and continue to innovate. It worked for Radiohead in 2007. It worked for Amanda Palmer in 2012. And it’s working for Peter Hollens (and thousands more) in 2014.

            It’s a new philosophy. Exact execution is constantly being worked out and evolving.

          • steveh

            No Ari

            If Radiohead went back after the experiment to conventional album pricing, and still sold large numbers of albums, it therefore completely disproves your point about “It’s what the consuming audience expects.”

            Did Radiohead receive a huge negative backlash for returning to fixed pricing? Not that I’m aware of.

            “We need a new mindset. It’s a new era.” – sure I’m not disputing this – but the snake oil you, Ari, are selling with your propaganda is unfortunately (for you) riddled with inconsistencies.

            You can use your humiliating begging bowl if you like. You can prostrate yourself like Artie Fufkin if you like.

            But it is not the only way and as far as albums are concerned there is still life in the old beast. Sales are down but not out.

            And the fact remains, if you truly believe in your music art, this is a very clean form of transaction:-

            1. Music fan likes artist
            2. Artist makes great album
            3. Music fan buys album (digital or CD)
            4. Therefore Artist is supported by Music fan.

  30. Amanda Jade Raymond

    It’s a nice idea but a lot of people like myself subscribe to a streaming music service because I really can’t afford to pay more then £10 a month on music and I am a huge music fan, I have heard of companys getting involved with streaming services trying to improve things.

  31. Hookjaw Brown

    The Vice President of Apple. who inked the deal with beats, said “Music is dead. iTunes released the fewest number of songs ever last year.” Course iTunes can be blamed for the demise of new music……..

  32. Music you

    For the life of me i cannot understand the thinking of, give your music away for free. There is no value in free & as a result you become undervalued as an artist. If i condition you as a potential fan of my music to get things for free, or to name your price, then i become a target of exploitation. Some people will say “No no” someone might buy a song for $30 or more or less. Yes they might & then you could end up with 100 buying it for 25 cents or even worse end up downloading it for free.

    Yes we are in troubled times with the industry players, but if your going to give stuff away for free or let them decide the price, or do stupid gimmicks “Covert begging” then you should just go & sign with a major because they will happily not value or pay you either.

    Artists should stay artists & deliver their goods & hopefully receive the payment for the long grueling hours of writing music.

  33. Trombone

    Let’s simplify everything. You put in a lot of hard work, resources, and money to create you album. It is a product like any other product in the marketplace. So . . . Sell it on Itunes or on your own web site by download or the actual CD, or use Amazon Create Space to sell the hardcopy album. Educate me. Why on earth do you need streaming at all? Why would anyone, except a totally ignorant person, just give away their music? Of course, the greedy corporations, will try to convince you that a product is worth nothing. But that is just an obvious ploy, a 6th grader can see through. I guess, for those who do not own your copyrights, you are perfect meat to scalp for the greedy record companies and streamers. OWN YOUR OWN COPYRIGHTS and be your own boss!!!!!