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Wider reach for artistes through streaming but lower royalty

09 Apr 2021 / 15:31 H.

PETALING JAYA: While streaming music through Spotify and Apple Music gives artistes a wider reach, it is not financially lucrative for them in the long term.

Artistes are paid royalty every time their songs are played but the rates are minimal. Nonetheless, it has caught on with consumers due to the wider choices and lower cost, and perhaps the convenience.

With more than 200 million active users worldwide, Spotify leads the pack in the music streaming business.

By 2019, it had more than 100 million paid subscribers in the United States alone. Collectively, they contributed 80% to music revenue in the country.

While this growth has changed the music industry, streaming platforms have often been criticised for failing to pay artistes their dues.

Income from streaming alone does not come close to a living wage for a majority of musicians. The situation has been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has halted all “live” performances, which have always been the primary source of income for most artistes.

The Malaysian Artistes Association (Karyawan) told theSun that the sale of CDs and cassettes is far more profitable for artistes.

Karyawan president Datuk Freddie Fenandez said, as a result, international artistes such as Taylor Swift have removed their songs from Spotify. “The payment structure is not worth it.”

According to Digital Music News, Spotify has been steadily increasing its royalty payments, and in 2020 its per-play rate was between 0.003 and 0.005 US cents.

Fernandez said the industry does not seem to be as profitable now as it was when music came in CDs and cassettes.

Yasmeen Zainal, chief executive officer of SVLTAN Management, an artiste management company, said there are some advantages in streaming. “For instance, it helps artistes reach their listeners easily.”

She pointed out that Spotify also enables smaller local artistes to penetrate both the local and international markets.

“Younger artistes are able to do well based on their Spotify engagement, and how they push themselves on such platforms,” Yasmeen added.

Nonetheless, artistes are now getting a smaller piece of the music sales pie compared to when CDs and vinyl records were the mainstay.

“For that, I think Taylor Swift’s push for a larger payout for artistes is commendable,” she said.

All the same, Yasmeen said artistes should be flexible and not rely solely on streaming. “That will be demotivating in the long run.”

Marketing also plays a major role in determining how much an artiste earns through the medium he chooses, according to singer-songwriters Zee Avi, Brendan De Cruz and Az Samad.

“Artistes must know exactly who their listeners are, and platforms such as Spotify are helpful since it breaks down listener data such as where they come from, their age, gender and more,” Zee said.

Brendan added that it takes more than just uploading on Spotify to earn from streams.

“Other factors, such as audience reach and quality of the music video, are also in play,” he added.

All three agree that there is more to be made from sales of physical albums and performances compared with digital sales.

Zee said listening to songs on streaming platforms does help artistes but listeners can also purchase albums, both physical and digital versions, to support artistes.

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