Paddling through the streams
By Floco Torres
At the end of every year, numerous music, tech and business websites post analytics with their take on what’s coming next in the music industry, covering digital and physical album sales, the resurgence in consumers buying more vinyl records, and of course, streaming, the relentless behemoth that shifted the entire industry.
Music data firm BuzzAngle Music reported that album and song sales dropped 14.6 percent and 23.2 percent last year while audio streaming [Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, etc.] jumped up from 250 billion streams to 377 billion. Streaming isn’t a new phenomenon anymore, and yet there’s no consensus about whether it’s great for the industry or not. The complication for musicians and songwriters continues to be the relationship with streaming and how they can benefit from it.
Spotify and Apple Music are leading all services, according to Billboard.com, with Spotify clocking about 70 million subscribers in the US as of the end of October 2017 while Apple Music had somewhere around 20 million.
Those are huge numbers, but the amount an artist makes from one stream is small and the exact amount for a Spotify stream continues to be vague. The range is between $0.006 to about $0.008 per song play so after 1000 plays on a single song, an artist makes between $6 and $8. Apple Music is paying similar cuts ($0.00735 per song play), or $7.35 per 1000 plays.
For musicians and songwriters, the goal is to find a happy medium between catching attention and keeping it because the financial payoff isn’t immediate. That’s where Akron Alternative Pop artist LuvAbstract has achieved a bit of this success, focusing his attention on Spotify.
“When you’re starting out, you want to just be good at one thing,” he says. So he’s training his audience to focus on a single platform instead of having them visit multiple platforms to hear his music. It’s working, too. LuvAbstract currently has 27,324 monthly listeners on Spotify and his newest single, “Flower,” has racked up 29,000 streams in a month.
That’s because he releases singles rather than whole albums, which demands less of his fans’ time by asking for just one listen rather than nine to 12. This method also caters to Spotify’s algorithm, making it more likely to be added to popular playlists and being seen on a fan’s feed. LuvAbstract recognizes that a fan’s time can be as valuable to a musician as their money, especially when it means giving fans control over their experience with the music.
“I don’t think that me or a lot of artists can just demand 99 cents for a song, but everyone has three minutes in their car,” he says.
Every musician and songwriter has different goals for their career, but we all want to be seen and heard. Not everyone will have major success on every platform but maybe, by learning the industry through its streaming platforms, we’ll create more moments with listeners rather than having to constantly advertise for someone to give us a chance. After a fan discovers new music, streaming should lead to more engagement outside of these major services where lifelong relationships can be built. It isn’t the definitive answer, but it’s the best-looking starting point for that journey.
Floco Torres does NOT have that many monthly Spotify listeners and recently cancelled his Apple Music subscription for TIDAL.