Ever since the rise and dominance of streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, artists have been commenting on the lack of revenue they make from their music.
During the 2000s, songs were available for purchase from iTunes, costing between 99 cents to $1.29 per song or approximately $14 per album. Additionally, fans could purchase physical CDs, also costing approximately $14 for an album. The music and technology industries have drastically changed since then — but how has it affected an artist’s revenue stream?
Today, many people stream the music they listen to, mostly from platforms like Spotify or Apple Music. Both platforms incur a monthly subscription fee, with Spotify offering a free subscription with ads, a premium subscription with no ads for $9.99 a month or $5.99 a month with no ads for college students.
Apple Music offers similar subscription pricing, charging $9.99 a month for a regular subscription or $4.99 a month for college students, but it doesn't offer a free subscription option.
Music streaming subscriptions have become overwhelmingly popular over the years due to the ability to pay a small monthly fee to listen to any song or album at any time. Although their rise in popularity has greatly benefited music lovers, it seems to be negatively affecting the artists who are making the music we love.
Recently, Ye has made waves in the music industry by refusing to release his new album "Donda 2" on Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify or YouTube. Instead, he created a new music streaming and listening device called the Stem Player, which retails for $200. With this device, fans can listen to Ye’s new album in addition to isolating channels of a song and mixing music on the go.
In the past, multiple artists such as Ye, Beyoncé and Jay Z have spoken out about how little artists get paid for their music. In 2015, Jay Z created Tidal, a subscription music streaming service similar to Spotify and Apple Music.
The main downside was that fans could only stream music from the limited amount of artists who were a part of the service. Both Ye and Beyoncé, for example, released their respective albums “The Life of Pablo” and “Lemonade” solely on Tidal — though, eventually, they both added their albums on Spotify and Apple Music.
Ye’s recent announcement regarding the release of “Donda 2” has sparked conversation and brought discourse about artists' streaming revenue back to the forefront of music discussion. The question now is "what can we do to solve this problem?"
Spotify pays approximately 0.3 cents to 0.5 cents per stream. When looking at the numbers, it may seem like big artists are making millions of dollars in revenue from streams, according to Business Insider.
For example, Ariana Grande has approximately 1.75 billion streams on her song “7 rings,” equating to approximately $87.5 million. Although this number is extremely high, most of the revenue is given to the artist's record label, which then pays out a percentage to the artist. Ye stated that artists today only receive 12 percent of the revenue that the industry makes, lowering their personal income stream tremendously.
Although the amount of revenue an artist receives can be high, that observation is only taking big artists into consideration. Small artists who only receive approximately 100,000 streams per song are making little to no profit from the music they are creating.
No matter if an artist is big or small, they should be receiving a majority of the profits from the music they’re creating and performing.
The only way to solve this problem is from inside the music industry itself. The industry has been built to be a money-making machine for record labels, while artists get snubbed for the music they create. In order for artists to be fairly compensated for their work, record labels need to change their practices and enable artists to receive fair pay for their own artistry.