Drop those music links: The Ugly Side of Music Streaming

Divine Thought
5 min readJan 27, 2023

The dark reality of streaming services

The music industry has a dark side that many do not want to discuss — greed. It’s the reason why record labels dominate and independent artists struggle to make a living, why streaming services give fractions of pennies to the independent artists whose music they make millions off of collectively, and why most musicians rely on live performances rather than their recordings to make money. According to a report by the RIAA, only 20% of artists earn more than $50k per year from streaming services. The rest barely break even or lose money when you factor in royalties and other expenses like travel costs or studio time.

Chances are if you’re an artist with a Twitter account, you’ve seen the various tweets from bots saying “I need new music” or ”drop those music links.” Put aside the fact that it’s normalizing humans obeying AI, look under those tweets and see the desperation from independent artists who have no real understanding of the music business or how it operates. It’s disturbing to see well-meaning souls searching relentlessly yet aimlessly for shortcuts to be noticed.

Artists have to do better. There are only three major labels left:

  • Universal Music Group
  • Sony Music
  • Warner Music Group

Even artists that desire to remain independent are being hindered by these labels. With this current streaming model, the executives at these labels will continue to make the most money in the music business. All the big streaming services are major label owned and major label backed. When you upload your music, they’re the ones making the lion's share of profit from the material you create. The artists want the attention so badly, they don’t seem to mind how small the payout is. The ones that do get frustrated by it get drowned out by all the proverbial noise.

Streaming services need to restructure everything to better benefit the independent artists that keep them alive

If you took a poll, most people would consider themselves an artist of some kind these days. They record music, make it available on all major platforms, and then promote it all over social media. All while getting paid basically nothing for the music they create or for the traffic they generate for these companies. Streaming services need a complete overhaul to better benefit independent artists as they are the lifeblood of their existence. The first step is paying artists more. Streaming companies should be forced to be more transparent about why they pay artists and songwriters so little.

Currently, there is no way for consumers to know how much these streaming services are making off exploiting independent artists’ music without paying them fairly. What is clear is they only pay fractions of pennies per stream. If you want to know what’s going on behind closed doors at Spotify or Apple Music, you can’t because they’ll never tell you — even though it might affect your favorite artists’ careers as much as yours!

The music industry needs new ideas or it won’t survive in a world where streaming is killing revenue

The music industry is in trouble. Streaming is killing sales, and the old ways of making money are disappearing.

The industry needs new ideas — ideas that will keep artists getting paid and help them find new audiences, while also keeping the entire process profitable so they can continue to fund what we love about music: its evolution as an art form that can speak to every generation and every person in its own unique way. If we don’t address it, we might start losing more generations of great talent who can’t make ends meet making a career out of their craft. The drastic changes in how music is consumed are hurting artists more than ever before. While streaming services are great for consumers, they’re not so great for those who make their living from selling their music: the artists themselves.

In other words, we need to figure out how to keep the music industry alive in a way that’s sustainable for everyone involved.

The problem with the current model of streaming has nothing to do with technology — it’s that there’s no way for artists to make money from their work on platforms like Spotify or Apple Music (and other services). These companies pay out fractions of pennies per stream; artists need more than that if they want to earn a living through their artistry alone without having to tour constantly or get part-time jobs at Walmart while they’re trying to write songs during off hours between shifts!

You need to be proactive in promoting your music

If you want to make a living as a musician, you can’t just sit back and wait for people to discover your music. You need to be proactive in promoting your releases and building up a following on social media and other online platforms. This takes time, effort, and often money. It’s important to not fall for scams in the process. Most companies that claim they help artists promote do little to nothing tangible for artists. They instead make money off of their desire to get their music and content in front of a larger audience. Artists no longer need some of the money wasters of the past like managers in the current industry landscape. Everything a manager can do, an artist can do for themselves now. However, knowledge and first-hand experience are necessary to be successful.

Build a strong relationship with your fans

Another important step to making a living as a musician in the age of streaming is to build a strong relationship with your fans. This means being active on social media, responding to comments and messages, and engaging with fans regularly. It also means offering them something unique that they can’t get from other artists, whether that’s exclusive content or access to behind-the-scenes footage.

Create a sustainable business model

Finally, it’s important to create a sustainable business model if you want to make a living doing what you love. This means thinking carefully about how you’re going to make money from your music and ensuring that you have multiple streams of income. For example, you could sell merchandise or offer VIP experiences at live shows. You could also license your music for use in commercials or films.

Conclusion

Making a living as a musician in the age of streaming can be more challenging than rewarding. On one hand, there are more opportunities than ever to reach a global audience but fewer ways to make a sustainable income from your music. It’s not easy to stand out in the crowded streaming landscape, as a result so many artists compromise their creative vision.

If you’re serious about making a living as a musician, it’s important to find the right platform for your music, build a strong relationship with your fans, and create a sustainable business model. With hard work and dedication, you can at least give yourself a fighting chance to succeed and turn a profit.

It’s clear that streaming is the future, but it’s also clear that it’s not going to be easy for any musician to make a living off of it.

Until next time, I said my piece!

-Divine Thought

Follow me on Twitter @DivineThoughtTM

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Divine Thought

Artist / Creative / Content Creator Host of #ForAllMatters podcast I'm not a Democrat or a Republican - IT'S A 1 PARTY SYSTEM!