Music streaming - pennies for my thoughts

The music industry has changed at a staggering rate over the last 10 years. We have never been at an age where music has been more accessible than it is today. This is both a brilliant and a tragic thing. Here’s why.

As a musician it is very useful to have instant access to almost any piece of music that has been ever written. In my lessons I can think of a piece of music that might be suitable for somebody to sing and right then and there, using my iPad (other tablets are available) type it into YouTube or Spotify and there it is, instantly. One more quick search will usually find the lyrics and chords (but it is advisable to check these first). 

Using platforms such as Spotify, it has been very easy to create playlists to share with your friends and family. The good old fashioned mix tape can now live on with the slushy and sentimental ‘we met to this song’, ‘we made out to this song’ or ‘you were made to this song’ selection. Just this morning I enjoyed running to a specially curated 180 bpm ‘Fast Pop Run’ to get my legs pumping on the treadmill. I recently heard of a family that created and shared a Spotify playlist of music that their recently deceased Grandmother used to love to play. What a lovely way to be remembered.

My musical knowledge has been afflicted by this accessibility. I have not grown up appreciating the art of the album. If I have heard a song that I like I will search for that one song and listen to it. That’s it. I don’t have to listen to what came before it or after it, or to the complete soundscape that it emerged from. I think that my musical appreciation and depth of knowledge might have suffered because of this.

Perhaps this ’single’ lifestyle might have attributed something towards the resurgence in vinyl. There is something very special about putting on a record. The theatrics of the artwork, the sound the case makes when you open it, the tension that builds as you carefully position the needle onto the grooves and after the initial crackle, wait for that magical introduction. It’s wonderful! And you can be safe in the knowledge that nobody will be harvesting your listening choices. You can play Lionel Richie as many times as you like and nobody will judge you. It won’t be carved into the vast data vaults that are quickly becoming the new oil. Your secret is safe with me.

We distribute our music online using TuneCore. At the time of our first release I did some reading about which service to use as there are many to choose from and this came out favourable from a few different sources. It distributes to all the online streaming platforms you know of and many more that you don't. It costs an initial fee of around £25 to post an album and then a £40 annual subscription to keep the album distributed thereafter. Once our Christmas album was released I was very excited to see the rewards of the online streaming. We had created quite a buzz on our social media and also at the many concerts that we had performed that month. I could hardly wait. Unfortunately that was all I could do as there is a two month wait for the data and funds to reach your account. But on the 23rd of February the day I had been waiting for finally arrived. I had found out that on Spotify in the UK our songs had been streamed 709 times! 709!! I was chuffed to bits. If you average each song at three minutes each then that’s 2,127 minutes or nearly 36 hours of continuous music! Then I rubbed my hands together as I read along to see what my reward for all of this music would be. Hours of hard work, love, tears, breakdowns….

It was… a grand total of…

pennies in a jar.jpg



Three whole English pounds.

That’s 0.42 pence per song. 

The analytics of TuneCore allow me to see that during that same month our music was heard in another 21 countries that used Spotify. I had to look up what some of the abbreviated letters were to find out which countries had listened to our music! This gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling of great satisfaction. This then took our staggering total to £3.73. Woah there. Let’s not rush to spend this all at once.

Most of our music revenue has come from selling our CDs at performances and also online but these are becoming rapidly extinct. Cars are no longer being made with them as standard. Computers don’t come with a built in CD drive. When was the last time you bought a CD? And even If you did what would you play it on? Your walkman?! Due to music streaming, artists are now having to come up with more creative ways to make money at their gigs. I was lucky enough to see Grant Sharkey perform and was mightily impressed at his candles that he had for sale on his merchandise table!

For our online distribution, the way to ensure we (the artists) receive the most money from your sale is to download the album from Bandcamp or from iTunes (we receive around £4.30 per album downloaded or 50p per track). At present I am delighted if our TuneCore balance stays cost neutral and allows us to keep our music streamed for years to come. Not costing us any money but equally not making any. This begs the question, what is the point? Maybe it is to let our songs resonate all over the world and into the halls of eternity. You can decide for yourself. In the meantime, we'll just keep doing our thing and hope that someone out there wants to listen to it!