Everyone in the music industry is caught between a rock and a hard place. Sales of physical albums are way down. Free pirated music downloads abound. The industry thought it had a great solution with Apple’s iTunes and the iTunes Store — music could be easily and rather inexpensively downloaded in a standardized virus-free format.
As Ben Sisario reports for the New York Times: “Like plenty of music fans, Sam Broe jumped at the chance to join Spotify two summers ago, and he hasn’t looked back. Spotify, which began streaming music in Sweden in 2008, lets users choose from millions of songs over the Internet free or by subscription, and is increasingly seen as representing the future of music consumption. Mr. Broe, a 26-year-old from Brooklyn, said that having all that music at his fingertips helped him trim his monthly music budget from $30 to the $10 fee he pays for Spotify’s premium service. A decade after Apple revolutionized the music world with its iTunes store, the music industry is undergoing another, even more radical, digital transformation as listeners begin to move from CDs and downloads to streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube. As purveyors of legally licensed music, they have been largely welcomed by an industry still buffeted by piracy. But as the companies behind these digital services swell into multibillion-dollar enterprises, the relative trickle of money that has made its way to artists is causing anxiety at every level of the business. Late last year, Zoe Keating, an independent musician from Northern California, provided an unusually detailed case in point. In voluminous spreadsheets posted to her Tumblr blog, she revealed the royalties she gets from various services, down to the ten-thousandth of a cent. Even for an under-the-radar artist like Ms. Keating, who describes her style as ‘avant cello,’ the numbers painted a stark picture of what it is like to be a working musician these days. After her songs had been played more than 1.5 million times on Pandora over six months, she earned $1,652.74. On Spotify, 131,000 plays last year netted just $547.71, or an average of 0.42 cent a play.”
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