Category Archives: independent music

How the Streaming Revolution Impacts Music Creators

When my generation was young, we might live in a shitty apartment, with crappy furniture (or no furniture), and an empty refrigerator (except for beer) with payday still 2 days away. BUT… we had a kickass stereo! Same for our cars– our cars might be a total piece of shit, worth $400 at most, but we’d have a $1000 stereo in it. We had our priorities straight. Rock on!

Today’s generation of young people might live in shitty apartment, with crappy (or no) furniture, and empty refrigerator, and be late on their rent payment. BUT… they have a brand new $650 Android or iPhone, with a $100 a month cellphone service so they can listen to music and movies on their phone. They’ve got their priorities straight. Rock on!

This new way of listening to music is called streaming, because the music is streamed from a company such as Spotify, Apple or Google through a cellphone provider such as Sprint, Verizon or ATT. (Of course, you can also stream music to a desktop or laptop computer, or a tablet.)

Streaming is different from downloading music. With downloading, you pay for the song (or album), and download it to your computer or phone, it stays there, and you own it. With streaming, you don’t buy the song, it doesn’t stay on your computer or phone, and you don’t own it. That’s ok for streaming enthusiasts; they don’t care about owning the song, as long as they can hear it whenever they want.

But I don’t need to tell you about the benefits of streaming from the music consumer point of view. Instead, I want to talk about how the streaming revolution affects the artists who create and perform the music, and those who pay to have the music recorded and promoted (which, for independent artists, is the artists themselves). Do the music creators get the same amount of revenue from streamed music as they get from paid downloads or CD sales?

I’ll use my own streaming revenue as an example. It’s no different than other artists, regardless of how big or small. I use CDBaby to distribute my CDs as well as for my digital distribution. I checked my CDBaby internal sales page recently, and this is what I saw:

streaming_payments

If I click on details in the right column, then I get the precise payment, down to a fraction of a penny. My most recent sales were all by Spotify, but here’s a few examples of recent payments, by various streaming companies:

streaming_company_payments

As you can see, the amounts vary significantly, but most of the payments for streaming one of my songs are a fraction of a penny!

Let’s do the math here: if we take a typical Spotify sale of $ .0020, it would take 24,500 streaming sales just to cover the CDBaby distribution charge of $49. And that’s not counting the recording costs. My most recent CD, the Total Flower Chaos CD, cost about $8000 to make (which is fairly low cost CD.) At .002 a stream, I would need 4 million streams just to break even!

Now, here’s what a download sale looks like on my CDBaby internal page:

download_payment

And here’s what a physical CD sale looks like on my CDBaby page:

phy_cd_payment

As you can see, I get about 300 times as that much for a download sale, and about 3000 times as much for a CD sale, than I get for a streaming sale.

So you can see that we have a problem here. If the trend continues, and everyone were to listen to music purely by streaming, then it will be impossible for music creators to ever cover the costs of recording their music, much less make a living at it. And if we can’t afford to record our music, then it won’t matter how convenient the streaming technology is for music listeners– there won’t be any new music to listen to.

Now of course, some people still buy CDs. I do. I personally don’t like earphones or headphones, and I enjoy the higher fidelity of listening to CDs on my kickass home stereo. But CD sales have declined by half from their peak 10 years ago. The trend is obvious.

So what can be done? I am not in favor of fighting new technology that makes listening to music more convenient for some music lovers. Instead, I say, let’s make it work for those who create the music and pay the recording, distribution and promotion expenses.

Let’s pause here to dispel the myth that music is “free” when you stream it. To stream music on your phone, you’ll need a cellphone plan that has enough “data.” For example, Verizon recommends their 12GB plan for “heavy music streamers.” That costs $80 a month plus taxes and fees. You can also spend more for more data– up to $110 a month not including taxes and fees. If you only used a cellphone for text and phone calls– like I do– you could get by with my plan from Consumer Cellular for $22.50 a month.

So streaming music isn’t really “free”, is it? You’re basically paying about $60 a month to stream music. But that $60 isn’t going to the artists. It’s the middlemen– the streaming companies and cellphone companies– that are getting all the money.

Let’s make the streaming revolution work for both the music listeners AND the music creators.

The problem is that there are laws that specify the minimum amount songwriters and music publishers must be paid for every physical recording sold, such as a vinyl record, cassette or CD. But these laws were written long before streaming– in 1909. To correct the problem, the Songwriter Equity Act has been introduced into Congress, to update the act for the modern age. Read about it here– and please contact your Congresspersonality:

http://www.ascap.com/about/legislation/songwriter-equity-act

The folks at the radio show “Art of the Song” are tackling the issue in a different way– they have started their own streaming service called the Standing O Project, where they pay artists half of all the streaming revenue! They call it “socially responsible streaming” or “fair trade streaming.” I have joined this project and encourage you to do the same. Check out this video to see how it works:

If you want to join, and help support my music, you can go here:

https://www.standingoproject.com/artist/rob-roper

Now, when you plug your $650 Android into your Piece-of-Shit $400 car with the kickass stereo system with a subwoofer, you’ll not only discover new music, but you’ll be helping musical artists cover our expenses. Rock on!

-Rob Roper, October 5, 2016

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Flower Killers and Poster Killers

I’m sad today.

I don’t enjoy going around and putting up posters and flyers for gigs. I doubt if anyone does. I’d much rather be home creating new music, or practicing, or, for that matter, watching a movie or reading a book. But until you’re big enough to hire your own publicity department or have a street team, you have to hit the streets yourself. Every band and singer-songwriter just starting out has to do it. So I’m not complaining. It’s like cleaning the house, you don’t like it but you have to do it.

This weekend is the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase. 200 bands playing various venues on S. Broadway in Denver. I have a gig the following weekend. So I figured that was the perfect place to advertise my show. Thousands of lovers of original independent music will be there.

A few months ago I paid a graphics artist to design to generic posters with a blank space where I can just fill in the specifics for each gig. So Wednesday night I got out my sharpies and made up several posters for my gig, then headed down to South Broadway and spent a couple hours putting them up in the showcase area.

Then Thursday night I went to down to the festival. However, I found that every single one of my posters had been torn down. Not a single one was up. They didn’t even last 24 hours.

Who tore them down?

The event organizers? Were they paranoid that I was competing with them? If so, they didn’t read the date on the poster. My gig is a week after the Showcase ends. And it seems laughable that they would feel threatened by little ol’ me. Afterall, I’m not big enough for them to invite me to perform at the Showcase (and probably justifiably so)–at least this year. So surely they wouldn’t they waste their time tearing down my posters. Would they?

Was it other bands or singer-songwriters? I hope not. Most of the folks I have met in the music community here have a cooperative and supportive attitude.

Was it the police? Perhaps there’s an ordinance against putting posters on light poles? If so, boy, they sure acted quick. When I’ve called the police to complain about the lack of enforcement of dangerous drivers running red lights, I’m told they don’t have the “resources” to enforce those laws. Perhaps posters on light poles is a higher law-enforcement priority than running red lights and other illegal activity that threatens public safety? I hope not.

Perhaps it was a random citizen who didn’t like my poster? Perhaps they thought my ugly face was defacing the beautiful dark green metal light pole? Art, of course, is subjective.

Or perhaps it was just someone has a lot of rage inside them, for whatever reasons–justified or not–who took out their anger by ripping down my posters?

I paid Kinko’s $1.50 each to print the posters that nobody will see. And I spent two hours of my life putting them up. So all that money and time is down the drain. But that’s not what bothers me the most.

The day before, I noticed that a flower was missing from my flower bed along the front sidewalk. Someone had ripped it right out the ground, roots and all. It was the only one of its type. I planted it last summer. At the beginning of this summer, it didn’t show much signs of life. I worried that it didn’t survive the winter. But then it produced one beautiful, yellow flower. It survived! Now it’s gone. What kind of person rips flowers up? Perhaps the same type of person who rips music posters down?

So I’m a little depressed today. I guess I’m overly sensitive. But it saddens me to know that there are people in the world who would rip a flower out of someone’s flower bed. And it saddens me to know that there are people who would rip down a poster for a struggling independent musician just trying to reach a few people with his music.

-Rob

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