So this isn’t a post for musicians, it’s probably a blog giving a little insight into my life as an unsigned artist. What I’m going to write is simply my opinion as it stands at this current point in time.
First of all Taylor Swift did a cool thing going public with her opinion on the payments (or lack there of) for the first 3 months of Apple’s service. I’ve been following the events on other music blogs & via media outlets. The real power has probably come from the lack of support from labels both independent & major. In short for anyone that doesn’t know what’s happening – Apple are starting a streaming service next month, and wanted to give access to ALL of the music on the platform completely free for the first 3 months.
As an unsigned artist I’ve dodged and negotiated this mentality for many years. I’ve typically found it with “promoters”. I’ll not name any promoters, but here’s an example of what happens all too often.
I’m contacted to play an event that’s charging 5 – 15 per ticket. I’m asked for a price, the promoter tries to haggle me down & I stick to my price which is a set price and isn’t unreasonable at all. I’m constantly aware of the promoters overheads so I set my price accordingly, so as to make sure there’s a sufficient return for the promoter if the event does well enough. I promote the event, but I don’t see the promoter do any promotion. Then a week before the event I’ll get an email saying it’s not selling as well as they’d hoped at this point, though it’s still doing OK and they expect some walk in traffic. They would like to know would I consider dropping my fee to ensure I don’t disappoint the people who’ve already bought tickets. I get to the event, play the gig to a decent number of people (always around 50+ lately around 100+) and the promoter talks about how hard it is to work in this industry, how he/she doesn’t have a big budget and they didn’t turn over the amount of people they’d hoped. And, if they pay me the full amount they might not be able to continue doing their night which helps support music.
The above is a common occurrence. Even if it’s not as direct as that, it’s implied all the time. The answer is simple though. It’s not the musicians job to worry about your risks as a promoter. We provide a form of art and you as a promoter believe you can sell it. We charge a fee for our time and you run the event. The risk isn’t on us, we’ve already taken the risk of spending up to 10k on an album. It’s time we started making a return.
The same applies to Apple. If they want to start a business generating revenue from product that isn’t theirs, it should not be their decision to give away our music for 3 months for FREE. “They’re offering a platform”. I’ve heard this about Spotify.
Here’s an example of my payment from Spotify:
Spotify state that their average payment is 0.007 per play. Well I’ve received 0.001 and as I’ve looked into it, I’ve discovered quite a lot of unsigned artists have also. I know some other friends & musicians are doing fantastically well out of Spotify, receiving Millions of plays and they are getting the full royalty rate. The issue for me is the lack of consistency. Spotify state that they pay 70% of revenue to the rights holders, but there are a lot of people disputing this currently. I for one am not receiving the same rate as I have previously with a lesser volume of plays. The argument that they are offering a platform? Ok so I have 23k plays … my demographic says GB… Well that’s massively useful… whereabouts? Which county? Should I just spend 1 million on advertising to all of the UK or can you let me know which county in Ireland I should be visiting. Now in America I get the state… California … lol This isn’t useful for an independent artist. I can’t afford to advertise all over San Diego, San Fran, L.A etc…
Apple & Spotify are businesses:
If you want to start a business selling a product you need to invest in that product. If I sell T shirts, I need to buy the T shirts before I can sell them on. If I am ASDA, I need to buy in product before selling it on. Apple and Spotify are just the same – they are resellers. Why should it be the musician that takes the hit? Why should we take the risk? We’ve already taken the risk in investing in developing our music, which they see as ‘Product’. We’ve developed it, nurtured it, recorded it, mixed it, mastered it, sometimes scrapped it & started the whole process again.
I really advise people to buy from me directly whether that’s digital or physical. I don’t care about charts & I am a working musician. I go out, write songs, record them, sell albums and play gigs. I do this and gradually have built myself a starting career. I don’t think I’ve broken 1k on Itunes for sales & that’s fine. But if Itunes are streaming my music & giving it away for free, how can I as an artist compete with that?
We as artists need these revenues to justify being able to continue to work. There needs to be a revenue stream to enable us to keep creating music. I pay everyone that works for and with me via direct payment or royalty share. If there’s no royalty to share, but people are still listening to your music, how do I create more music? Obviously people (23 thousand worth of plays) were interested enough to listen to the Album. How can I continue to do so? How can I afford to spend thousands of pounds on releasing music if the avenues for getting that music out there offer exposure rather than payment. Let me tell you… my experience & exposure bank account is Full to the fucking brim!
I’m hearing people saying the Taylor swift thing was an Apple publicity stunt… It kinda doesn’t matter either way as long as they are no longer giving music away for FREE. If you’re at all interested in music, please support artists. I don’t mean LOCAL artists I mean ones you think are worth their salt.
Fair play Taylor, Well done Apple for wising up!