How bands get paid

This is a fascinating post from an indie band, via Techdirt, laying out how much they get paid for various purchases or listens across platforms. It’s worth a read. But since I took a little heat for my recent post/screed on Spotify and the record companies, I want to share a few highlights from an actual music creator:

If you decide to pay nothing, well, we get nothing, but at least you didn’t give money indirectly to major record labels, which seems to be the case with Spotify!!

And here’s Techdirt:

What really comes through from all of this is that, as has pretty much always been the case with all but a handful of top acts, musicians don’t make much money from selling music. At least, as an indie band, Uniform Motion actually does make some money from all of these methods. If it was a signed band, they’d almost certainly be making zilch on each play or sale, because the label would keep it until they “recouped,” which for nearly every signed act is approximately never.

However, it does drive home the need for ancillary revenue streams — such as performances. Performance revenue has issues too, but to make a living making music, it seems pretty clear that most acts need multiple revenue streams.

The main point I want to make here is that figuring out how to make sure artists can live a comfortable life is mostly divorced from how we actually paid for music in the late 20th century! The centralized record company model was a means for a tiny percentage of artists to make a whole ton of money. Pretty much nothing about that makes sense. Especially now since distribution costs roughly nothing.

There is then the separate question of how a whole class of musical artists should be compensated. We can have that discussion. But let’s start it out by remembering that the answer so far has mostly been they basically didn’t. So when I raise the possibility that maybe they don’t need to, it shouldn’t seem like a totally wild notion.

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