The news that music sales are are down is hardly new or shocking. CD sales have been in an unstoppable downward spiral ever since the early aughts, when a succession of digital revolutions irrevocably changed the way we consume recorded music.
What is perhaps more surprising is that digital download sales are also down. The very revolution that jump-started the slow death of physical sales is now also suffering the same fate. The rise of streaming services – the new digital revolution – has lead to the decline and inevitable obsolescence of digital downloads.
On the bright side, streaming seems to be the service that will finally put an end to illegal downloads, which have long been the bane of the music industry. Streaming services are a legitimately viable alternative, which an increasing number of consumers are finding preferable to illegal downloading, mainly because it is much less hassle and grants you unlimited access to all the music your heart desires for a modest monthly fee.
This is good news right?
Streaming services have put much stock in their rising supremacy. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has stated flat out that streaming will save the music industry: a bold claim by any stretch.
But who is actually benefitting?
Many established artists have made no secret of their dislike of streaming services. It is an age old problem: the lion’s share of revenue goes to rich corporations whilst the amounts that trickle down to the artists are ridiculously low.
The concept is simple. You log into the Eternify website, choose an artist and an album and press play. Eternify does the rest.
Eternify took the internet by storm during the last weekend of June, but was swiftly taken down by Spotify on the basis that it violated its terms of service.
The app generated revenue by endlessly repeating 30-second loops of the chosen artist’s songs. 30 seconds is the minimum duration which Spotify considers a “listen” and which generates revenue for an artist. Eternify could also be operated simultaneously in multiple browser windows whilst muting the audio, thereby maximising revenue potential without even needing to actually listen to the songs.
In a way, this seems counter-intuitive and much akin to cheating.
But there is also the other side of the coin: the unsavoury reality of just how little artists actually make from streaming. According to Eternify, one play generates a mere $0.005 for artists.
The Taylor Swifts and Jay Zs of this world need not worry, but what about the others? The ridiculousness of the amounts paid out to artists by streaming services is really shameful, especially considering that if it weren’t for artists there wouldn’t be a music industry in the first place.
As the creators of Eternify aptly put it, the current music industry is “deeply dependent on free labour”. Isn’t this much the same as corporations who get rich off products manufactured in third world sweatshops?
Let’s hope that Eternify will at least serve to really open a discussion about fairer distribution of income.