Things changed a while ago
While we all know about the changing landscape in CD sales with the onset of streaming, the disparity in number of streams and actual payment, there's a lot that goes on under the hood that make it challenging for artists to get paid their dues.
Streaming services and record labels can be seen as biased towards artists or genres that they believe will guarantee them financial revenue. After all, there have to be some metrics to guarantee a good return on investment - and unfortunately that is hard to prove with artists who are targeted at a specific audience without trying to play to the gallery of the many.
Streaming services often argue that exposure on their playlists will garner more user plays and hence more revenue for the artist and label.
Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
The way I understand it is that streaming services don't have a fixed revenue per month, but rely solely on user registration. This amount is then divided into administrative fees, the streaming service's investments and then payments to record labels or distributors. The distributor takes a cut and passes on the royalty to the artist, who gets only a fraction of a cent for months and months of hard work.
Understanding Copyright Law
As artist you have a right to receive one of several kinds of royalties that are in fact not paid out to you, simply because they are not legally required to unless you ask them to. Streaming services often hire third parties to handle payouts, which ends up being a very meticulous process, and often because of bad data mapping of song to royalty artists do not get the money they are due. More on this at Audiam.
My opinions on reading literature on the current state of the music industry, looking at videos online and working in the industry has taught me a few things:
- People tend to play a blame game. Don't blame the streaming service, record label or industry
- Artists should take agency on finding out exactly what your rights are and where your money should come from
- Avoid relying on middle men who take cuts and make money off you when you don't need them to.
- Music streaming services should strive harder to give more agency to artists and funnel effort into new artist discovery
- Record labels should understand this changing model and accommodate infrastructure that ensures equal pay for equal work