Spotify & Co: Fluch oder Segen? Heute mit Bowerbirds.

As a personal user, I like the ease of Spotify, and being able to access all that music at once, from anywhere. However, as a musican who knows how Spotify works, and how poorly it pays to artists, I kind of feel bad listening to bands through Spotify, and I try to buy any record that I listen to several times. I am hoping that Spotify will change its practices and pay artists more fairly, because I don’t think many people realize how poorly Spotify pays artists, and I think they would like the artists whose music they love to get paid for when they listen to their songs.

Our band doesn’t really make any money from Spotify, and I have read that album sales overall for music in general have halved in the last five years, because of services like Spotify or illegal downloading. It’s been really hard for our band do ever do much better than breaking even from our music, even though we are full time musicians and tour extensively. The lower album sales overall these days make it harder for any artist to make a living, but it’s especially hard for independent artists who write songs that are not deemed especially “radio friendly” or “corporate TV commercial friendly,” or whose sound fits perfectly into the current zeitgeist according to the critics, to make any money off their music.

I know that in some countries, like Canada and Denmark, artists can get grants from the government, which make a huge difference. We’ve met up on tours in Europe with bands from Canada traveling with five people in the band and making good money on tours where they are getting paid half what we make in our guarantees, while we are losing money on virtually all our European tours.

A lot of people these days don’t feel like they should have to spend money on music.Tours do not make money for us anymore, now that people buy fewer records. We used to make pretty good money at the merch table, and now that is harder to do. We will play a city where five years ago 20 people came out to see us, and now 600 do, but we sell the same amount of merch that we did back then. A lot of people these days don’t feel like they should have to spend money on music. It’s also a tough economy overall, which is part of the problem. I’m not sure whether Spotify will work out to actually benefit artists in the long term, but it really needs to change how artists are paid. I think people want to know that artists they love are getting paid when people are listening to their music. I think Spotify needs to be restructured so that artists get paid more per song. Even if it’s helping spread the word about a band, that might just mean more people will come to your show, but if tours don’t make money, that doesn’t really mean much for the sustainability of an artist’s career. And with services like Spotify letting you hear whatever music you want, at any time, the whole idea of live music is not as much of a novelty. It used to be that, when I was in high school, for instance, I would buy at least one record a week, and I would pay good money for that record. I would also go out to see a lot of shows, because the only music I had access to at home was either the music I had bought, the mix tapes my friends had made me, or the corporate radio. That was obviously a long time ago, but it meant that music was more special to me than maybe it is to a lot of young people today.

If nothing changes in how people get their music, or if we can’t as music listeners find a way to ensure that artists can make a living doing what they do, then we will see the loss of many awesome bands, and our culture as a whole will suffer.

The only artists left standing will either be people with some outside source of money, like an inheritance or a husband, or bands whose songs would go great in a Toyota commercial or who would want to sell their songs to that commercial, because licensing seems to be the only way to really make money from music these days. But licensing is very hard to come by, and some bands have political stances that preclude their licensing a song for a commercial or certain types of film or television.

Right now, the music industry is in transition, and bands are having to figure out how to get by in this changing world. There is sort of a tipping point, above which an artist can survive, but getting to that point is largely dependent on the whims of the journalists and critics writing for publications and blogs. And if the critics decide the type of music you write is not trendy enough this year, you might have a really hard time getting enough people to hear your new album, and you won’t get to the tipping point of the number of listeners that mean financial solvency as a band.

Our band, Bowerbirds, actually just decided to set up a Kickstarter page to raise money to record our new album and side project ourselves, in a studio we are setting up in a house we’ve been building. The project will allow us to keep expenses really low, so that we will be able to afford to hopefully continue to tour and release music. This will give our real fans the opportunity to support us directly, if they are so inclined. And we have created a lot of prizes for people giving to our new album project, besides just the new music itself. Hopefully our project will get fully funded, and then we will have a little leeway to work on the music. But crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter will not make up for the lack of money we make off the sales of our records. Something needs to change in the overall way artists are getting paid, if we want to be able to see our favorite musicians be able to do more than lose money or break even on their creative pursuits.

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[lightgrey_box]Dies ist der fünfte Teil einer kleinen Reihe, in der ich Musiker zu ihrer Sicht der Dinge befrage. Ob es sich dabei um einen ausführlicher Artikel, eine kurzes Statement, ein Audiofile, ein Video oder gar einen Song handelt – das Format und die Länge sind nebensächlich, die Meinung nicht. Warum ich das mache? Ich finde es wichtig, das wir alle über die Auswirkungen des Streaming nachdenken, bevor es zu spät ist. Für wen oder was auch immer. [/lightgrey_box]


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