Independent bands are normally cannon fodder for music streaming services, but what did you expect?
By Nick J Townsend
This article could potentially upset or anger many independent artists but hopefully will inspire. Many music services use the exact same tactics for growth; relying on the business model of encouraging those artists to do the donkey work of building up fresh engagement or interest for the new Golden Calf which will eventually shit on them. It’s rarely ever discussed, until now.
Let’s say you’re in a band that’s about to release a brand new song; the major digital distribution services will all offer you packages to get your tune onto as many online stores as possible such as Deezer, Amazon, Spotify, iTunes etc and then they’ll charge you a fee for sorting all that bollocks out for you. You’ll even come across some online stores that you’ll never have even heard of, so you’ll likely ignore those whilst funnelling your fans towards the more widely known ones (remember this for later).
You’ll instantly be launched on, say, over 200 online stores who have never heard of you before and probably never will. It’s not like going to a store in the real world where you may leisurely browse and discover a bargain or rarity.
No, unfortunately these stores feature the largest most popular artists on earth plus a billion unknown ones, so now imagine you’re pushed to the back of a shelf; a shelf that has 4 million other shelves in front of it. No one will find you by accident.
Streaming for dollars
Now, for legal reasons, let’s make up a name for a fictional streaming service. We’ll call it Snotify. You discover that every time someone streams your song on Snotify that your band will receive close to $0.003; which isn’t even a real coin.
All your band members could ask friends, family and the guy running the laptop repair shop to stream your tune. Now imagine your entire fan base is roughly 1,000 people who all listen to the song once; it’ll raise a whopping $3 for your band. Also, for some reason, the guy at the laptop repair shop really likes the tune because he somehow heard it 100 times.
Of course not all your friends and family etc will possess the Snotify App which allows them to stream your tune, especially if they’ve never heard of Snotify before; which now they have as you’ve successfully marketed an unknown music platform to 1,000 people. Wow, if only you weren’t a musician and worked at a music streaming service instead! Great job!
A free service that pays the artist?
You’re not making money fast are you? Well don’t panic as you’ve just noticed an advert for a new music streaming platform that gives the artist 100% pay out. Wow, imagine that? It’s called Shitubus. Only trouble is it looks like it’s on the dark web and it’s relatively unknown.
Example of promoting Shitubus
You: “Please download my single on Shitubus”
Consumer: “What’s shitubus Grandad?”
You: “It’s like Snotify”
Consumer: “I’ve not heard of it before but thank you for this promotional advertisement for a new place where I can download all my favourite Ed Sheeran songs….of course I’ll listen to your new single one day”
More free advertising?
Even if you discover a music platform that allows you to make maximum profit, the downside is that unless it’s as attractive, established and user-friendly as a major service, most people wouldn’t touch it with a 10ft barge pole with Amber Heard nailed to the end of it; especially if it’s a ballache to navigate.
However; if you sent 1,000 people to Shitubus then you’re at least attracting attention and raising awareness for the platform itself right? That’ll please someone in marketing as they only need 1,000 bands with as many followers to get a million hits.
“A million hits? Yikes; if we’re getting that many users then perhaps it’s time to rebrand Shitubus? Plus, offer a paid Platinum Gold Super service exclusive to bands with lots of cash? We can even ensure they appear on the main page above all the lesser known independent bands” - CEO of Shitubus.
The dilemma of playing The Game
You see, whether you use a small or large streaming service to sell your music, they’ll always make established or wealthier artists a priority because they’ve got more fans than you, and more clout which means more money. This is the game you’re playing.
It may sound stupid; but there is a simple answer - become a huge artist. There is a certain level of delusion from some independent bands who think that just because they release a song that they can go toe to toe with Metallica and make millions of dollars from doing very little work.
However if you write an incredible song and do some insane hard work making it well known and, as a result of that, a lot of people enjoy what you create, then you’ve saved yourself time attempting to sell a song by an unknown artist because you’re already in demand. Then you do it again and again. If you’re expecting a long career in the music industry then crying like a little bitch over $3 isn’t the solution.
The product (You) has to be craved for, in order for the public to crave it, and that means doing whatever it takes. Worrying about only making $3 a month from streaming is not as helpful as writing and recording a hit song that everyone wants a piece of, which should make you more money in the long run. Good luck.
An unsatisfactory conclusion
Oh, you think that was way too simple of an answer for such a complex issue? At least half of the artists out there on the current music circuit will split up in 2 or 3 years time; arguably because the songs aren’t cutting it or they’re fighting over dollars.
You can love or despise streaming services but they’re unlikely to change so maybe you need to change something? Perhaps if we all stopped using them that would help? After all you’re still promoting them for free with your music.
You know what sucks the most? You could get a million plays on a streaming service but you’ll never know who’s actually listening to your music …..but the streaming service will know; and they’ll send all your fans an email suggesting better artists to listen to. Great job.