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Mike Wolz
English 10.1
Mr. Hackney
1 December 2014
Streaming: A Financial Burden for Musicians
A controversial issue that has been up for recent debate in the music business is the
listening platform known as streaming. Recently, Taylor Swift released a new album, and in
conjunction, she removed all of her music from Spotify, a music streaming service that lets
people listen to as much music as they want with no cost attached. Swift’s goal of removing her
music from Spotify was to drive up album sales, and essentially eliminate the people that just
stream her new album for free. Most people today will agree that music streaming is a useful and
enjoyable service, however there are arguments against it as well. With the removal of her music
from Spotify, the debate as to whether or not streaming is beneficial to artists has begun.
Although some argue that music streaming is beneficial to artists because it can help promote
their music and also make it widely available, streaming negatively affects artists because it is
free and there is no market for it, and in result, there is a decline in CD and download sales,
which financially hurts musicians.
Before music became digital, artists had to play shows in order to get a record deal, and
then release an album. However, in recent years with advances in technology, there has been a
shift where artists now record and release albums in order to land shows. The difference is that
before there was very little promotion done by artists, and now, promotion is key to getting
anywhere in the music business, especially booking shows. This is where the issue of streaming
comes into play. Streaming, although it is beneficial to promoting music, is not a tool worth

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using if an artist is trying to sell albums and book shows. A good number of musician’s goal is to
sell their albums and establish themselves to the point where they can comfortably support
themselves off of their music. If this is the case, streaming is not the way to go for establishing
yourself financially through music. In a breakdown of money, George Howard, a music business
professor at the Berklee College of Music, writes, “If it takes a thousand streams of a song to
make what the label grosses from the sale of one downloaded album, the decision to leave
Spotify is an obvious one.” In addition to streaming not benefiting artists financially, Howard
also includes a statistic about the music service iTunes, a digital music retailer that allows for
partial streaming of music and then leaves listeners the option to buy the music. Howard writes,
“When a label sells a download from iTunes, iTunes takes its cut, which is 30 percent of the list
price, and remits the rest to the label. The label then pays the artist typically $1.50 per song,
meaning on a 10 dollar list price, the artist makes about $1.50.” This is statistical proof that
spotify basically rips off musicians, and makes an immense profit off of their music.
Furthermore, there is no money to be made using spotify or streaming in general. Even though
Spotify may be a good way to promote music to a big audience, it is not the way to go in order to
make money in music.
Although streaming is not beneficial to a musician’s finances, it can provide exposure
which is beneficial, but the exposure needs to be channeled in the right direction. If streaming
brings exposure to an artist, it may attract people to attending live shows. Suzanne Vega, a
singer/songwriter, argues that streaming is only beneficial in a way in which it creates exposure.
Vega writes, “I applaud Taylor Swift's decision to pull her songs from Spotify. Artists should be
able to get better deals from streaming services to earn more in royalties. Right now no one can s
realistically expect to make a living off streaming their music. Where streaming might help is in

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attracting people to live shows, but that is so unquantifiable.” Basically, streaming is only
beneficial for the purpose of exposure. Vega also writes, “To earn a living and connect with fans,
bands, young and old, are going on tour.” Furthermore, the best way to make money in music is
by touring, not by using streaming services. In addition to Suzanne Vega, Casey Rae, a musician,
composer and vice president for policy and education at the Future of Music Coalition, presents
an argument that leans more in favor of streaming, however, he discusses a specific requirement
that needs to be met in order for streaming to be beneficial. Rae writes, “I have some
reservations about streaming, particularly how well it works for non-superstars. [T]he current
model seems to reward those operating at considerable scale — major labels that control the
most copyrights, or big name acts who get listened to a lot. Niche artists may fare less well in the
new regime, because they lack mass-market appeal.” Ultimately, Rae is explaining that
streaming is only beneficial to larger scale musicians - musicians that are very popular and
highly regarded in the industry - this is because they are what people want to hear, usually at no
cost. In result, streaming works well for these big name artists because there is enough demand
for their music to the point where streaming actually would benefit them financially.
Furthermore, streaming does not work to a musicians advantage if they are just the “average joe”
recording and releasing music, most people will not maintain enough interest in the music for it
to benefit the artist via streaming.
However, there is an argument to be made where streaming is seen as a good thing.
Olufunmilayo Arewa, a law professor at University of California Irvine, argues that businesses
that ignore customers through streaming do so at their own peril. Arewa writes, “Continued
engagement with streaming is the best way to ensure future revenue streams for artists. The
choice for many musicians today is between streaming revenues or unauthorized uses that pay

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nothing.Ultimately, Arewa is arguing that streaming is the best long term tool for ensuring
revenue, because, without streaming the music is used when unauthorized and then the artist
makes nothing at all. Although Arewa’s argument presents persuasive information on how
streaming can benefit artists, I still maintain that streaming is only beneficial for exposure, and
not for selling albums.
Overall, music streaming can be beneficial, but not financially. Musicians everywhere
should make an effort to get on the road and sell albums and other merchandise in order to make
a living. Streaming is only good for the purpose of exposure, and Taylor Swift made a strong
example of how not using streaming services will drive up album sales for financial benefit.

Works Cited
Vega, Suzanne, et al. “Is Streaming Good for Musicians?” The New York Times. New York
Times, 6 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.