Apple Music and Spotify are two of the most popular streaming sites with more than 30 million users on both services. This essay will include discussion of the pros and cons of streaming but most importantly whether streaming sites are fair to their artists.
Apple Music offers users a free 3 months trial when they first sign up. After that, users will pay £10 a month or £15 for the family plan (which allows you to have up to 6 accounts). Apple music has a huge library with around 30 million songs in its large music catalogue (Note Burner, 2016). Apple Music also offers lyrics directly in the app which is useful for a lot of people if they want to be able to accurately sing-a-long to a song (L, 2017). Personally, as an Apple Music user, I find this beneficial when trying to learn new songs, it saves me having to go on to my browser and find a site that might not be accurate.
Apple Music also offers a feature called Beats 1 Radio. It is a human-run feature (hosted by Radio 1’s Zain Lowe) which plays a mixture of songs. It is a useful feature for those who don’t know what they want to listen to. (Note Burner, 2016)
Some artists have special deals with Apple Music. This means that they will get exclusivity for a few weeks to certain albums. For example, Chance the Rappers recent album was released on Apple Music exclusively for 2 weeks after they offered him $500,000. (Singleton, 2017)
On the flip side, Apple Music doesn’t offer a free / Advert supported tier like Spotify. This means you only have the option to pay for apple music (after the 3-month free trial has ended) (Note Burner, 2016) . There is also no option to access Apple music on the web browser (like you can with Spotify) (L, 2017). This may be seen as a downside to some people if they don’t have a device that can access Apple Music at the required time.
Spotify does offer a free tier which is funded by adverts after so many songs. This is beneficial to some users who may not be able to afford the monthly subscription but want to be able to listen to music whenever they want. Spotify does also offer a web version which is available to paying subscribers and also non-paying subscribers.
Spotify also offers an option to listen to music when not connected to the internet. The only downside to this is that you have to remember to set your playlist to offline mode which means that it downloads the playlist (L, 2017).
While doing some peer research I found out they like the fact that you can see what your friends are listening to currently. This could give people the opportunity to find new artists and also find things in common with their friends. They also like the fact that you can see other people’s playlists and the fact that you are able to save them to your library.
Spotify has a feature in which they will suggest songs based on your listening habits. This will include similar artists, songs and also genre. Spotify also offers a student discount which is £4.99 a month. This may entice students to go towards Spotify instead of apple music and it is significantly cheaper for them.
Spotify has limited access to song lyrics and they are available through an external plugin and not direct. They also give you facts to go along with the songs. A few of the people in the peer group that I spoke to said that the major issue with this is that you can’t specify between lyrics and facts. Sometimes you will have a fact showing when you want to see the lyrics. This would then make people use lyrics from other sites and not actually in the app.
Some people said that the downside to the free tier is that you can’t use it freely. You are limited to how many skips you can have in one session and you have to listen to adverts every few songs.
There is a thought that smaller artists suffer on streaming sites compared to those that are signed with big labels and are popular, successful artists. In most cases, this is true due to the fact that Spotify and Apple Music pay out less per stream to them than signed artists (see figure 1). On Spotify and Apple Music you have to listen to a song for 30 seconds before the artist can get any money.
Due to this a lot of artists shorten the intros to their songs meaning the singing will typically start straight away. An article written for The Guardian suggests that Spotify and other streaming sites have killed the intro. This is due to the 30 second payment barrier. Artists fight to get the listeners past this 30 second barrier so they will get paid. Intros have gotten as short as 5 seconds now or just non-existent (Haynes, 2017)
For example, Sam Smith’s new song ‘ Too Good At Goodbyes’ doesn’t have an intro and he starts to sing straight away (Smith, 2017). Whereas, ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ by the Arctic Monkeys has an intro that lasts around 25 seconds (Monkeys, 2005).
There are many artists that are opposed to having their music on streaming sites. One of those people was Prince. Prince’s music wasn’t available on any streaming sites except Tidal. Tidal is a streaming platform that was started by Jay-Z and is the first artist-owned streaming service. It allows them to control their music on the site and also the money they make (Macro, 2015).
Prince pulled his music from mainstreams companies like Spotify, in an attempt to protest against its free tier and to help support artists rights. When prince passed away, only 18 months after his music had been pulled, his back catalogue was back up on Spotify and Apple Music because of his estate. Prince was famous for his artistic control in the distribution of his music so it’s deemed as ironic that now he’s passed away it’s being controlled for him (Wang, 2017).
This caused conflict between his estate and Tidal, as tidal were claiming it was a breach of contract and the estate had no right to sell his music (Grow, 2017).
Another artist that has an on and off relationship with streaming sites is Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift said that music streaming sites didn’t pay her enough for her art and so, therefore, she pulled her music. She, similarly to Prince, didn’t like the fact that people could listen to her music on the free tier. (Engel, 2014)
An article from Business Insider states:
Everybody’s complaining about how music sales are shrinking, but nobody’s changing the way they’re doing things. They keep running towards streaming, which is, for the most part, what has been shrinking the numbers of paid album sales. (Engel, 2014)
When Apple music first launched Taylor Swift kept her most recent album (at the time), 1989, off the streaming site due to the fact she didn’t agree with artists not being paid royalties during the 3 month free trial that Apple offered. ‘1989’ sold 1.29 million copies in its first week despite not being available on streaming sites. She finally made it available to stream after it had sold 10 million copies. (Lynch, 2017).
More recently, she decided to keep her newest album, Reputation, off streaming services for the first few weeks in order to promote CD sales (Hall, 2017).
Music 4.0 raises some interesting points about consumers and the way streams would affect them and the artists.
Streaming becomes the dominant music distribution method as consumers discover that being able to listen to a library of millions of songs anytime and anywhere is much more cost effective than buying it (Owsinski, p. 239)
Owsinski suggests that consumers like to stick with the easiest options, at one point that was buying music and CD’s, but now It’s easier to just stream them from wherever you are. It also allows consumers to have access to a massive catalogue (also known as a Celestial Jukebox – being able to access a massive range of music) whenever they please.
Owsinski also suggests that there are two different types of streams. A Non-Interactive Stream and an Interactive Stream.
A Non-Interactive stream is the likes of Pandora. It is a platform that acts like a radio station. The pay-out for this type of service is roughly; 50% for the owner of the copyright (which could be the record label or the artist if they produce their own stuff), 45% to the featured artist and then 5% to the unions that represent the musicians on the recording. (Owsinski, p. 292)
Interactive streams, on the other hand, are like Spotify. If you’re signed to a label the money is paid directly to them first and then you are paid based on your agreement. If you are not with a label the money will be collected by an aggregator. (Owsinski, p. 293)
With the introduction of streams, the sale of CD’s and digital downloads has rapidly declined (see figure 2).
As figure 2 shows between 2016-2017, there has been an $800 million increase in the money generated from streams alone. Around the same amount of growth can be seen between 2015-2016 too. Digital Downloads in 2016-2017 had a $200 million decrease due to the ease and popularity of streaming. Physical CD sales between 2016-2017 had not changed but before that, they slowly declined with the introduction of streaming and digital downloads.
There are many pros and cons to digital downloads, streaming and Cd’s (see figure 3) but it is proven that most people tend to stick with the easier option.
In conclusion, I neither agree or disagree with the question posed. Streaming services have been good developments for artists and consumers, due to the fact that they allow consumers to access a large amount of music wherever they are, but they also cause smaller artists to suffer. Smaller artists get paid significantly less by the streaming services and it also tends to be harder for them to be found.