Streaming: Have Music Royalties Gone Too far?

James Davies evaluates the validity of music streaming and royalties in the industry today, and asks: are they good for accessibility or are they just an excuse for big names to complain?

James Davies
23rd October 2017

There’s always a huge amount in the news about streaming services and how they ‘exploit’ artists and make the music industry un fair. Most notably was Taylor Swift removing all her music from Spotify and her open letter to Apple music. This really got me thinking about royalties and whether there’s any truth behind Taylor Swift’s accusations.

To be honest, I really don’t agree with them. For years and years, artists have been able to make millions of dollars simply by recording a basic song- Taylor Swift herself is worth near to $260 million. In fairness, it is far harder to make money from music these days. With the likes of Spotify paying very small amounts of money to artists, up and coming acts find it almost impossible to make a living and get a footing in the industry unless they’re somehow miraculously spotted by someone. However, it’s usually not these artists that speak out. It’s the ones such as Swift who make millions of dollars a year (sometimes upwards of $50-100 million) who speak out and complain.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way in which artists make money, almost resembling the situation with footballers. It seems ludicrous that celebrities like these can make so much when there’s people on £21,000 a year or even less when they work so much harder for their money.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way in which artists make money.

These artists use their position of power to exploit the industry. They make far too much money because they’re frankly greedy, as are the record labels in charge of them and it really is to do with the power they have.

Do we need to change the way we think about music royalties? True, everyone deserves to be paid, but does it really matter if these larger artists make a few million dollars less every year?

In all honesty, I think most people would agree with me. After Taylor Swift removed all her music, 1989 became the most pirated album of that month on Pirate Bay, but at the same time she sold around 3 million copies in the first week. Her album was £15 upon release so just attempt to imagine how much money she made from that. It’s not hard to understand why she’s worth so much.

After Taylor Swift removed all her music, 1989 became the most pirated album of that month.

In my opinion, we shouldn’t listen to these artists complaining in a changing music scene. Yes, it’s getting harder to make money from music but I believe that makes things fairer. It’s not right that they’re paid into the millions when there are people who work hard every day and make pennies in comparison, and yet these are the very people who choose to pay £15 for an album, funding these A-List lifestyles led by the musicians at the top.

Artists fundamentally are paid far too much for everything from singles to gigs. There’s enough greed in this world without artists constantly complaining about how much they’re paid and that they aren’t getting enough in royalties when they already get extortionate pay. So ultimately, music royalties are changing and it is much better for consumers like us. Maybe artists are paid less, but it makes things fairer.

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