“With the rise of Napster and the decline of compact discs, music industry revenues were essentially in free fall from 2004 through 2015. The rise of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music are largely responsible for the industry’s sharp spike in revenue in the past few years. Yet while streaming has been a plum deal for music executives, it turns out that it’s hard for artists to make a living from streaming: the average artist makes around 1/10 of a cent per listen, according to some estimates. As a result, it’s possible to be both very popular and barely scraping by. Even after members of Grizzly Bear became indie favorites, with millions of streams on Spotify, sold-out concerts, and licensing deals with major brands, the band’s members still struggled to pay rent. And viral stars who gain notoriety from posting original music on Youtube and TikTok rarely see success after the hype has faded.
“This is because music superstars actually make most of their money from paid promotions, advertisements, and TV appearances, while less-famous artists fill the gaps in their finances with side gigs. In the music industry, then, artists have to commercialize quickly, or resign themselves to financial struggle. This severely narrows the range of musicians who can afford to make music, especially if they want to go against the grain. Is there an alternative? Interestingly, a small but determined group of artists, inspired by cooperative principles, started a site that avoids all the ills of corporate streaming giants’ platforms.”
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