By Anna Tabet |
I love music. And as the normal(ish) person I am, when I love something, I want to be able to access it whenever I need to. Music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and SoundCloud allow people to listen to music wherever they are, which is great. However, as consumers, that’s about as much information about streaming services that we often have, and we’re fine with it.
But how did this rapid technological shift affect people pursuing a musical career?
While music streaming services undeniably widened artists’ reach to various audiences, they’ve also allowed virtually anyone to become a musician. This ease of accessibility created such a grand volume of budding artists that it’s difficult for those who are truly successful and knowledgeable to separate themselves from people like 13-year-old Billy that decided he wanted to become a rapper 10 minutes ago.
Although I may love the art of music, I have no perspective on the topic of attempting to enter the industry. So, I reached out to Victor Thompson, a long time friend of the family whose passion and talent drove him to to fully commit to music under the artist name Vace.
“It’s easier than ever for people these days to upload on SoundCloud,” Thompson said. “The music, because of this, is being oversaturated. It’s harder than ever to break through as an artist if you are a legitimate musician and someone who takes it seriously versus someone who illegally downloaded software and all of a sudden is producing and uploading music.”
Not only have these technological advances impacted the way certain artist break into the industry, but they have also placed an increased amount of pressure on artists to have large and interactive social media followings. Because of this, an artists’ ability to succeed is now primarily based on their Instagram follower count.
“With social media and everything to do with the internet being so accessible, people are wanting something more than just music now,” Thompson said. “Now more than ever, artists’ brand, their aesthetic, and what people are connecting to is more important than the music. It’s more than being a good songwriter or a good producer; it’s needing to have the full package.”
Although there are clear upsides and downsides to music streaming services, one blatant issue is that of payment. The current laws in place dictating the amount of money allocated for artists are based on physical product sales, such as CDs, records, etc. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but the last CD I bought was “21” by Adele when I was 11. I still love that album, but like many others, that’s not how I listen to music anymore. Because of the lack of structure in place for our main method of musical consumption, there are no direct guidelines for how much money is sent to artists from downloads on music streaming services.
Additionally, in order for streaming services to use music created by artists, they need to create a license with that artist and their label. However, the terms of agreement between labels and music streaming services are withheld from artists, preventing them from knowing how much money is being earned from their music on those platforms and sent to the label before even reaching them.
“As of late, major musicians are not banking on their music streams to make their money,” Vace said. “Twenty years ago selling a lot of hard copy CDs did get you a lot of money. But now, it’s more about appearances, tours and sponsorships.”
It’s important to note that The Music Modernization Act was put into place on October 11, 2018 in hopes of creating more defined laws to benefit many within the music industry. However, it may be awhile before this law can enact any real change.
Don’t get me wrong- I still recognize how revolutionary this technology is. However, as consumers, it often seems like our only role is to take what is given to us and move on. But in situations like these, it’s valuable to take a peek behind the curtain, even if it’s just to try and understand exactly how much influence consumers really have.
Special thanks to Sarah Killian for the wonderful insight on this issue, and go check out Vace’s incredible EP on spotify.
*Warning*: includes mature language and themes