In order to generate $1000 by selling CDs, I would have to sell 67 copies at $15 each.
In order to generate $1000 from Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Apple Music, iHeartRadio, Alexa, Prime, etc, I would need 250,000 streams. YES, that many streams! Even the most dedicated fan couldn't give me that many streams.
Right now, the average number of streams I get in one month from all digital platforms combined is 3155 for all eleven albums I have released.
That's $1.15 per album per month. In that case, to cover the $4200 I’ve spent making my three newest albums through streams alone, I would recover the cost of making them in when I am 148 years old.
Yes, 148 years old.
If you stream my song online, I get .004 cents.
If you buy my song for $1 from my Bandcamp shop, I get 90 cents.
That’s a HUGE difference!
And I can’t continue to do the work I do if my fans stop buying music.
Why does it matter what I am paid (or not paid) through streaming services?
The way most of us listen to and receive music has fundamentally changed.
Alexas, Dots, and Nests play music for us throughout our homes or we create Spotify or Pandora playlists and play them through our phones on a bluetooth speaker. YouTube chooses music for us based on a keyword or a video we’ve watched and plays it through our laptops, tablets, or TVs.
Many of us no longer have CD players in our laptops, homes, or cars. Remember Walkmans and Discmans? Not many of us take a run with one of those strapped to our waists anymore.
The truth is most of us get our music directly or indirectly through some kind of subscription service and with each person’s monthly subscription being split between hundreds of millions of songs, each artist gets an average of .004 cents per stream. That works out OK (though not great) for already very famous or even moderately famous folks who still get paid handsomely by this system. After all, 3 million streams will pay a mega-star $12,000.
But 3155 streams in a month will pay an indy artist like me $12.62.
That is, in fact, what I make total in one month from all eleven albums I have on all streaming services right now.
If the folks who know and love my music stop buying music directly from me, I won’t be able to continue this work.
My work can not survive in a streaming subscription world.
Even if I am able to tour again next year, I have already seen in the short tour I’ve done and online sales for new work a precipitous fall in CD sales at concerts and in general. Why don’t people buy them anymore? Because they already have a subscription to a streaming service or pod service and will listen to the music there. This has been corroborated by the experience of my fellow performers. CD sales used to account for one-third of my of my touring income. If that income disappears, I will no longer be able to tour because performance fees (the money I make for playing a concert, but also traveling to the show, etc) continue to be below minimum wage and underfunded.
So, I come to you for help and support!
This is not a criticism of you or me or anyone for using streaming platforms, pods, or apps. They are the way things work for many of us now, but we need to make this system fair for artists.
This year I’ve created three records. And just before lockdown I released “Homecoming Queen.” Normally when I’m on tour, I can expect to sell at least 300 copies of a new CD in the first year. That’s not profit to me, but it contributes to covering the cost of making the record. Then on future tours in future years, I slowly start to turn a profit on the various recording projects – that in turn gets me started on making the next record.
In 2020, and even before that (because of UK work permit wrangling), that cycle was broken for me. Because I could not tour during various lockdowns in the UK and bans on folks traveling from the UK to the USA, I sold 45 copies of my November 2019 release “Homecoming Queen.” These sales just covered the cost of printing the original pressing of 200 CDs. So, my work on the album, the software, hardware, and production fees have never been recouped. But I felt hesitant to launch a funding campaign when folks were coping with the onset of the pandemic, so I stayed mum.
But during lockdown, I’ve continued to write – thankfully. I have been prolific and creating new work has literally been my world during covid. But having played a small tour in the UK and having talked to other artists, I have realized just how firmly the pandemic pushed people further into finding their music online and on devices.
I can no longer remain silent about this new economic brick wall I’m facing along with so many other artists. The biggest thing that needs to happen is a change in the royalties artists are paid for streams. Mega-stars (remember they are earning far less they did in the days of real CD sales, too), unions, and collectives are all working on that. I am speaking out about it now.
In the meantime, there’s a simple old-fashioned solution: You can buy my music the old-fashioned way. You can buy a CD, You can buy a digital download OR you can tip me to show your solidarity in my fight to be paid fairly. Keep in mind that I am still not getting paid for making the work at this point, but I will at least recoup my expenses.
As I said, once I recoup the cost of these projects, I will release them to all streaming platforms and you can listen to my new music in the new way, too.
I haven’t written about my new song projects at all here because you can hear samples of them on my Bandcamp site where they are all available for sale. You can read descriptions of them. You can read all of the lyrics as well. I am very proud of them. They are thoughtful, they push my music forward creatively, they were extremely important to me when my industry was shut down by the pandemic. They are:
A Body Is a Delicate House:
A New Studio Album
I Fell Into the Fire: A collection of single-mic recordings and songs made through correspondence
The Wondarium: Songs For Kids
No matter what music I’ve made in the past two years, what music I make in the next two years, or which is your favorite album I’ve ever made, I hope you will support me on principle.
I hope you will stand with me.
If you listen to music online, on a phone, tablet, or pod, then think of this as correcting the balance between large corporations and jobbing musicians. If you would have bought a ticket to one of my concerts, if you would have bought a CD had I been able to come to your town, or if you would treat me to a cup of tea and a piece of cake if you saw me in person, then you can do the equivalent of that by buying my work.
Buy my music from me and move the needle on the dial in favor of this artist and my work.