As you probably know, Taylor Swift has pulled her music from the streaming service Spotify, causing all kinds of headlines and apoplexy. ASCAP, of which I am a member, has already advised me to follow her lead and to stop, for god’s sake, giving my music away—putting it on YouTube, my website, etc. (And don’t even get them started on Pandora.) From others I’ve gotten the advice, Just get your songs out there and forget about the money (not, however, from my tax accountant). When I distribute my music through CDBaby, I can choose what sites and services I want to put it on. So far, I’ve done most of them, going ahead with free streaming but stopping short of free downloads.
Yesterday in the New York Times business section, Spotify’s chief executive talked of all the royalties the company—which sees itself as an alternative to piracy—pays, saying that a “top artist” like Swift might make more than $6 million a year; however, the company admits to going as low as “0.6 cents per stream.” I was pretty sure I had some that had gone even lower, so I checked my earnings page for Spotify. Here are the first few numbers under “Payable”: $0.01757333, $0.00040180, $0.02647063. Why they vary, I don’t know, but you get the idea—it takes a lot of streams to make the 90 cents I’d get from a download of a single.
I don’t know that we can climb out of a rabbit hole where music is so readily available—for free! However, I’m glad Swift has at least brought attention to the problem, telling Yahoo, “I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists and creators of this music.”
Postscript: I downloaded Spotify not long ago so I could check on my music there. I was horrified to see that not only were they offering songs I’d put on CDBaby but also a snippet from a rehearsal originally recorded on Garageband! This recording, which I’d called “Canals/Toxic” as shorthand for the two songs, had to have been grabbed from my iTunes library. I’ve checked my settings to make sure I’m not going public with such not-ready-for-prime-time material, but should you come across that “song,” consider it toxic.