5 songs from To the Bone have now each had over 1 million streams on Spotify, with Pariah at over 2 million, while the album as a whole continues to rack up approximately 50,000 song streams every day. By Spotify standards these are actually still quite modest numbers, but they are increasing for me all the time. As someone who believes very much in music presented as a physical art-form I resisted making my albums available on streaming platforms until relatively recently, but my feelings have changed somewhat. There are a lot of arguments for and against streaming, but the reality is that for those of us who make and wants to share music that we believe in we need to acknowledge that there is now a whole generation of listeners for whom if the music is not on streaming services it simply does not exist.
There’s no simple answer to the issue of lost revenue to the musicians, but I believe that people who listen on streaming platforms fall in to roughly 3 categories: Firstly, those who never buy physical product and for whom if the music isn’t there they will never hear it at all – as many of these people still presumably go to see live music, discovering a new artist might mean instead they will buy a ticket to see the concert and perhaps a t-shirt while they are there. The second category is the people who use streaming to discover new music but subsequently buy the CD or vinyl if they like it enough (I would fall into this category). Finally there are the people who have bought a physical copy of the album and simply use streaming services as a way to conveniently access the music they already own. In none of these scenarios can I see how revenue is lost to the artist that would otherwise be made, except to say of course that if streaming didn’t exist the people who don’t buy physical product would have to buy it to hear music. But it does, and it’s not going to go away, so there doesn’t seem much point dwelling on that.
As a musician working in the current era I feel I have to recognise streaming as a convenient and flexible way for people to find music, because there is a vast amount of it available, more than at any other time in history (some might say too much). And anything that enables listeners to discover the magic of music has to be a positive thing. The brief “golden” era of the second half of the 20th century when a living could be made by selling physical recordings of music appears to be over, the rest will just be mourning that fact and manoeuvring for position while we move into the next era. I think it is important to respond to the undeniable shift towards “on demand” media and to fight against it is to fail to recognise it’s potential and ultimately to be left behind.
I’m sure these thoughts will provoke some hopefully constructive discussion, and I take the opportunity to thank all my listeners for their support no matter how they choose to listen!