My Dad has a saying, ‘Cornflakes taste better than principles’. What he means is, that faced with starvation, taking a meagre offering is better than dying of hunger with your principles.
Musicians are currently dealing with this dilemma in the new dawn of streamed music. Some say, why would you willingly put your music on a platform that typically pays you $0.0033 per stream? Others are saying it offers a shop window for new bands, and leads paying fans to your door to support you by buying CDs, vinyl and T shirts.
The decision to do or don’t isn’t well supported by much objective evidence and some of the conclusions being made are on the emotional backlash from the inevitable demise of physical sales in the face of streaming.
I took the decision sometime ago to put the Cosmograf catalogue on streaming services, Spotify, Apple Music, Google, Deezer, and basically anything that returns money, however small that is.
After spending some time wading through the data, I pulled out key facts for this closing calendar year;
– Through 2016 there were 127,867 streams of a Cosmograf track.
– The income from this amounted to $661.23 (ignoring all the costs involved)
– This equates to an average payment per stream of $0.0052
Now, it took me a while to comprehend the first one. 128,000 streams of a Cosmograf track?? in one year? For a completely unknown artist this seems incredible, but I have only made $500. That wouldn’t even pay for a fraction of the gear I purchased for 1 album let alone paying the musos or studio time, so it’s peanuts to any serious musician.
One way to look at this is say I’ve been completely ripped off and I’ve effectively given your music away for free, but that’s to ignore the benefits here. In 2017 success for any new or fringe act in the music business is getting heard. Forget massive record sales, they’ve gone unless you have millions of pounds pushing your marketing, or you are Adele, preferably both. So how much would you have paid back before the internet world to get your record heard over 100,000 times? You’d need deep pockets or a brave record company and about the same odds as winning the lottery of getting a deal. I’ve spent very little on marketing, mostly my own time, which isn’t an approach I would advise, but the cost of FREE is so attractive when faced with the prospect of so little return.
Let’s look at downloads, again from all the major sources, iTunes/ Amazon etc. :
– My collective income from downloads is currently 5x more than streaming although the number of tracks downloaded is 69 times less than streamed. I would expect this to drop a lot over the next few years as downloads get effectively killed off by streaming. Bandcamp? It’s a fraction of the other download platforms. Despite being touted as the saviour for musicians, it’s not even close to making a meaningful contribution to my income as an artist. This is not because the returns per download are poor but because not many folks are buying my music that way.
What about physical?
CD Sales still currently account for the vast majority of the income both from trade and retail.
Being an old fogey in relative terms and having an older demographic means that fans have kept to traditional methods to buy my music. That’s great but the key question is how will this pan out over the next few years, will it continue to drop or are we already at rock bottom and CD Sales will become a continuing niche in the same way that vinyl has?
Vinyl is currently unchartered waters for Cosmograf not because I don’t want to go there, quite the opposite, but faced with such limited knife edge returns on physical pressings it’s risky territory. The new album in 2017 should hopefully finally break that deadlock.
What can we conclude?
– CDs are still selling, without this income I would have to give up releasing music. I simply wouldn’t be able to afford to make the records.
– Streaming is increasing, downloads are decreasing.
– From my figures it’s not possible to determine if streaming is killing my CD sales. My guess is a small amount of sales are lost, but many are being won from the advertising provided by streaming.
-There is no evidence that killing my streaming channels is going to increase my physical sales, in fact there is fairly good evidence that the opposite will occur.
This last point is why I’ll continue to be offering Cosmograf on streaming. Cornflakes do taste better than principals.