Cornflakes taste better than principles – An update on Streaming


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.




10 Responses to Cornflakes taste better than principles – An update on Streaming

  1. Anatole Beams Sunday 8th January 2017 at 19:58 #

    I think that one way you can help us make the right choice, is to make it really obvious which sale you would prefer. As listeners and purchasers we all appreciate the effort you put into your music, so would prefer to maximise your return for the money that we pay. I discovered you on Spotify, bought some tracks and the Man left in Space on iTunes, then bought the CD of your last album directly. I hope this method gets you the biggest return.

    Thank you for your honesty with us and your measured response to the problems of funding the industry. So much has changed since the first Proggers (and they were all ripped off by someone or other along the way). Sales and distribution seem to dominate the lions share of all profits nowadays, but is the only way to access the mass-markets when you are unknown.

    Hopefully you can expand your faithful following though, and get to reap a decent return through direct sales. I whole-heartedly wish you the best for the future.


  2. Vince Turner Sunday 19th February 2017 at 18:20 #

    WOW, I now feel guilty for having purchased your music as a download. The up side is that had I not heard your music via streaming I would not have bought any of your music and I bought all of it in one go, one reason for buying it as download. I almost exclusively listen to music in the car and CD quality is lost against road noise.

    I came across you on spotify by using the related music feature in other words “If you like this then you might like…..” It has led me to a whole new spectrum of music that I might never have listened to. Some I have bought and some I just stream.

    I have being playing your albums now almost exclusively for a couple of weeks and eagerly await the new one this year. Please bring your music to the stage. I love anyone that can incorporate full church organ into great Prog music. (The Fear Created is playing as I type).

    Keep eating the Cornflakes! I’ll buy the CD next time and then you can afford steak.

  3. Phil Hyde Sunday 5th March 2017 at 17:34 #

    Personally, I would not have heard your music if not on Apple Music. That led to me pay for downloads.
    Hmmm, now I guess I’m gonna have to buy the CD’s!

  4. Garon Willis Friday 9th June 2017 at 15:01 #

    As a 61 year old music fan who has been through the whole range of vinyl, tapes, CD’s and now streaming, there is nothing I can say in response to your excellent and eye opening article. There are no witty or well crafted replies, I can only offer sympathy for your situation and say that I totally understand your frustration and misgivings.
    However I would like to say a massive thank you and perhaps give you a few words of consolation. The fact that I found your music is down solely to music streaming sites, I have played and played your available back catalogue and it has given me enormous enjoyment – a musical pleasure I definitely wouldn’t have had without this very useful medium to any music fan. Years ago I would listen to the late, brilliant and sadly very missed John Peel to hear what new stuff was about, and I dare say there are radio programmes that do a similar thing now, but it isn’t the same as the joy of finding someone like yourselves, and being able to hear most of the stuff you have produced – as often as you want. Once again Thank you, and you will benefit if I ever get chance to see you live, as that is my greatest joy and avenue of listening to music.

  5. Aron Sunday 23rd July 2017 at 09:14 #

    Could not agree more with the previous commenters. I do see your point about how it must be frustrating to just “give” your music to Spotify to get peanuts in return, however at the same time it would be a mistake to forget about the power it has: I (amongst others) also would not have come across your music if it was not for spotify. This led me to purchase most of your albums on cds, and thanks to that I can keep sharing the word with my prog-minded friends about how amazing your music is. Hope the world will keep discovering it with the help of all these social media channels – whatever direct income they give you in the meantime.

  6. Bonfy Verboo Saturday 29th July 2017 at 04:01 #

    Streaming is how music is found (for the most part. There are other avenues but your post is about that, so…) and without it I would not have found Cosmograf. There are literally hundreds of other bands and artists I would have never heard or even heard of without streaming.

    For an artist or a band to make a living at it, they need exposure. Streaming gets them that but doesn’t pay a living wage, we all know that. A serious artist or band, one that is really willing to put in the work and sacrifice their (figurative) lives will be playing live. That’s virtually the only way to get to a point to be noticed enough to get the recognition needed for a record deal, and even then the only real money for an artist or band who doesn’t sell literally millions of albums comes from touring extensively.

    Music is a passion and if you haven’t got that passion, it cannot be a living. If you have that passion, money is a bonus. The elusive success of selling a million songs is a pipe dream for well over 99% of artists and bands. Generally, the story is a few years of struggle and on to the day job for the rest of your life. Recording and publishing your own music, on your own terms is more than most of us have ever been able to do. I congratulate you on that. Keep it up as long as you have that passion.

    I will say that I don’t generally purchase hard copies of music, though there are a few exceptions. I don’t feel guilty about that but I do support artists and bands who come my way on tour….when I can. I’m getting older and concerts are a “do I like this one enough to put up with all the extraneous crap” sort of thing now. It’s a “kids” thing.

    Bottom line; without streaming, I would never have heard The Hay-Man Dreams. I’m really glad I have, though.

  7. Larry Friday 4th August 2017 at 17:24 #

    its horrible that streaming pays so little per stream and it is a rip off for the artist…. however up until 10 mins ago I’d never heard of you, only heard your music because Apple “new music Playlist” they create weekly had you featured this week – Cut the Corn, cool track, currently listening to the rest of the album.

    I guess its a catch 22, can’t get the music out there without the big streaming sites, cant get decent return on the music from them sites.

    One thing I’ve seen in recent years is the amount of live touring bands do now, it must be a bigger source of income than the streaming is.

    not sure if you play live/tour, may be an avenue to look into. maybe see if the streaming sites can provide geographical data to see where best to go.

    All the best 🙂

    • Cosmograf Monday 2nd October 2017 at 10:28 #

      Hi Larry, I’m afraid we don’t yet have the following to make touring viable in any form. It’s a massive financial risk and a lot of bands at our level are actually losing a lot of money trying to do it.

  8. Teo Sunday 10th December 2017 at 21:02 #

    Hey, Cosmograf/Robin!

    Read your post with interest, and even though my reply comes a bit late, just wanted to offer my thoughts on the topic.

    I am personally very glad that you’ve put your music on all platforms, including streaming platforms, but most importantly Bandcamp. Here’s why… I discovered you via Deezer, listening to an artist which lead to the “similar artists” section, which lead to another band and their “similar artists”, which lead finally to Cosmograf. It’s safe to say my chances of discovering your music would be very, very slim without the streaming platform.

    Those artists that I like, I continue streaming. The artists that I really, really like, I try to buy their albums, too. And even though I do prefer a physical CD in my hands, I have been almost exclusively buying music digitally in the last several years. Why? Because shipping costs. For someone living outside of US/UK, the shipping & handling costs almost always come up between 50-100% of the price of the CD itself. On several occasions, the shipping costs were actually higher thane the price of the CD, and this is unacceptable to me. Hence, digital purchases.

    Or, better said, almost exclusively Bandcamp purchases. Again, why?

    Because Bandcamp is the only digital platform music seller which respects the CUSTOMER by offering LOSSLESS music formats. All the other competitors: Amazon, Apple, Google Music, etc., they’re selling only lossy formats usually for the same price as the physical CD itself in stores. Basically, they’re purposefully relegating digital purchases and their customers to second class. We’re paying the same, but getting less. And this strikes me as mighitly unfair. I know I’m in the minority, and judging by these platforms’ successes compared to Bandcamp, people seem to be fine with receiving an inferior product for their money. Why is this, is beyond me.

    I am no audiophile, but I do own a decent budget music setup with an external DAC/amp and a set of studio monitor headphones and very capable hybrid IEMs. I can actually hear the difference between an mp3 and a lossless file. And if I’m buying digital music, I want the same treatment as a customer who has bought a physical CD. I want the lossless music. Especially if it’s a quality recording where special care has been put into mastering and production, like with Cosmograf’s records. But, only Bandcamp seems to understand this. As consequence, I only support artists who are on Bandcamp. I have begun buying your music, one album at a time, starting with the first. I will complete the collection, eventually. But, had you not put your catalog on Bandcamp, I would never have bought it – not on these other lossy digital music platforms.

    Thankfully, most of my favorite artists sell their records on Bandcamp, too, so overall I’m a happy customer. It’s just a shame some of the more poplar musicians don’t realize the benefits… it would be great to see Bandcamp grow.

  9. Michael Asteriou Tuesday 26th June 2018 at 17:48 #

    I usually let Spotify play me songs which I might like and now and then I find gems I did not know until then. The same thing happened with your music…
    I bought all your albums after listening to a few songs. When I’m in the office, I play your music (amongst others) on spotify but nonetheless I like to own the album to be able to play it anytime without the need to have internet access.
    It seems that in my case the meager $0.0052 per stream have been a good investment after all… 🙂

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