“It seems like the devil but it's just technology moving forward”

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

The Worse, Bad and Not So Bad Choices for Monetizing Music, Today.

Joe Blackford, bassist/vocalist of the Croydon based sludge-pop band Bellevue Days, in an exclusive interview with Half Step Rock said, “the current climate for musicians making money is pretty horrendous. But, I also think streaming services have kind of saved the music industry from diving into total despair. Even though they pay a tiny amount per stream, at least they do pay. Spotify in particular has drastically improved our fan base overseas. Pirate Bay pays zero and I think that's the way it was heading a few years back. So, cheers to streaming. It seems like the devil but it’s just technology moving forward."

In 2016, Frances Moore, CEO, IFPI, delivered a speech in Canadian Music Week, Toronto, addressing the state of global music industry and the anomaly it faces currently. She said, “the value gap is not something our business can fix. It is for policy makers to legislate. It is a legislative issue caused by the misapplication of the so-called liability “safe harbors” to user upload services. This, quite simply, allows them to negotiate music licenses in a way that is grossly unfair and devaluing of music. As a result, they have an unfair advantage over other digital services, as well as depriving artists and labels of fair revenues.”

For the uninitiated, “value gap” is the problem state in recent times wherein revenues resulting from the consumption of music are not being returned fairly to those who create, own and invest in the music, and digital.

While streaming platforms like YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and many more have been widely criticized for sub-par payments to artists and labels, certain local bands like Bellevue Days, in different parts of the world, are happy to see the brighter side of the situation, after all.

With 3 EPs to their name, Rosehill being their latest release in 2017, the band gained immediate visibility after the release of their first single Capability, Capacity, and have managed to make news in the local scene with the help of an excellent PR team and a marketing manager, to back them up. While streaming might be a boon to them for taking their music overseas, the major income for the band continues to come from live gigs in Croydon. “At this stage we're hungry for anything. I actually prefer playing gigs miles away from home as the turn out seems to be better, and trying to get your mates down to see you play at the scream lounge in Croydon, for the 1000th time isn't fun for anyone. But yeah, organic growth is the way forward. We're not going to be dressing up in suits any time soon. Half of us shop in charity shops and most of us have part-time jobs. Cheap vibes!” shared Joe.

By end of 2017, there were 176 million paid music streaming subscribers globally, growing a whopping 57% with 64 million new subscribers added in 2017, alone. This growth figure provides user testimony on its viability in distributing and monetizing music. Business models around it will need evolve to reward artists far better than they do currently, though. Streaming revenues in India grew by 60.8%, much above the average for the Asian region (38.2%).

Revenue share increase in the streaming market, however, cannot take away the concerns of a rapidly increasing value gap in the industry, at least not yet, and what will ultimately become of upcoming bands like Bellevue Days, for whom, to even break into an overseas market is a hard and long trek up the hill, still remains to be seen. This is primarily because streaming apps pay artists per stream, which is peanuts per stream and since the basic unit is a peanut, multiples of these peanuts are still, peanuts. The earnings from streaming for the vast majority of artists still does not pay bills and they are turning to live performances and extensive touring as alternate source of income, (besides picking up daytime or part-time jobs). This is neither scalable nor a long-term solution as it has an inherent cap on how much and how fast an artist can earn.

There is no doubt that music industry has never been better in terms of scaling and consumption, and it’s just the beginning with new talent churning out every year. But, bridging the gap between high rate of music consumption and the value being returned to its creators and investors, remains a challenge and extremely underrated, perhaps on purpose.

Band members - Alan Smith (guitar/vox), Dan Lukes (guitar/vox), Joe Blackford (bass/vox), Jack Pavitt (drums)

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