The economics of music streaming

I recently read a fascinating article by Liam Boluk titled “Less Money, Mo’ Music & Lots of Problems: A Look at the Music Biz“. It’s about recent trends in the music business, and whether music streaming is to blame for falling music revenues.

It’s a really long read, but well worth it. It answers lots of questions about music streaming in particular that I had, the biggest one being “is music streaming bad for artists”?

A few points I took away from it:

  • While music revenues have fallen a lot, most of that fall has been in the form of reduced profits for the biggest music companies. Smaller music labels have actually been doing okay.
  • One of the big reasons why music isn’t such a lucrative business any more is that there’s so much competition. Consumers have access to more music than ever before. When everyone has access to lots of music, the worth of a particular album or track inevitably decreases.
  • Another reason for declining music revenues is the fact that people don’t need to buy whole albums anymore, which is what they wanted all along.
  • People have gotten too familiar with the idea of not paying much or anything for music. The amount of money consumers have been paying for music has been steadily falling, to the point where shelling out for a subscription to Spotify/Rdio/Tidal seems like too much for many people. I think we need to get better at recognising the value of music and be willing to stump up some cash for it.
  • Music labels aren’t paying enough to artists.
  • The differences between music streaming services’ royalty rates aren’t all that different.
  • Although the different royalty rates aren’t that different, you might want to think about supporting a service that doesn’t have a free subscription option. Spotify’s freemium model, where the company lets you listen for free (with ads) in the hopes that you pay for a premium subscription, means the average amount paid to content creators overall is really terrible. While Spotify’s model may attract lots of customers in the long-term, is it worth it if the company is paying terrible rates in the meantime?


Screenshot - 040914 - 21:15:50

Recently the Verge wrote about Rdio’s new redesign, and it looked interesting, so I thought I would give it a spin. I’m probably late trying Rdio, but my impression is that almost everyone in New Zealand uses Spotify. I’ve used Spotify for a while, and it’s a cool service, but the ads annoy me a fair bit. (I know I should shell out for a premium subscription, but I’m not quite willing to let go of the idea of mostly owning music). Continue reading “Rdio”

this is real life

I wrote recently about the Notorious XX album by wait what, which has supposedly “garnered critical acclaim” (you can never trust press releases though!) and received one million downloads. The 24 year old New Yorker just released a new full length album a few hours ago called this is real life and it sounds pretty awesome. It’s a pay-what-you-want release with all proceeds going to promote youth writing for 6-18 year olds. The thing I love about mashups is that they bring together different artists, who I’ve quite often never heard, into something interesting and new. Not only are they great pieces of music in themselves, but they introduce you to a whole heap of choice bands. And the Notorious XX has already shown me that Wait What is a master of the mashup album.

I love that this can be released literally six hours ago and I can already be listening to it and sharing it with you! The wonder of the internet! Give it a listen and tell me what you think

Sorry for posting so much music recently!

The Notorious XX

This album by wait what is really really good. It’s a mashup between The XX and the Notorious B.I.G. Yeah anyway just listen to it and hopefully you’ll be impressed/addicted as well.

I love that people do this stuff, it’s just a bit of a bummer the copyright holders don’t recognise the value in having their works remixed and issue take down notices..

Listening to music

I’ve come to the conclusion that people spend too much time listening to mp3 players.

Sure, it’s fun and nice to listen to your favourite band while you walk to school or work, but I think it has disconnected us from the environment we are in – which is a shame.  Most of the time one takes for granted the myriad sounds that make up the urban environment, we don’t pay attention to the countless noises around us and therefore we screen them out. People talking, the sound of the wind rustling through trees, the low rumble of a truck approaching, these everyday sounds we hear are worth listening to in themselves. To listen to loud music blocks it all out and creates an oblivious  individual insulated from the world around them, unable to hear a car bearing down on them or the tweet of a bird. Conversation is impossible, the individual is only concerned with themselves.

I just think it’s a shame people spend don’t spend more time just listening, rather than filling every free second with artificial noise.

The Sixty One


I’ve recently been spending quite a lot of time at The Sixty One, a site that presents an interesting way of the community interacting with music and filtering out the good stuff. I’ve written briefly about The Sixty One before, talking about how websites like it harness something in the human nature that is very receptive to encouragement and measures of progress and achievement. The Sixty One does this by using a system of levels and reputation. Users ‘heart’ songs to show they enjoy them, and then if the song does well and receives lots of hearts subsequent to one hearting it, you receive ‘reputation’. You can also complete quests, which consist of tasks designed to familiarise yourself with the sites workings. Once a certain amount of reputation is reached you go up a level, and achieving certain levels unlocks features.

Users have an incentive to find good songs, and the gems are brought to the community’s attention. The Sixty One has effectively harnessed peoples’ self interest for the greater good – through hearting tracks people are helping to filter the infinate amount of crud. What I think is fascinating about The Sixty One is that they have created an abstract and almost meaningless measure of acheivement, (‘reputation’) but one feels compelled to move up the ranks and come back to the site time and time again. I find myself proud that I have once again gone up a level, but what does it really mean?

I’ve discovered a great number of amazing bands, and the fact that these are all brought together into my ‘personal radio’ that anyone can listen to is really fantastic as well. It enables me to easily share songs through facebook as well with just a few clicks. All things considered, I think The Sixty One is a great music site, with huge potential. I think the most challenging thing about the changing face of the music industry is that there are all these great indie artists on the web, but there aren’t really effective tools for the discovery of new music. The Sixty One sorts the gold from the dirt and allows good bands to rise to the top, which otherwise might remain unheard.

You can see my profile on The Sixty One here.