People 25 June 2018
Recently, Rolling Stone gave Spotify a pat on the back for its new resolve to give away more free music in a scheme that promises to convert listeners into buyers. With fleeting objectivity, the magazine recognized the concerns of skeptical artists and record labels, then quickly rerouted readers by crediting Spotify—which became a public company in early April 2018—for kick-starting the stalled industry and initiating the recovery process.
"Thanks to the boom of streaming in recent years, music is finally coming out of its two-decade slump. The United States posted music revenue of $8.7 billion last year–a 17 percent year-over-year increase that took the industry back up to its 2008 levels." -Rolling Stone, April 24, 2018
"Finally coming out of its two-decade slump" may be a bit overstated. According to the latest report from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 2017's total global revenue of $17.3 billion represented only 68.4 percent of the industry's peak in 1999 when worldwide revenue topped out at approximately $27 billion, with the U.S. staking claim to $14.6 billion. Attributing the great decline of illegal free music downloading, the IFPI fought long and hard for measures to sanction unlicensed music services, so it begs the question: if more music is distributed for free (and free is free whether legal or not), can the music industry sustain its tenuous growth? The majority of artists and record labels say "no."
Admittedly, streaming music platforms—now the largest revenue source—have pushed the needle, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the U.S. market, but when it comes to how artists are paid, there is a wide chasm between what the top platforms are earning and the royalties they are paying to the artists. A January 2018 report from Digital Music News provides an overview of the leading platforms' pay-per-play rates, underscoring why artists and labels have every reason to believe Spotify's bold move coupled with its existing royalty structure will continue to hinder the industry's recovery:
- Napster: Listed as Rhapsody, Napster paid $0.01682 per play in 2017, with a 1.75 percent U.S. market share.
- Apple Music: As a subscription-only service with no free tier, Apple now offers a pay-per-play rate of $0.00783, with a U.S. market share of 22.29 percent.
- Amazon: Though facts on artist payouts for Amazon Prime Music and Music Unlimited are guarded, The Trichordist (Artists for an Ethical and Sustainable Internet) reports a pay-per-play rate of $0.0074, with a 3.8 percent U.S. market share.
- Spotify: Spotify, with the highest number of paid subscribers, pays a paltry $0.00397 per stream, commanding more than half (51 percent) of the U.S. market share, with top executives reportedly earning seven-figure salaries.
To add insult to injury, Digital Music News reports that 99 percent of 2017's 377 billion streams were from the top 10 percent of available songs—which were dominated by male artists. What's worse, the current royalty structures continue to hold artists hostage even under the best circumstances. Independent labels, for example, may offer artists half of the profits (that's at wholesale—not retail), but the typical split with big record labels is significantly smaller—between 10 and 16 percent in favor of the label.
Equal Pay for Equal Play
Satisfying consumers at the expense of the artists they promote, the current leading streaming platforms being credited for resuscitating the music industry inarguably benefit only top-tier musicians—and least of all women. A new study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reveals these harsh realities for female artists, who continue to find themselves at the bottom of the multi-billion-dollar industry:
- Just 22 percent of releases on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart between 2012 and 2017 were from women artists.
- Only 12 percent of releases on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart between 2012 and 2017 were penned by female songwriters.
- In the previous six years of Grammy nominations in five categories, less than 10 percent of all nominees were female.
- Since 2013, no women have been nominated for Producer of the Year.
- Females traditionally represent less than 10 percent of nominees for Record or Album of the Year.
- Slightly more than one third of the female nominees at the previous six Grammy Awards were women from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups.
- In 2017, of the total 1,239 artists attached to the 600 top songs, only 16.8 percent were women, reflecting a six‐year low for female artists in popular content.
- In the recording studio, male producers outnumber female producers 49 to one.
So, while it may have been a banner year for some, not all pieces of the music industry pie get divided equitably. With women so blatantly marginalized and underrepresented, it will take more than inclusion to bring them above water; it will take an entirely new platform that opens the access gates and a royalty structure that removes the handcuffs once and for all.
Addressing the Challenges of a Tone-Deaf Industry
Continuing to be the voice of change, calling for fair compensation as well as freedom from discrimination and sexual harassment in every sector, women are finding new inroads into the music industry while simultaneously impacting society on a larger scale. Consider Michele Anthony, Executive VP of Universal Music Group, who was named the 2017 UJA-Federation of New York Music "Visionary of the Year" for her commitment to philanthropy, and Nicki Farag, Senior VP of promotion at Def Jam Records, who pushed to the top of the charts—against all odds—the rapper Logic's controversial and heart-wrenching song "1-800-273-8255," which features Alessia Cara and Khalid and supports suicide prevention efforts. Yet, these women and others like them are just the tip of the iceberg. Recognizing the need for a level playing field in order for women—and the music industry—to not just survive, but thrive, record companies are pitching in and partnering with innovators and entrepreneurs to enrich and enhance the music experience and its potential to positively impact fans, labels, artists and charitable organizations alike. With new players pushing the boundaries and providing platforms that offer independent and established artists equality in access, exposure and earning strategies, a new dawn may be on the horizon.
We can hear it now, a music industry of the future, where female artists represent half of all award winners, songwriters, producers and top earners. Where full and fair compensation means a 90/10 split in the artist's favor. Where fans can engage with artists in new ways and where the transformational power of music is unleashed, appreciated, shared and benefitting to all.
Edge Music Network (EMN) is a music video streaming service providing live and on-demand content through a video syndication platform designed to enable a fair compensation structure ensuring artists get the royalties they deserve and fans get uninterrupted access to the music they love—anytime, anywhere. With powerful search tools for discovering and streaming on demand, users can watch the latest music videos, concerts and events of the highest quality. The EMN mobile app unlocks premium content, allowing users to easily create, manage and share custom playlists and enjoy channels with music videos curated by EMN experts. The Edge Music Network dedicates a percentage of profits to charitable causes that feed the hungry, aid victims of natural disasters and support homeless veterans. Supported by an advisory board of renowned musicians and industry professionals, and in partnership with leading content creators, independent artists and marquee music labels like Universal, Capitol Records, Def Jam and Geffen—Edge Music Network is on a mission to reinvent how music is heard, viewed and shared. Edge Music Network delivers an unlimited, unrestricted and unbelievable audio and video experience—and unites people with the transformative power of music.
"The Edge Music Network dedicates a percentage of profits to charitable causes that feed the hungry, aid victims of natural disasters and support homeless veterans"
3 min read
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the advice you need!
Help! I'm Dating a Jerk!
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I've been dating my boyfriend for a year. After spending some vacation time with him and realizing he is not treating me the way I like I'm wondering — what do I do? I need him to be kinder and softer to me but he says simply, "chivalry is not his thing." I believe when two people decide to be together they need to adjust to each other. I don't think or feel my boyfriend is adjusting to what's important to me. Should I try to explain to him what's important to me, accept him for what he is, or leave him as I'm just not happy and the little gestures are important to me?
- Loveless Woman
Dear Loveless Woman,I am saddened you aren't getting your needs met in your relationship. Intimacy and affection are important to sustain a healthy relationship. It's troubling that even though you have expressed your needs to your boyfriend that it's fallen on deaf ears. You need to explore, with a therapist, why you have sought out this type of relationship and why you have stayed in it, even when it's making you chronically unhappy? Your belief that couples should adjust to each other is correct to some degree. These things often include compromising and bending on things like who gets the bigger closet or where to go for dinner. However, it's a tall order to ask someone to change their personality and if your boyfriend is indeed a jerk, like you say, who refuses to acknowledge your love language or express kindness and softness, then maybe you should find a partner who will embrace you while being chivalrous.
- The Armchair Psychologist
Hi Armchair Psychologist,
Just wanted to let you know that your article was really offensive to read. Do you refer to women's genitals as: "gross," "ghasty," "smelly," or otherwise? Humans are not perfect, each of us is different and you should emphasize this. I hope that man finds a partner that will love and accept him rather than tearing him down. Which gender has a whole aisle devoted to their "special" hygiene needs? I can tell you it's not men.
Dear Male Reader,Thank you for your thoughtful feedback to my Armchair Psychologist column. My email response bounced so am writing you here. I am so sorry I offended you. It wasn't my intention. I actually meant to be sardonic and make the writer see how ridiculous she sounded for the harsh language she used to describe her date. I obviously failed at this sneer since you think I meant to be offensive. Many apologies. I'll do better. Have a wonderful day and keep writing us with your thoughts.
- Ubah, The Armchair Psychologist