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"
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.