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"
Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!
You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!
Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.
Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.
One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:
What worked? What were my successes?
Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?
Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.
If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?
Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?
Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?
Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.
While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.
Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!