Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Musicians Have No Choice But To Sell Out

Back in the 90s, labels and artists made a ton of money from selling their albums via physical CDs. Then came Spotify.

As you probably know, Spotify is a Swedish music streaming service. The founder of Spotify, Daniel Eck, says his mission is to “give […] creative artists the opportunity to live off their art.”

But Spotify doesn’t pay very well. Listening one thousand times to your favorite musician’s song is roughly the same as buying him or her a Frappuccino Venti—about five bucks.

While musicians count their coffee money, the music labels are making bank. Universal, Sony and Warner earned $6.93 billion combined from streaming services in 2018. That’s close to $19 million a day. 

Why the huge discrepancy?

Because the music labels own the rights to the music. And if a streaming service wants to play music on its platform, it needs to buy music rights.  So when the music labels and streaming services got together to talk business, the artists weren’t invited.

The result? Musicians aren’t getting a fair cut. Which is why so many artists have mixed feelings about Spotify. And why Taylor Swift removed all her music from streaming services in 2014, it was a boycott against the low earnings for artists.  

The highest-paid musician of 2018 was U2, who earned a total of $54.5 million. How much of that came from streaming services? $645,000, a mere 1% of the grand total. 

The lionshare of U2’s income came from touring. But not all artists can go on the road and make such a killing.

Only the very biggest artists make the bulk of their income with concerts. If you belong to the mid tier, you’re lucky to break even. 

Since it’s so hard to make a living off record sales and touring, most musicians rely on endorsements and fees from guest appearances.

Ed Sheeran has a deal with Lowden Guitars. Rihanna collaborated with Puma. Maroon 5 have endorsed Coca-Cola and Snapple. And Justin Timberlake is really lovin’ it.

You know what’s really messed up?

You don’t even need to make music to get endorsements. You just need to be famous. P. Diddy became the best paid musician of 2017 from his deal with Ciroc Vodka and he hadn’t made an album in over seven years.

So yes, in a perfect world musicians could stay true to themselves and be paid fairly for making records. But being ‘authentic’ in today’s world only gets musicians a cardboard roof over their heads and a large cup of coffee. 

Musicians need to sell out to make a living.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach