I recently serendipitiously ran across a recording by a music artist named Moshimoss. The link I ran across brought me to his MySpace page where I can listen to all of his songs on the music player., And then I searched and found him on iTunes. Then I noticed him on Spotify. And now I encounter what I am calling the “Spotify Question”:
Am I willing to pay $9.99 plus tax to download his album “Hidden Tape No. 66” from iTunes or just listen to his stuff for free on Spotify as much as I want? How I answer this question through my actions makes a small yet big difference to the livelihood of the music artist known as Moshimoss.
If I purchase the album from iTunes, he will net about $6.31. That’s enough for an average sandwich or a pint of beer here in the U.S. I have no idea what that will buy him in Japan where he’s from.
Let’s say I choose not to purchase his album from iTunes and continue to listen on Spotify, which is essentially the path of least resistance. Let’s say I listen to the whole thing 10 times. Assuming his music is not through a label (big or indie) and he is able to get all of the proceeds, he earns $0.00189 per song stream. Doing the math (14 tracks x 10 plays), Mr. Moshimoss earns about 24 cents. Music artists don’t receive proceeds directly, but rather through any number of intermediaries, so he will mostly likely earn a fraction of this amount for my 140 plays.
So, do I decide to shell out $9.99 plus tax? I am not sure. Meanwhile, I can just choose to listen on Spotify or MySpace (where he earns nothing).
I do know that in order for Mr Moshimoss to make the equivalent of minimum wage from iTunes sales, there needs to be at least 1,229 people this month who are willing to pay for a download of his entire album. Otherwise, to make minimum wage, guess how many Spotify streams are required? 4,053,110.
I just read a blog post this morning about a statement made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) about Spotify’s entrance in the U.S. market. I repeat it here:
Instead of being forced to buy full-length CDs at $15.99, fans can now make their own decision about how much they value music and how much of it they want.
You can read the full blog post from the Copyhype blog here, which addresses the errors of the above statement, including the fact that no one forces someone to buy CD’s and that digital single-song sales have been available for years.
What I wish to comment on is the phrase, “how much they value music”. I was in a three-way conversation recently about how (in my opinion) a whole generation of people believe it’s okay to consume music without having to pay for it. One of those people is 23; the other is in his 70s.
One of the things I like to say when I get in a conversation about this subject is that no one balks about going to a place like Red Robin and shelling out $16 for a cheeseburger and a drink (factoring in taxes and tip), consuming something that is literally here today, gone tomorrow. But people balk at paying $16 for a CD, or in some cases, even $10 for an album download.
The response of my 23-year old friend did not surprise me. After all, he grew up during the arrival of peer-to-peer file sharing services like Limewire and the original Napster. But it was the reaction of the older person that really surprised me. I thought he would side with me, but then he started going off about needing to stick it to the big record labels. That argument, which I hear often, is SO 20th-century. The fact is, the vast majority of releases today are by indie artists who, like myself, don’t have deep pockets (if they have any pockets at all). We are just trying to, at the very least, break even on the costs of making a record, and hopefully make more than that so we can pay the light bill.
People who don’t value music enough to pay for it aren’t sticking it to the big record companies as much as they are sticking it to the little guy. What do you think about this? Am I old fashioned? I would love to read your comments.