Musician and writer Damon Krukowski explains how streaming services are failing artists and listeners, and what we can do to fight back.
In 2012, I wrote a piece for this website breaking down the payments my first band, Galaxie 500, was receiving from streaming services, which were just starting to become a dominant force in the music industry. Spotify had sent songwriting royalties of $1.05 for the 5,960 times our single “Tugboat” was played that quarter—split between the group’s three members, each of us had made 35 cents. Not exactly a promising new source of income.
For years, disruptive digital businesses have countered complaints like mine with assurances that everything will be different in the future, once millions and millions of people around the world adopt their application. Well, here we are. Spotify now claims 140 million active users, 70 million of whom are paid subscribers, and the total consumption of audio streams in the U.S. jumped by an estimated 50 percent last year. But while it’s clear that some are earning significant paychecks from streaming as a result—“Happy days are here again,” Billboard gushed last March, reporting the fastest growth for the industry in decades—most musicians are not.