What's the deal with streaming?
17th November 2014
What's the deal with streaming?

Streaming has been on many peoples' minds recently as the debate has found high profile recognition with the likes of Taylor Swift taking music down from Spotify. We want to know what you think about streaming. Hear from musicians and people in the industry and be part of the debate using the hashtag #HelpMusiciansUKTalks. Send in your thoughts to [email protected] to have your comments featured below or tweet and post us your opinion.




BPILynne McDowell, Head of Public Relations, BPI

It is still early days for streaming as a relatively new model for the delivery, discovery and appreciation of music that has emerged from this past decade of digital.  But with UK fans now streaming a staggering 300 million tracks per week and listening to more than 10 billion songs already this year, it seems that such services are swiftly becoming the format of choice for many consumers.


Maz O'ConnorMaz O'Connor, folk artist

The only streaming application I use is Spotify, though I'm aware of a few others because friends and friends of friends often say to me 'I listen to you on such and such a thing...' People tell me that as though I should be pleased that my music is on that particular website. And, in a way, I suppose I am. This person has heard my music, which they may not have done if it wasn't freely available. But I can't help but wish that people would then buy the album; think of all the income that is directed away from artists when people stream instead of buy. Personally I have a policy of buying (usually as a download) songs or albums that I find myself streaming often. I think that's only fair: if I like it, I should pay for it. But then again, I know how much it costs people to make music, and perhaps most people don't.

What worries me looking forward is that there's a whole generation of young people who will never have paid for music. Though I'm 24, I'm still old enough to have gone to the record shop and bought CDs when I was growing up. People 10 years younger than me will, in the most part, never have done that. And so music feels free to them. That's worrying for me as a musician who would like a long career. At the moment, yes, a lot of people stream instead of buy my music, but luckily I have older fans who buy the albums at gigs or from my website. Who is going to be buying my CDs in 20 or 30 years time? Obviously I'm not averse to change and evolution in the music industry, but the model has to be beneficial for everyone in order for independent and emerging artists to continue to be able to make albums.

Maz O'Connor, Emerging Excellence artist

Musicians' UnionHorace Trubridge, Assistant General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union

Most musicians don’t make a lot of money at all. Piracy has got people used to music being for free, and the difficulty that we have is that the record labels pay such a low royalty on digital. Record labels used to have all the costs of making cds and storing them and transporting them round the country. They don’t have any of those costs any more but they still pay the same very low royalty on a stream or digital download – usually something like 12%. So I think that’s where the main problem is. They ought to be passing on more of the money they get from Spotify, but they’re not.

We need to be pushing the record labels to change their policy rather than the actual music delivery services, things like Spotify. They pass on something like 70% of the money that they make to rights owners. The record companies get most of that money. The independent record labels are pretty fair with streaming services, they pay their artists quite well. But the major record labels, as I say, tend to pay their artists round about 12% of what they receive from Spotify. When you get your royalties statement and you see what you’re earning from these streaming services, it is pitiful. And I can understand why artists are depressed and angry about it. But their anger should be directed at the record labels, not at streaming services.   

The Musicians' Union

Tape Club RecordsWill Evans, Tape Club Records

I read/hear a lot about the streaming dispute - the majority negative. A common argument refers to the damage that it causes to the careers of emerging artists - in my experience this is not the case. Some of our lowest costing projects have gone on to become very successful, relatively, and streaming has provided opportunities we might never have seen in the industry as it was in the 80s/90s. To give an example, one of our artists have developed a somewhat cult following online and this has little to do with our "traditional" strategies (paying for promotion/marketing and securing recognised tastemakers). Streaming allows such easy access to music that fans can quickly sample new acts and decide to champion their own tastes, independently of radio/press etc. Consequently, an artist's music can then be shared faster and more widespread than can usually be afforded by a label in the traditional means!

Tape Club Records

Douglas DareDouglas Dare, singer songwriter

Streaming is unavoidable now. It is impossible to ignore that it is one of, if not the best way for people to hear contemporary music. I like it and use it myself daily. I will always prefer listening to my favourite artist on vinyl from track one to the last scratch of the B-Side but for discovering new music, it is perfect. I'm very aware that some are against streaming but as a new artist I think it's important for my music to be available on these platforms. As for many artists, live performance is currently my key source of income and is the best way  for me to connect directly with the fans. I am of the belief that streaming is not killing the music industry or, more specifically, the physical item but is fuelling fan's love for music and in turn, they're coming to more concerts to hear the real, un-streamed thing. 

Douglas Dare, Emerging Excellence artist

Karousel MusicChris Sheehan, Karousel Music

The streaming debate says it all about the music business at the moment.

No one has a definitive answer - and no sooner do you get a ladder against the side of the building, the ground shakes and the wall is ten feet away again. If the folks in the know are to believed, it’s all bad, and it’s all good.

On the one hand, it’s hard to see how for emerging acts people swapping the still youthful idea of buying an album on itunes for streaming them on a site like Spotify, with it’s proton and neutron size royalty, can be anything other than apocalyptic. By definition, emerging means that they won’t be getting millions of plays, so it’s replacing modest income with a period of massively reduced income. On the other hand, Daniel Ek’s declaration that they were trying to replace piracy with a funded model that would save artists and their music is fair, and a noble aim. The problem is when the labels are still guzzling the artists’ income - the same labels that are allegedly shareholders in Spotify - it’s hard to buy into it still being the same noble ideal. When you take into account that Spotify pay many times more in royalty than Youtube – easily the biggest streaming service on the planet – you can see how far we have to go.

The industry is thinking in terms of how things will be in five or ten years - and they’re probably right that streaming can be the saving of an organised music industry - but the problem is there’s a whole generation of artists whose careers will be amputated while that happens… a generation of sacrificial lambs sandwiched between the gluttony and greed of the 80’s and 90’s, and the equitable, fair, funded future we’re hoping Spotify will eventually herald (when they’ve made enough money to be able to afford to be fair). The image X Factor generates that the minute you’re on the radio or TV, you’re a gabillionaire, does no good either. There are geniuses out there living on biscuits 10 years after a hit record, and not necessarily because they squandered it.

It’s like when politicians talk about people in percentages: Of course, that’s the only way mass change and progress can happen, but on the ground we’re thinking about individuals. We’re thinking about ways of making sure artists with something to give the world who don’t have family with spare money to indulge them, can sustain themselves long enough to make another record, and another, while the traditional industry works out how much money to set aside before allowing the trickle down. Imagine Nick Drake, or John Martyn, or Elbow, or Neil Young, or Squeeze (adlib at will) only ever getting to make one record because the sales were non existent.

My long term view? I think streaming is the logical, unavoidable mainstream future, complimented by the immortal vinyl, and high res stuff like Pono - high quality, keepable, treasurable magic. In the short term: keep going to shows, keep buying records, keep pledging to crowd funding projects, keep loving musicians. If we stop loving, they stop living. And what is a world without new music?

We’re helping Roxanne De Bastion run her one day event called ‘From Me To You’ on November 29th in Wood Green, for independent artists - Spotify are among those coming to share their point of view and plans on the panel. We hope it helps open up some dialogue on the matter.

Karousel Music

Phil MeadowsPhil Meadow, Jazz saxophonist and composer

I often find musicians talking negatively about the streaming of their music, consigned to the fact that they aren’t going to make money out of their (often large) personal investment. But when used in the right way I believe that digital streaming can be an incredibly useful tool for community engagement and a crucial aspect when developing a successful PR and marketing strategy.

For example - the Engines Orchestra have just allowed Jazzwise magazine an exclusive stream of our track ‘Remembrance’ from our forthcoming album Lifecycles. It has a nice accompanying article plugging our launch gig at this years EFG London Jazz Festival and gives their readers a chance to hear something that they cannot get hold of elsewhere. For us it helps grow our community as we engage with their readership - this could lead to potential ticket or album sales. In turn Jazzwise cement their place as market leader providing fresh content specifically tailored for them. It’s a win/win for both parties and all thanks to digital streaming.

Streaming in this way (often through Soundcloud) allows us as musicians to engage audiences in ways we have never been able to before. We can offer content samples with a longer term vision to grow our fan base for future sales. We can access thousands of people through social networking and can allow venue promotors quick and inexpensive access to our music. 

There is a downside to digital streaming and Spotify has created a global view that music is ‘free’ to access. It’s a hard issue to ignore and one that will not be resolved quickly. In the mean time I feel we need to take more responsibility for our own music and use it as a tool to grow our following, fill venues and create community values surrounding our projects. The financial landscape of our industry is changing, and if we don’t move with the times we will get left behind. Just remember that the audiences that like our music always want to hear more, be it through audio files or live performances!

Phil Meadows, Peter Whittingham Jazz artist