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The War Between Streaming and Black Box Revenue – Will The Record Labels Kill The Streaming Star?

The public has voted. It prefers streaming. The war is over. Case Closed. Maybe not.

Spotify pays millions to copyright holders. Now unless the artist is a DIY artist who controls their own copyright, most of the copyright holders are the major labels. So if the major labels are getting the millions each year for the blanket license to access their catalogues, where is that money going.

There is a term doing the round, called “Black Box Revenue.” This is the name given to income that the record labels collect that cannot be directly tracked to the recordings of a specific artist.

To put it all into context, streaming services pay the labels and upfront fee to access their catalogues. In addition, they then pay the labels royalties for each stream.

In time, this streaming system will be challenged by artists, much the same way the mp3 sales system was challenged by Eminem and other artists like Whitesnake, Rob Zombie and the band White Zombie.

In all of these cases, the artists said that their record label violated their contracts by counting a digital download as a sale instead of a licensing. Most artists get a royalty of 10 percent for the sale of a CD, minus a lot of deductions, while licenses pay a royalty of 50 percent and in most cases are not subject to any deductions.

When the same thing happens to the labels streaming revenue, the long-term viability of streaming services will be less than certain.

The main part of streaming that the critics and the record labels fail to understand is that it is a tool that is in place now, to PROVIDE REVENUE STREAMS later.

Of course the record labels and the executives in charge are all about the NOW, and a lot of their label rosters are designed for the NOW, so they don’t have time to allow things to grow. Spotify is growing in users, however the company still hasn’t made a profit after so many years in operation. The streaming system employed by the record labels that I mentioned above doesn’t allow it to make a profit.

Spotify wants to reduce piracy to ZERO. At the moment the critics of Spotify like Thom Yorke are complaining that it simply doesn’t pay enough. The truth is, creators have always been ripped off. However, if a song is great and it gets some traction, expect it to pay well.

Daft Punk passed 100 million downloads. The $700,000 that comes with that in streaming payments is enough for a band to live off, however artists see very little of the dollars paid to the record labels for the right to stream their content.

However with YouTube dominating in music, why do people need Spotify? Actually, Thom Yorke has no issues with YouTube, an unofficial streaming platform which is interesting. So I am thinking that Thom Yorke’s issue is with the record labels stake in Spotify.

Personally, I am quite content to listen to three songs on Spotify and get an ad break. I have no interest in paying for a package even if Spotify caps the limit of free songs I can listen to in a month. I will just move to YouTube when that happens, or to my iTunes library or to my physical collection of LP’s and CD’s.

What about the songwriters who write the songs? How do they get paid in the streaming age. It’s simple. They get paid, the same way everyone else gets paid that provides a service. Songwriters need to stop being greedy. What they need to do is hand in the song, get paid the agreed monies and off they go, writing more songs for artists. If a songwriter gets paid $1000 for each song they hand in, then they know they need to write 50 songs in order to earn $50,000. If one of the songs gets traction and gets 100 million streams, the songwriters should be using that as a piece of promotion and up their song writing fee. It’s simple business practices.

It is a revolution that we are experiencing.

Musicians can still make a living. Is it harder now compared to the past? My answer is NO. Musicians always had to work hard to get somewhere, that part hasn’t changed and it will never change.

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