Music used to have value. Prior to streaming the average music listener would spend between $9.99 - $19.99 per week to buy a new cd.  The money spent by the listener eventually made its way to the artist even after record labels and everyone else involved received their percentage and recouped costs of recording, promoting, and manufacturing the cds...  The artist made around $1.5 million or so from a million copies sold (depending on their record deal).

The average listener now pays $9.99 per month to be able to stream virtually any song by any artist ever recorded at any moment they choose.  The music that artists work tirelessly to make has become virtually worthless.  Not just the music of artists struggling to record between shifts at their day job, but even the music of Paul McCartney, Snoop Dogg, Taylor Swift...  All the music has been devalued to around $0.004 per stream on average.  So that if a 10 song album streams 1 million times (10 million streams), todays artist would only receive around $40 thousand dollars compared to the $1.5 million dollars they would have received for the equivalent distribution in 1996.

By contrast...  A cup of drip coffee at Starbucks in 1996 cost the consumer less than $2.00.   Today a cup of drip coffee will cost them $3.70.  Nearly twice as much at 1.85x.  The same has happened for nearly every good or service in the same amount of time.  Plumbing, gas, electrical service, food, ice cream, restaurant prices, appliances, drinks at a bar, fast food, frozen pizza...  You name it.  The exceptions being the streaming of video and music content.  Film and tv writers have a guild.  They are currently striking for higher residuals.  It's about time streamed artists do the same.

My initial thoughts for determining the minimum rate per stream would be to work backward from the average listener's music budget in 1996, adjust for inflation to get today's equivalent monthly budget for a music consumer.  We could then encourage streaming platforms to charge that amount without raising their own profits and then pay out the difference with a new minimum streaming rate established as such.  Using the example of the cup of drip coffee in 1996 costing $2.00 compared to it's current cost of $3.70 we establish an inflated cost of $1.85x between then and now.   If we can agree that the music consumer in 1996 spent an average of $15.00/week on a cd, then we can multiply that number by 1.85 to get the comparable current weekly budget of $27.75.  If we then multiply that by 4 we can get a current comparable monthly music budget of $111.00.  The current cost for a subscription to a music streaming service is currently around $10.  But if music consumers paid todays equivalent of what they did in 1996 it should cost $111.00 per month.  If streaming services charged that while keeping profits the same, then they could increase the average rate per stream from $0.004 per stream to $0.0444 cents per stream.  Which would make the payout on 1 million streams come to $44,400.00 compared to the current $4,000.00.  Likewise a 10 song album streamed start to finish 1 million times for a total of 10 million streams would pay out $444,000.  At least somewhere in the ball park of reasonable for 10 million streams.

Now…. Can we expect the music consumer to bare the entire brunt of this increase?  While I believe that most listeners would actually pay the $111/mo for access to a near infinite catalogue of songs if they had no other choice. Or maybe they would go back to purchasing cds, vinyl, or Cassettes which wouldn’t actually be that bad for artists. (People always argue that streaming is a great way for small artists to get discovered in defense of low payouts, but with the current echo chamber effect of the algorithms, that is less and less the case.)  But perhaps it’s the case that listeners have become too used to getting music essentially free. And if that’s the case I would remind the streaming services that they also make money from advertising on their platforms. And that maybe they have established their listener base well enough to charge companies more money for commercial placement.  Maybe that can offset the subscription fee to $70 or $50 or even $30 per month instead of the $111/month. I’m not going to tell them how to run their business. I’m just going to tell them they have to pay me at least $0.0444 per stream to use my music.  (To be renegotiated every 3 years just like the writers, actors, directors…)

But in order for the streaming services not to chuckle and remove my songs without another thought, I need other artists to join me. Not just a few, but nearly all artists being streamed. So that we can demand that they put up and deal with it or try to figure it out somehow without any music.

Sign up on the mailing list below so that I know you are interested.  I will send out updates when we reach significant milestones. 

Share this with other artists.  It’s the only way we can do this.  And it’s totally possible if we each do our part.

I would also appreciate ideas and/or feedback and have included a form for that below. 

-Nathan Fox (singer/songwriter)

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