We pay for our groceries, electricity, and rent. We pay for paintings, books, and movies, so why don’t we pay for our music?
You can access any artist, song, or album for free on streaming platforms like Pandora or Spotify. Music has become such a given, to implement paying for music now after 20 years of unrestricted internet streaming seems absurd. But maybe it never should’ve been free in the first place?
It’s somewhat of a modern problem, before streaming platforms, and before computers, you had to physically purchase a cd, vinyl, or cassette edition of the music you wanted. But now anyone can access the same music for free. And the money made from streaming platforms pales in comparison to the money once made from physical album sales.
While it’s pretty common knowledge that making a living off music is hard. I did the math… And based on a 2018 report, in which Spotify stated it had 3 million creators, 42,100 of which make over $10,000 per year– that’s about 1.4% of creators. Furthermore, less than .5% of Spotify creators make at least $50,000 a year. Meaning making a livable wage solely off of music is near impossible for most users.
It’s an easy argument that we should start paying for our music when you are advocating for the rights of small artists. But what about when a global superstar worth almost $600 million takes her music off Spotify for the same reason, or when dozens of successful, televised comedians take their work off Spotify in protest of their royalty payments?
When the same logic is applied to multi-million dollar performers, nobody feels too guilty about not paying directly for their newest content. (why should they?) But at the same time, it’s a two-way street, and as insincere as it may sound coming from wealthy stars, they have a point too.
Is there an answer?
Solutions proposed include making Spotify and Apple Music into record labels, or the pro-rate and user-centric methods of paying artists. Both of which propose ideas in which artists would receive a fairer share of their earnings.
So what’s the ethical thing to do as a consumer?
If you can purchase physical copies of an album you enjoy, specifically for smaller artists., it’s a lot more supportive than just streaming.
As far as the broad argument, as to whether or not art should be free? It shouldn’t. At the end of the day what about the rent and bills to pay? After all, art is a good that should be exchanged for money just like books, food, or film.