Streaming services scamming musicians

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26 July 2021

By Tabitha Wilson

A recent inquiry commissioned by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has found that the current music streaming services model is in need of a “complete reset”.

Currently, both established and up-and-coming artists have found themselves facing little to no return on the work they put out, with some artists receiving as little as £0.002 per stream from global giants in the industry such as Spotify.


Speaking to The Guardian, big names such as Imogen Heap and Niles Rodgers have voiced their concerns with the current system. Heap, whilst expressing her support for the inquiry and the awareness it has raised, stated that “change is both needed and guaranteed”.

Rodgers echoed this sentiment, and went on to say that the streaming services themselves aren’t the problem – it is the “labels that are perpetrating the issues that need to be seriously addressed”, and that artists “do not get their fair share of the pie”.

This feeling is echoed by many in the industry, and is also seen in the report, with it being felt that labels and rights holders have an unfair advantage when it comes to profiting from streaming services. Indeed, Spotify has even stated that they have paid over $23 billion in royalties to rights holders. 


Despite the issues with streaming services affecting larger artists, it is perhaps more important to consider the impact this is having on newer creatives trying to build a name for themselves in the industry.

With the digital publication of music becoming more vital than ever, it is crucial that these streaming services provide stable and secure benefits for singers to ensure they can survive and see music as a viable career, rather than struggle to put food on the table just because they are in a creative profession.

It isn’t just Spotify causing these problems either. Sites such as Apple Music are paying as little as £0.0059 per stream, meaning musicians are finding it difficult to discover feasible alternatives.

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SoundCloud, a Swedish-founded online streaming service that tends to cater to independent artists, has recently announced that they will pay artists based on their actual listeners, rather than the share of overall streams. Could this be the way forward for other services? Or are they too established in their current models to make meaningful changes?

For many musicians, it is arguably transparency that is needed and valued. Streaming services must adapt in order to support the people who keep them in business, and with Spotify admitting that hundreds and thousands of artists earn less than a living wage through stream revenue, it is clear that change is necessary.

Streaming services are the future of music, and therefore must adapt to make music accessible to not only listeners, but also artists themselves.

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