The arrival of streaming completely changed the music industry in an instant. While many of these platforms, which include Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube Music, may have introduced a new era of musical discoverability and an ease of listening for the consumer, the changes to the industry have mostly been negative for a large swath of artists. For every artist hitting the top of the charts thanks to streaming, hundreds are receiving literal pennies for their musical outputs. Many music executives and label heads have managed to profit handsomely from these new technologies, but that has not been the case for the vast majority of artists creating the music found on these platforms.
“Growing imbalance between the substantial amount of remuneration received by streaming platforms, major labels, and distributors, and the revenues distributed to independent creators and labels has become increasingly apparent, exacerbating concerns from artists and creators about the possibility of building a sustainable career based on earnings from streaming.”
– UNESCO study entitled Revenue distribution and transformation in the music streaming value chain.
Many of the issues plaguing the streaming industry are hurting artists, yes, but the streaming services themselves aren’t shielded either. While their userbase is often increasing, the same can’t be said for their profits. According to a recent article by Engadget, Spotify “grew its subscriber base by 17 percent year over year” but also “posted an adjusted operating loss of $123.7 million” over that same period. Which begs the question: is the streaming industry but an increasingly precarious house of cards?
Here at Tout culture, we believe that artists are the core of the creative industry, not an accessory to it. We’re not here to shame anybody’s usage of streaming platforms, but we’re hoping people can use them in an informed and healthy way. Which is why we’ve decided to launch our new series that explores one online music initiative that’s attempting to pay artists their fair share: Bandcamp Fridays.
Founded in 2007, Bandcamp lets artists and music labels decide what they feel is a just price for their music. Both an online record store and a music discovery platform, Bandcamp remains the strongest way to virtually support musicians. It offers more flexibility to artists and labels in deciding how they want their music to be presented and their pricing strategy. As a music lover you can decide to purchase their music physically, through CD and vinyl sales, or digitally via streaming and via downloads in high quality formats including MP3 and FLAC. You can also support your favourite artists by purchasing merchandise or gifting albums to friends.
In 2022 the platform was sold to video gaming company Epic Games, known for the insanely popular online game Fortnite. What this means for the formerly independent platform is yet to be seen, but for the time being their ethos seems to have remained the same. We’re not asking you to delete your other streaming accounts, but if you haven’t yet, we encourage you to try an alternative that gives music lovers the ability to actually own their music, like we did up until recently.
Discoverability vs. Discovery
Playlists on services like Spotify and Apple Music are an extremely powerful discoverability tool for new artists. But making your way onto said playlists isn’t always easy, especially for independent artists. Also, this feature is becoming increasingly reserved to artists and labels who are willing to cut into their streaming royalties to be included in popular playlists. Bandcamp is powered by true music lovers and their online magazine Bandcamp Daily is a testament to this fact. It’s chock full of music recommendations and longform articles, written by professional music journalists, often about artists that rarely get mainstream media coverage. While the discoverability factor might not be as high as other platforms, the discovery aspect of Bandcamp goes above and beyond what their competitors are doing.
Bandcamp Fridays to counter the effects of the pandemic
When the first lockdowns started at the beginning of the pandemic, artists suddenly found themselves unable to perform live or to go on tour, their main revenue source. Bandcamp launched their Bandcamp Fridays initiative as a direct response to this new reality. Every first Friday of the month, Bandcamp committed to waiving their revenue share of all sales on that day. To date, over $100 million USD have been paid to artists and labels, many of which are independent. To find out the date of the next Bandcamp Friday, all you need to do is visit isitbandcampfriday.com to get your answer.
Each month we’ll present local artists whose music you can find on Bandcamp to help you get in tune with the local music scene as well as stimulate the local economy. Do you know an artist we should feature? Let us know! We’re always looking to discover new talent. Meanwhile, head over to Bandcamp and see if your favourite artists are using the platform, give them a follow, and maybe even buy an album.