The gradual takeover of streaming in all forms have crowned it king over the different ways we’ve consumed music in the past. Physical albums have been replaced by Spotify and Apple Music. The buzz word is royalties, and every beginning of the start is something of a holiday for independent artist anticipating gifts from their chosen distribution company. But collecting royalties isn’t as easy as it sounds. Choosing the best distribution, making sure you keep everything organized and correct on the backed of things, and keeping track of who is getting what cut from your profits are necessary for all independent and signed artists. Here’s a quick rundown.
It’s a boring concept to some, but it’s honestly one of the most important. Metadata is collection of information connected to a song like artist and producer names, writer, song title, release date, genre or track duration, and that’s just a few. One misspelled word can create more problems that you may think, so making sure your name, both legal and alias, is spelled correctly when uploading directly to streaming platforms should become a routine. It wouldn’t hurt to make checking a daily habit even. But what do you do if you’re a signed artist and aren’t in control of distributing your music? It’s up to whoever the label hires to punch in your info correctly, and that’s kind of scary to think about considering one small error could result in weeks to months of loss royalties. Those loss royalties could find its way to an artist in the form of black box royalties, but beyond that there’s no guarantee.
Independent artists do have more resources at their disposal than they ever have, but they still are receiving a shorter end of the stick. Distribution companies like Repost Network promise to get your music live in days after submitting and a bigger cut of the royalties but instead take a huge cut themselves, and that’s on top of whatever the DSP’s take out. Repost “will pay you seventy percent (70%) of Distribution Net Income”. That’s a 30 percent cut, for you or your team to do most of the leg work. Both DistroKid and Tunecore promise 100 percent of royalties, but both charge up to $50 per year for their services. That’s a significantly better offer, but DistroKid doesn’t offer in-depth song analytics or a Soundcloud monetization option, so artists still end up having to turn to platforms like Repost Network. By the time you’ve decided on your approach to distributing and monetizing your music you’ve come out of pocket a hundred dollars, especially if you decide to use more than one platform.
By now we’ve all heard the outcry from legacy artists about how little Spotify and Apple Music actually care about the very artists that keep their sites running. As it stands, Spotify and Apple pay less than a penny for each individual stream. To the artist just starting out that big of a cut may not mean much to them, until they find out one million plays on Spotify equals out to just seven thousand dollars in royalties, and $1,650 on Pandora.
Streaming is still fairly new, and the industry may be trying it’s hardest to ensure profit for everybody, but something has to give. While the major labels and streaming sites are huddled together coming up with a solution, there’s a fix that’s been lingering for the past couple of years just waiting for it’s turn to change the music industry — Blockchain. (If you need a refresher or quick explanation read this and come back.) The technology itself has already made its way into finance, with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies becoming more than just trendy accessories and even making it’s way into the movie industry. Bringing blockchain to the music industry could solve most of, if not all, of the the issues we’ve just talked about.
How? It’s not as complicate as you may think. Blockchain cuts out the middle man. Instead of relying on labels or other companies to collect royalties and decide who gets what, money will move directly from consumer to the hands of the artist. The only “middle man” would be someone willing to confirm the transaction, but they wouldn’t necessarily have to get a cut from the artist, and if they do that cut would be a lot less than any cut they are taking right now. It would also improve security, because even though anyone can see a transaction that’s been made, it’s almost impossible to find out who exactly is involved and no private information is given out.
Sound’s like the perfect alternative right? Well, to do this a streaming service would have to embrace blockchain and even create its own coin, but that doesn’t sound like anything any of the major DSP’s would do. New platforms like Beatzcoin are among the first into this space, but a tailored service for music streaming has yet to be made. When it finally is, artists across the board will reap the benefits, ushering in a new age of music.