Streaming music services such as Pandora and Spotify are among the leaders in this new age of digital music distribution. But as you enjoy using these services, do you ever stop to think how the creators of your favorite songs are being compensated?
Take for instance Aloe Blacc’s 2013 hit with Avicii, entitled “Wake Me Up.” Thus far, Blacc has only received $4,000 from Pandora even though the song has amazingly been played more than 168 million times.
According to Blacc, the whole system needs to be reassessed.
“First, unlike most people in creative industries, songwriters seem to have less control over our work than ever before,” he says. “Knock off a handbag design from a high-end fashion house or use a sports team’s logo in your new T-shirt line, and expect a lawsuit in short order … You need express permission from the original creators to use or copy their work before you resell it. That’s how they protect the value of their work. But the world doesn’t work that way for songwriters. By law, we have to let any business use our songs that asks, so long as they agree to pay a rate that, more often than not, was set in a free market.”
For newer artists, a situation like this wouldn’t be so bad, as new artist can definitely use the (almost) free promotion and exposure to a global audience. But for established artists who aren’t necessarily trying to make a name for themselves, the skewed pay scale leaves a lot to be desired.
“The abhorrently low rates songwriters are paid by streaming services — enabled by outdated federal regulations — are yet another indication our work is being devalued in today’s marketplace,” Blacc explains. “I’ve earned less than $4,000 domestically from the largest digital music service. If that’s what’s now considered a streaming success story, is it any wonder that so many songwriters are now struggling to make ends meet?”