The vinyl resurgence is real, but artists are still getting screwed.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported that U.S. consumers bought $226 million worth of vinyl records in the first half of the year. Contrast this to $162.7 million in revenues from ad-supported streams from the likes of Pandora and Spotify, and it looks like people are actually paying a significant chunk of change for music. More money is being made on record sales than money is generated from ad-based online music.
As The Telegraph points out, however, these numbers don’t factor in paid streaming. If you group in revenues from services like Spotify Premium and Rhapsody, that puts a total of about $480 million on the streaming books, and the momentum of newer ventures like Apple Music and Tidal will jack up the pay-for-stream numbers as well. So while it’s exciting that vinyl is a thing again that people are paying for, people are primarily shelling out for access to ad-free streams—and streams are shit for getting artists paid.
Spotify’s stated payout range to artists is $0.006 to $0.0084 per song stream. It’s true that some new artists can gain traction and exposure through streaming. But the costs of making music are high, and musicians need to eat. Some people claim that the the vinyl comeback will somehow account for the declining revenues on CD sales, and more recently, the decline in download purchases. Paid streaming is still where the industry’s money is at—and for the artists, the numbers don’t quite add up yet.
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