Not too long ago, buying a record on its release date meant a trek to a record store and possibly an hourslong wait in line. The album — whether on vinyl, tape or CD — would then likely be listened to as whole, as compared to single songs.
Today, release dates mean little. If music is not leaked, musicians often will release multiple singles prior to the album release date. CDs, tapes and vinyl, all physical property that has to be purchased in its entirety, have become novelties. Streaming has become the new way music is distributed. And that’s not as great as it may seem.
In a world in which people are increasingly unwilling to wait or pay for things, streaming fills the void. Services such as Pandora, Spotify and more recently, Apple Music, offer the ability to listen to a vast amount of music for a nominal fee.
Upon first glance, the issue with streaming might not be obvious. But look beyond the surface, and the problem is more than evident: Streaming is single-handedly killing revenue for musicians.
What’s the big deal, you ask? Well for one, many musicians (including many on top 25 charts) are not “rich.” In fact, many are far from it. Case in point: Rock band 30 Seconds to Mars sold 2 million records of its album “A Beautiful Lie,” but was still $1.4 million in debt to its record label. And that was before streaming became popular.
With the proliferation of streaming, musicians face a dilemma: get paid little (some musicians quite literally make pennies from streaming services), or risk their music not being exposed to millions of people who use streaming as their primary source of music. It is a decision musicians should not have to make.
Sure, streaming is an easy-to-access, inexpensive and reliable way to hear new music, but it’s crippling musicians. It seems obvious that if millions of people are enjoying a band’s songs, this band should not have to worry about paying the bills. But now, this is far too often not the case.
In an electronically connected world, there is no easy fix to this problem. Musicians, ever-creative, are finding new ways to supplement their loss of income, but with varying degrees of success. Many musicians still battle poverty, despite their perceived success.
It’s a huge issue most people do not completely understand. If nothing else, it’s food for thought next time you debate whether or not you can afford that new hit single that is a whole $1.29.
Jack Watson is a sophomore at Orchard Park High School.