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Are Streaming Music Services Evil?

I have to admit that I do believe that most businesses are sort of evil, because I believe that money really is the root of all evil. This belief doesn’t stop me from supporting businesses because, well, I’m an American. I’ve grown up in this glorious first-world country, growing accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and while I try to mitigate my negative impact on the world through smart consumer choices—and through recycling, reusing, and blahdy blahdy blah—I still basically support evil.

For the longest time I resisted paying for a streaming music service, but the need to balance my greed for music and how much I was paying for it finally pushed me over the edge to subscribe to Rdio (plus my friend works there). And like most addictions, I was in denial because I didn’t want to believe there could be anything bad with it. Yet I started to let myself wonder: how do artists actually make money off this shit? I mean, I’m only paying $10/month and I’m listening to hundreds of artists/songs/albums…the math doesn’t work out.

Then today, I read this:

A few bands or labels, it seems, haven’t quite jumped on board. Part of the reason is that a song has to be played between 100 and 150 times on a streaming service in order to generate the same licensing revenue as a single download sale.

Ouch. And then I read this:

Here’s how much money one band estimates it makes per Spotify play: $0.009. That’s not a typo. It’s almost one cent. And we know what one cent is worth. A post on TheNextWeb estimates that, at that rate, the band needs more than 5,000 plays to break even (based on how much it costs to have a service digitally distribute the music). To make $50 profit, they’d need another 5,000 plays.

Double ouch.

Being a musician and having many musician friends, of course I believe musicians should get paid. Yet I’m still not sure I’m willing to give up my virtually unlimited music fix that costs me $10/month. To maintain this habit of mine through direct music purchases, I’d have to spend at least 10x that. It’s the Walmart syndrome: I know the cheap stuff made in China is badness for everyone, but I can’t afford the stuff that’s locally-made/organic/fair trade/produced-by-Americans-or-some-equally-happy-worker. So I have to decide if I make it a priority and pay extra, go without (gasp! horror! apocolypse!), or buy “the cheap stuff” and turn a half blind eye and tell myself “everyone else is doing it” and me stopping won’t make a difference anyway.

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