Interview: How Does Streaming Affect Your Favorite Artists and What's the Best Way to Purchase? Composer Jonathan Reid Gealt Chimes In
We live in a digital age. Books we used to purchase at Barnes & Noble, we now upload to our E-readers. Characters we used to follow on primetime, we now watch on Netflix. Music we used to listen to on CDs, we now stream from services like Apple Music Spotify. Recently, the question came up - how has this shift in the way we consume art effected the artists who create it?
Composer Jonathan Reid Gealt recently wrote on Facebook:
For those of you who are curious as to how terrible Spotify (and streaming in general) is and how badly it's hurting the music industry, here are the clear facts for the first 6 months "Whatever I Want It To Be" has been out.
- We sold 69 albums.
- We had 30,425 streams.
- Those 69 albums brought in 3 times the amount that 30,425 streams did.
- The streams only paid us $170.08.
- If those 30,425 streams were purchased I would be splitting $197,564.74 between 17 people.
- Instead, I have to now split that $170.08 between 17 different people.
The only way to support the artists you love is to purchase their albums. Albums that used to cost $19.99 which are now only $9.99 each. If you think you're supporting the artists through streaming sites like Spotify, you should know you're only supporting the company itself. Spotify is worth 8 and a half billion dollars (which is more than the entire US music industry combined). The CEO of Spotify is worth over 500 million dollars himself. And yet for more than 30 thousand streams they pay out $170.
Purchase the music you love so people can afford to keep doing this as their life's work.
BroadwayWorld just chatted with Gealt about the issue, and more importantly, about what you can do to help support your favorite artists...
You put together your latest album (Whatever I Want It To Be) through Crowdfunding- what was that experience like for you?
I was pretty lucky. We didn't quite get the full amount, and Kickstarter is all or nothing, you know? But at the end of the campaign, all of the 230 people that had pledged said that if we did not reach the full goal, they would still pledge. Which meant we had $17,000 right off the bat to start.
You have some great talent on the album. How'd you round them up?
I'm really fortunate when it comes to that. Before switching to just writing, I was an actor for the first five years I lived in the city. Many of the folks who have sung my songs are close friends or friends I met doing shows. Some I've just met through mutual friends and when I was working on a song I felt was right for them, I asked them if they would be interested. It's just about friends and friends of friends, and asking. You won't know unless you ask!
And they're all doing it because they love the music, they love you, they love the chance to get it out there. Nobody's expecting to make a zillion dollars or anything...
Right, I mean you kind of hope that you do, but it's not the main point. When the Spotify discussions started earlier this year, Laura Osnes said "I don't think anyone did this to make a billion dollars. I mean if we were pulling in millions of dollars it would be different, but that's not what this is. Don't worry about it." She's also a real life Disney Princess so there's that...
Yes, we'll offer free mental health services to anyone who can!
Right! Sounds like a plan!
So ... what's the best way to support this music, so that you guys can make more of it?
iTunes is the best! If you like it and want it, just purchase the album. I'm not opposed to people being able to hear it first. I've never been opposed to that. The thing that I don't understand is how Spotify is worth so much money, billions of dollars, and yet for over 30,000 plays they pay $170 that I have to split 17 ways. I don't understand how they're getting away with it. But that's why so many artists are pulling their music from streaming sites.
Have you thought about taking your music off of Spotify? Is that something that's under your control?
Yes, it is. It's absolutely under my control and that's part of what we were talking about back in January when Laura said that to me. Because they all get a percentage of this money, so it's not just my money, it's theirs too. I'm not going to make a decision like that without talking to them.
It was pretty divided though, at least back in January. Some of them said "You know what, it doesn't matter. Take it off Spotify." Some of them said, "We didn't do it for the money. Get your music out there." And half of them were like, "Ehh I don't really know." It was just completely split, so I didn't take it off. I sent out another email this week to all of them letting them know the numbers before sending royalty payments. So we will see. There are tens of thousands of people listening to the album, but they are doing it through Spotify so they're not paying for it. They might be paying Spotify, but they're not paying the artists for the music. If there was a way that Spotify had an option to listen to a couple of the songs before purchasing the music, that would be great! But that's not how it's set up.
And do you get any sort of data that says one person's listening to the entire album, or they're listening to random songs?
No. It's not that detailed. Being an independent artist, I have to deal with the distributor. They're fantastic and their customer service is great. If I have any issues with anything they're really on it. But I don't get to deal with Spotify directly. I have to go through multiple people in order to get them.
Is it better if someone buys through Amazon or through iTunes?
iTunes is the best. We get the biggest percentage through iTunes. iTunes takes 35% percent, so 65% of an album sale goes back to us, which is roughly $6.50. And the thing is, if people were using Spotify to listen for new songs, and then they would go purchase the ones they liked, that would be totally great. But, they're not. They're not because if you offer someone something for free, at least in the current economy, they're just going to keep doing it for free. Because then why would they pay if they can get it for free? It becomes all that they know.
I think they don't realize that Beyonce might make a million dollars selling out her arena, but that's different than somebody selling out 54 Below.
Right. You're talking about the difference in selling out arena's and selling out a 150 - 200 seat club. We're lucky if we break even with the costs of just running the show for the night. But even when artists like Beyoncé release new albums, their albums don't go platinum as quickly anymore. They used to. Albums used to cost $20 a piece, not $9.99. And you had to go to the store to buy them because there wasn't a thing called the Internet. All of these albums would go platinum the first week. And it was a big deal to see which ones went platinum the fastest. So few artists do that, now, because people aren't buying them. They're streaming them. And because all of the numbers are so skewed in favor of Spotify, or whatever streaming site you have. It's so hard to make any money back, even the money you spend making it.