Music Royalties in the Web era

In the first three months of 2012, the song “Tugboat” was played 7,800 times on Pandora. Tugboat's three songwriters earned 7 cents each.

The rise of streaming sites has made it impossible for most musicians “to earn even a modest wage through our recordings,” said Damon Krukowski in Pitchfork.com. My band, Galaxie 500, broke up in 1991, yet our single “Tugboat” was played 7,800 times on Pandora in the first three months of 2012. For that privilege, the song’s three songwriters earned 7 cents each.

“Spotify pays better”; the three of us earned a collective $1.05 for 5,960 plays there. In other words, “it would take songwriting royalties for roughly 312,000 plays on Pandora to earn us the profit of one—one—LP sale.” When I began making records, the idea was simple: You priced your recording at slightly more than the manufacturing cost and hoped it sold. Now streaming sites are simply “selling access” and aim only to attract speculative capital for themselves.


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