The first CD was released in 1982 and featured Billy Joel’s “52nd Street,” while 11 years later the Internet Underground Music Archive first allowed users to download songs.
Nielsen Holdings N.V., a global information and measurement company, released its annual music report indicating that in 2015, more than 317 billion songs were streamed on-demand — an increase of about 93 percent from last year.
While total music consumption is up by more than 15 percent, album sales have declined by 17 percent since 2014, showing the growing preference for streaming sites over tangible albums.
“Databases that stream, like Spotify and Apple Music, are wonderful sources for both scholars and performers,” said Dr. Angela Brand, associate professor of music. “They provide easy access to music, albeit, in an intangible way. However, the ease of use and accessibility may come at a cost to the music industry and the musicians.”
Streaming sites pay artists based on how many plays their songs receive. While this benefits major artists, smaller musicians struggle to make an income. Based on a graph released by Information is Beautiful, a company that turns data and information into visual graphs and diagrams, a signed artist on Spotify would need 1,117,021 plays to earn the U.S. federal minimum wage of $7.25.
“The artists do get a bigger percentage on Apple Music than they get paid on Spotify,” said Dean Lagrange, senior business administration major. “If you’re a major artist, then you really made it. My brother is a mastering engineer so he works with major artists all the time and it’s a really cutthroat industry.”
Last year, a Michigan band named Vulfpeck challenged Spotify by streaming an album with 10 tracks that contained complete silence. Although Spotify removed the album, the band earned $20,000 after asking fans to play it on repeat while they slept.
“The challenge will be for musicians to still receive their earnings and dividends without being undercut by unscrupulous or pirated copies of their art,” Brand said. “Another concern would be the revenue from advertisements that website owners receive and sometimes do not share with the music- makers.”
Each play earns an artist under half of a cent from most streaming services after record companies take their cut. An unsigned artist will make significantly more than one signed by a larger company.
“If people are really into music and big fans of an artist, I think they’d buy their CDs if they knew it would benefit them more,” said Haley Mulder, junior theater performance major.