Guest Post by @sarahickman: Streaming Royalties Are Ending Opportunities for Working Musicians

[Sara Hickman is one of Austin’s most beloved songwriters.  She has allowed us to republish her viral Facebook post on how streaming is hollowing out the “middle class musician”.  (If you want data on this phenomenon, see the Austin Music Census, the most comprehensive work of its kind that actually connects with working musicians as opposed to the usual hoorah Chamber of Commerce bunk.)  Trust me–it’s not just Austin. As Maria Schneider has written, low streaming royalty rates and increased consumption are essentially destroying the music infrastructure from the ground up.  And the recurring theme from the World Trade Center offices of Spotify is that royalties are too high.  We’re honored to republish Sara’s important post.  And a 44% increase in streaming rates is still $0.00144.]

There were many reasons why I retired from music last year. I’ve never explained them or felt the need to, so I’m not going to start today.

But I do want to point out something that made a chilling difference in my decision. And that is streaming and downloading music versus selling physical cds/vinyl/cassettes, what have you. You’ve all heard how it affects us: the songwriters, the musicians, the bands. I want to share a living example of what streaming does. Because streaming is killing the opportunities of musicians to make a living off of their creations.

My song “I Couldn’t Help Myself” was my biggest success, in consideration of what the industry expects, it wasn’t much. But when it came out in 1990, there was a lovely video, lots of airplay, touring, promotion teams and I was flown to radio stations all over the country to perform live and chat with the DJs. All this to say hard work helped move the song to #3. I was blessed to appear on “The Tonight Show” while it was the single.

All this to lead up to the fact that it is 2018 (28 years later)
and I just received my quarterly royalty statement from Warner Music Group for all the songs from “Shortstop”. Believe it or not, my songs still get airplay around the globe, which blows my mind and, of course, makes my heart smile.

I hope you’ve read this far.

Because the pay off is you’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you.

I recognize the numbers I’m about to share don’t amount to beans when compared with musicians who have made it to the big, BIG time. But I’ve always considered myself a working middle class musician; I worked my ass off to make a decent living and I was cool with that. I had a niche. I learned how to diversify my talents, read contracts, distribute, create and publish content (music) to support my dream. I enjoyed understanding what I was making and releasing into the world, knowing there would be end results of, hopefully, satisfied listeners and a financial reward parallel to the work, time, effort and costs associated on my end.

Having said that, I’ve watched how income numbers on royalties have dropped since streaming/downloads started.

This new earnings notice (Oct-Dec 2017) shows “I Couldn’t Help Myself” played 14,789 times (U.S., Italy, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, United Arab Em., Belgium, etc) and here’s what that provided:

$15.98

That’s right.

FIFTEEN DOLLARS AND NINETY EIGHT CENTS for 14,789 captured results of people listening to my song.

That equals .0010 per download or stream. It’s not even
a PENNY per play. And it’s not because it’s me. That’s the level playing field of payment for all of us in music on Spotify, YouTube, Amazon download, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Tidal, Rhapsody, Slacker…even something called Neurotic Media.

Let me hip you to how many of those were downloads (as in paid for content):

19

Here’s how much streaming this one song of mine received:

14,770 plays

As today is the International Day of Women, I thought it was important to remind you of not only how women musicians are treated, but how ALL musicians are compensated and WHY it is IMPORTANT to remember to pay for music.

Video may have killed the radio star, but streaming is ending wages and opportunities for your creators.

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