Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a hit song? Even one. Just one smash that soars up the charts and lets you live lavishly for the rest of your life as you collect those awesome royalties. Well, dream on, because it turns out having one of the biggest songs of the year doesn’t put much in the bank.
At least, not much generated from streaming services, even if it was the most streamed song in Spotify history. As chart-scaling singer and songwriter Aloe Blacc writes in a new op-ed for Wired, Avicii’s release ‘Wake Me Up!’ which Blacc co-wrote and sings on, made him a total of less than $4,000 domestically through Pandora.
In addition to breaking Spotify records, the track was also the 13th most played song on Pandora, the largest digital music service, since its release in 2013, with “more than 168 million streams in the US”, but resulted in “only $12,359 in Pandora domestic royalties — which were then split among three songwriters and our publishers”.
In his piece, Blacc argues that it’s such revenue systems that have contributed to the overall devaluing of music, the increasingly steep uphill battle for up-and-coming songwriters, and the recent actions of Taylor Swift, who removed her catalogue from Spotify.
“Just this week, Taylor Swift removed her music from Spotify — not because she doesn’t want you to stream her songs, but because she wants to be compensated fairly for her work. She wants Spotify to treat her work as though it has value,” writes Blacc.
Of course, Swift has little to worry about on the revenue front. According to Hypebot, her track ‘Shake It It Off’ was earning $84,000 a week before it was removed from Spotify. The total streams on the popular digital service totalled just under 59.9 million.
But even Swift, who was recently confirmed as one of the highest-earning women in music today, has concerns about the devaluing impact of such services, writing as much in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this year.
“The abhorrently low rates songwriters are paid by streaming services—enabled by outdated federal regulations—are yet another indication our work is being devalued in today’s marketplace,” says Blacc in his piece.
“Updating the nation’s antiquated music licensing system will better serve the needs of not only music creators, like me, but businesses that use our music, consumers and the global marketplace for music.”
“But the digital music services that see a financial advantage in maintaining the status quo are fighting hard to obstruct any meaningful reform,” he adds. And as Tone Deaf recently reported, the services are becoming increasingly creative with how they seize that financial advantage.
According to documents recently filed by Pandora in US Congress and the Copyright Royalty Board, the service is introducing a re-tooled, finances-first ‘Music Genome’ — a complex music project of which Pandora were touted as “custodians” — algorithm that will “steer” listeners to content for which Pandora can pay a lower royalty rate.
“I, for one, can no longer stand on the sidelines and watch as the vast majority of songwriters are left out in the cold, while streaming company executives build their fortunes in stock options and bonuses on the back of our hard work,” Blacc concludes.
“Songwriting is truly a labor of love, one that often does not result in wealth. But I know the work we create has real value. And I believe policymakers will one day recognize that a system that allows digital streaming services to enjoy enormous profits while music creators struggle is imbalanced and broken.”