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Is Music Streaming Bad for Artists?

From Taylor Swift to Kanye West, the conversation about streaming music and artists is becoming increasingly popular. Here's what you need to know.

Photo: Omid Armin (UnSplash)

Let's begin with an important statement: music streaming is a grey area, so it's more complicated than just good or bad.

In the recent months, music streaming has taken center stage in the industry as more artists openly discuss their stories. The main one? Taylor Swift re-recorded albums. Most people know that Taylor Swift decided to record her albums for a second time because of Scooter Braun refused to sell her the original recordings on fair terms. Ironically, another artist bringing attention to the downside of music streaming is Ye (Kanye) West. The music world has turned upside down when Ye announced that Donda 2, the highly anticipated sequel, would only be available on West's streaming platform.

"Donda 2 will only be available on my own platform, the Stem Player. Not on Apple, Amazon, Spotify, or YouTube. Today artists get just 12% of the money the industry makes. It's time to free music from this oppressive system. It's time to take control and build our own. Go to now to order," Ye announced via his Instagram account.

Now, why is music streaming still a grey area if artists are openly speaking about its flaws?

Not only does music streaming allow for faster availability, but services like Spotify and Apple Music allow people to get their hands on their favorite music regardless of where they are. For example, if you're a teenager without a drivers license, you wouldn't be able to drive and buy a CD of your favorite artist on release day unless your parents drove you. What happens if the release happens during school hours?

With streaming services, you can access an artist's work much faster and easier.

However, there is a downside to artists when it comes to working with streaming services, including the amount of money they make for their music. When it comes to copyrights and ownership rights, labels, publishing companies, and streaming services can put artists on a tough spot. Similarly to what happened to Taylor, the control that third parties now have on their music can be damaging if the service wants to put their own terms. And with millions of people defaulting to music streaming, an artist is in a tough spot to say not to the service that distributes their music, after all, artists depend on streams to make money and grow in the industry.


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