• Albert M. Carter, M.Ed.

Musicians: Create. Control. Compensate.

How can we get artists paid? Create. Control. Compensate.

In the world of technology, we are used to consuming music at a rapid rate. Within our consumption of music does the artists get lost. Is being an independent artist a dream? Should the goal be getting signed to a major label? What can we do for artists to remain true to their art, control their works of art and get properly compensated?

Artist create the music, once its created then its immediately put on a platform that is controlled by another entity (i.e. Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, etc.). Once this is done the artists immediately loses control of the recorded works. From this point, artists ability to make money has been reduced to doing shows, endorsements and other ways to making ends meet.

Artists are paid less than pennies on a dollar by streaming services. Its easy for an independent or major label artist to get lost in the world of streaming services to other artists, because of algorithms designed to divert attention to other artists on their platforms to keep you listening longer. While this is great for lessor known musicians to gain exposure outside of their fan base and for listeners to discover new talent, it hurts the artist that brought the consumer to the platform.

To put it in perspective, its like starting a mom and pop business that sells a product and people come to your store to buy YOUR product, but your store is inside of a massive store like Walmart that sells just about everything. As you originally came to purchase a specific item (the artists song of single) you end up walking around the store and sometimes forgetting the initial reason you even came into the store in the first place. While this is great for the store (or in this case streaming platform) its not so great for the artists looking to take their career to the next level.

The new way to get noticed is to get your music on a curated playlist, that tailored toward the mainstream or genre specific by influencers. Usually these influencers are part of a system who is getting funding from record companies to put the artist they want to promote on a playlist. Once these playlists are curated and distributed through their respected platforms, then the music starts to expand and hit mainstream radio.

In the last few years, the artists have begun to lose control over their music (and ultimately their career). While the record company remains the single most important financial player in the music industry, the 360 deal has placed limiting boundaries on what an artist can do. While the artists may receive a great deal of money at the beginning of their careers (once they sign on the dotted line) in the form of an advance (that must be paid back in the contracted time), the deal revolves around the artists as an entity.

The artist then ceased to lose control over their careers once this happens.  Although the artist has the freedom to choose how to go about his or her career (mainstream acts) the record company will have his or her hands in the artists pocket every step of the way. In order to achieve mainstream success (which you should be trying to do) its practically impossible to do without a record label or someone willing to invest between 300k-500k into your career. There may be a few examples of artists not being backed by a major company or corporation but by no shape or form is this the norm.

The system is no longer based solely on talent. We are moving into an era of influencers (influential people) that can make music. While, I’m not saying that these influencers are not talented, I am saying that you must have more than talent in order to make it and be successful in music. There are 2 things that I tell any artist that I deal with to understand if they want to have longevity in the music industry. People must want to be who you are, or they must believe your story. While you don’t have to remain authentic to your lyrics, you do have to remain your authentic self. Don’t change your narrative. The record labels will present you as a packaged [product to the world so its important to remain authentic to who you are. Sometimes record labels will attempt to push a narrative that’s not authentic to who you are. When this is done you immediately lose your authenticity and ultimately lose out on a lengthy career. Most time washed up to a one hit wonder. This is also where the artist loses control over their career. So always remain authentic and be weary on following industry trends.

The last point that I want to make is for fair compensation for the artists. As I stated before, the goal should be a record deal or endorsement deals. We must look at how and why people are consuming music the way that they do. With modern technology of streaming, most consumers subscribe to some sort of streaming network. But with these methods, the artist doesn’t receive what I believe is fair compensation. With the sort of payment an independent artist looking to make a living off their music, streaming makes it almost impossible. You must be a mainstream artist in order to be able to make a living from album sales. The streaming services and record labels profit but most times the artists end up losing money.

Between 1999 and 2014, the global recording industry last almost 40% in revenues. This was due to the shift in how people consume music. The answer to this problem was met with streaming. This initiative of growth was driven by investment and innovation. However, with new technology emerging almost daily its important for artist to understand where the game is shifting to ad how the industry is intending on getting there. It’s time for artists to put their thinking caps on and come up with new innovative ways to change the game.

It’s important to note that music consumption is moving away from ownership (of the song or album) and towards services that offer consumers access to music. Knowing this the artists should align their focus on the best experience or the fan or consumer as possible. An artist should focus on placing their music in different ways such as advertising, gaming, television and films. While vinyl is starting to make a comeback, chances are that it’s a temporary trend. So, what can you do to help innovation in the music industry? Leave comments below.

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