Spotify: good for listeners, but financially tough on musicians?

By Morgan Knox, Contributing Writer

It’s common to see students walking around with headphones in their ears as they are walking to class.

Many students listen to music while they work on homework in the library, and a pair of headphones and tunes is a staple for when people are working out in the RAWC on campus.

Music is a large part of life and modern culture.

With the help of technology, music is readily available to listeners around the world.

The emergence of music streaming websites has shifted the direct purchasing of music from the musicians to third party sources.

“I listen to music mainly through my Spotify premium streaming account,” junior art major Amber Troppman said.

“I am able to create my own playlists to keep myself entertained and focused while working on my art.”

Most streaming websites offer applications that smartphone users can download directly to their cell phones to take music on the go.

Some instant music streaming websites include: Pandora Radio, Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, Jango internet radio, Slacker Radio, AccuRadio, Google Play Music, Apple Music and YouTube.

“The ability to stream music whenever and wherever has given listeners the freedom to enjoy whatever kind of music they want,” Joshua Warren drummer for the local Oklahoma City band Cavern Company said.

“That freedom ultimately comes at the cost of the musicians or bands that spend hours producing those songs.”

The internet has increased the level of convenience for the average listener.

Vinyl records are sought after by a select audience, but most people are listening to music digitally. Technology has moved the music industry into an era of instant gratification.

“We currently live in a world where online on-demand streaming is king,” said Kolby Yarbrough, OBU graduate and lead guitarist for Cavern Company said.

“Musicians will spend time, effort and a lot of money producing music they are proud of to share with their listeners but streaming websites pay musicians very little in return.”

There is generally a time lapse of a year or two between when artists produce an album before they produce another.

This allows for musicians time to go on tour to perform their new albums, sell merchandise, sell tickets and gives the artists time to work on new songs.

“Playing shows is where we get our main source of income as a band,” Zach Shomaker, lead vocalist and guitar player of Cavern Company said.

“It’s the same for big label groups. Without playing shows bands would not make money off of ticket sales or merchandise.”

The modern music industry is a tough business especially now that there are thousands of musicians and artists available and the demand of a button. In the past musicians relied on selling albums for their main source of income, but now concerts and ticket sales are the main source of income for even big label groups.

“After a group drops a new album, they will usually go on tour,” Yarbrough said. “Artists have had to increase their ticket prices for concerts to help make up for streaming sites and for people just purchasing select songs from their albums.”

The time between albums is also due to the fact that there is so much effort required for producing a full length album.

Musicians invest an immense amount of time in the writing, recording, editing and mastering phases that are needed for full production of songs.

“We spent a full week in October at Closet Studios in Tulsa recording all the different tracks for our upcoming six song EP release,” Shomaker said.

“It took almost a day and a half for each instrument or vocal piece to be recorded how we wanted it. Vocals, guitar, drums, bass and everything else had to be recorded individually,” he said.

“It then took almost two months for the first mix tracks to be sent to us.”

Cavern Company’s EP release is titled “Tension” and is currently in the first round of three of post-production. Then the songs will be sent for mastering as the final step of the production process.

“At the Closet Studios, we make it a priority to make your recordings unique, and have something that stands out in this competitive industry,” Kendal Osborne, owner of Closet Studios said. “Closet Studios provides artists with a place to record that’s relaxed, affordable, effective and professional. It’s difficult in the music scene, and we want to help in any way we can.”

The demand for quality music to be produced as quickly as possible puts hinders on the creative process.

“After we recorded and released our first single ‘Dancing in the Dark’ it took us months to perfect the songs that are going to be on the EP,” Warren said.

“It took a while but we wanted every aspect of the songs to showcase what Cavern Company is all about.”

Due to the influence of streaming websites, Cavern Company has not received much of a return on their investment of releasing “Dancing in the Dark.”

“‘Dancing in the Dark’ has been played over 300 times on Spotify but we have only made $2.00,” Shomaker said.

“Websites like Spotify and Apple Music are a great way for us to make our music available but there is no way we can support a three man band off of streaming websites.”

Spotify pays their musicians approximately 0.0056 of a cent per play.

But musicians who want to offer their music on internet platforms for the public must pay a yearly digital distribution fee.

“The best way to support your favorite musicians is to buy products directly from their websites or shows,” Yarbrough said.

“Buying CD, vinyl records, merchandise and buying tickets to see shows will put more money in the pockets of the artists.”

Recently there has been a movement back to purchasing vinyl records.

Stores like Urban Outfitters have a full section devoted to showcasing record players and the vinyl records of some of today’s top recording artists and bands.

“Purchasing vinyl records it a great way to invest in your favorite the bands or musicians,” Warren said.

“Records are an investment on the listener’s end, but most of that money goes directly to the musicians which will allow them to make more music for you to love.”

Cavern Company is releasing their EP “Tension” later this spring. The group plans on performing a release show for friends, family and fans that helped support the band through fundraising.

“The songs are in the post production phase and we are so excited to share with everyone what exactly we have been working on for the past year,” Yarbrough said.

“We were able to play at OBU during Welcome Week last fall at the food truck festival. All of the songs that we performed will be on our new album.”

Creating music is the way that musicians make a living, but in the modern music industry many of the musicians who are trying to get their start have to work other jobs on top of their music careers.

Like any other profession, musicians are providing a service that should be appreciated and payed for.

“Our goal is to be able to focus on our music full time,” Warren said. “Making good music takes time, creativity, money and lots of practice but to us it is worth it.”

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