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Ask Arthur

Ask Arthur: Am I 
exploiting artists?

A reader asks whether using streaming music services is ripping off artists. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK says it’s complicated.

Q: I love Spotify but I’ve read that streaming music makes it impossible for artists to make a living. I’d hate to exploit my favourite musicians. Am I?

A: The entertainment world shifted on it’s axis the moment Napster made music file sharing possible more than 20 years ago.

Since then, music has shifted entirely from physical to digital formats, sweeping away the traditional system of fans buying a physical product and artists getting a small share of that action. 

With subscription streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, a slice of the total subscription pie is divided among artists according to their share of streams. The maths works out terribly for any artist not achieving millions of streams. 

Yet, Spotify runs at a loss. 

So no, neither they nor you are exploiting the artist. Rather, the industry has changed radically, while its business model remains one of royalties and percentages at a time when the numbers don’t make sense to the artists. 

In short, it’s complicated, and another shift is needed, on the accounting side of the business. 

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