What the Battle Over Music Streaming is Really About

Hint: it’s not about paying musicians.

By Nathan Bernier May 4, 2015 8:48 am| ,

Last year, music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify generated more revenue than CD sales. Musicians say they aren’t happy with how much they’re getting in return, especially now that streaming companies like Amazon, Google, and even NPR, have formed a lobbying group to try to lower the amount they pay to musicians.

But are the amounts that artists get paid really affected by these services? Or should their concerns be directed elsewhere?

Journalist John McDuling writes about the business of music streaming for Quartz. He joins the Texas Standard to discuss what these services do (or don’t do) for musicians and the industry overall.

On whether or not streaming services hurt up-and-coming musicians:

“What this is really about is a battle between middlemen. Performers and songwriters have always struggled with the amount of money – it’s always been an issue. This is really about record labels, publishers, and streaming platforms. I don’t think it really changes [things] for performers. They’ve always made most of their money out of performing live, and that is even more the case to this day.”

On what streaming services do for artists:

“Through YouTube and Spotify and things like that, they are getting access, in theory, to a bigger audience than they’ve ever had before. The idea being that the quality should be rewarded – what is good has a better opportunity to find its audience than it ever has.”

On what streaming services do to the industry:

“The casual user, when you can listen to everything on YouTube or Pandora – that person is not likely to pay up and subscribe. That’s the challenge that the music industry is facing at the moment. That’s why the labels want to clamp down on ‘free music.’”