The Hodgepodge: Streaming Is Proving To Be Too Much of a Good Thing

Spotify

I make my return to The Hodgepodge! And this isn’t just a one-off appearance either, as I will be taking it over for the rest of the year. You’re probably wondering what’s up? Well Derek has a lot on his plate in the next month and I’ve got a few ideas that I’ve been wanting to write about, so this felt like the right thing to do for both of us. Don’t worry you’ll still see Derek around, as you’ll be seeing more reviews from him in the next month instead of The Hodgepodge. Derek has been doing a fine job with The Hodgepodge and will return to writing it in 2016. So what’s on my mind…

Streaming is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Of course I’ve discussed this before in The Hodgepodge. The first Hodgepodge column ever touched on it. So I wanted to revisit it now after I’ve had a lot more experience with a variety of streaming services. What inspired me to write this post was the following tweet I saw weeks ago:

For those unfamiliar with Zac Wilkerson, he’s an artist from Amarillo, Texas who’s music is a combination of soul, country and folk music. He’s an independent artist who doesn’t have a large following. So you can see how Spotify screws him and other independent artists over. Only $310 for over 60,000 streams is ridiculously low and is not enough to financially support anyone. To give you an idea between the difference of money between streaming and buying an album, let’s divide 63,640 by 1500. According to Billboard, 1500 streams equal one album sale. The result of the above equation is about 43 albums sold. The average album costs $12. So multiply 43 by 12 and this gives the amount of money made from the sales, which is $516. It’s not a huge increase from the $310 made from Spotify, but this is just a very basic comparison that doesn’t factor in many variables and other factors involved here. Did the people who stream Wilkerson’s music go onto buy an album from him? Or even merchandise or concert tickets as a result of discovering him? Unfortunately this is something that we can’t determine.

So the obvious downside of streaming is less money for the artist. The other downside of course is streaming is eating into music sales badly. According to Nielsen/Billboard data, digital song sales have gone down 10.4% and on-demand audio streaming has ballooned up 74% to 58.6 billion plays in 2015. Vinyl sales have once again increased this year, up 38.4% in sales. Also it’s worth pointing out that CD album sales are trumping digital album sales. So it’s a tale of two schools of thought in 2015: the casual listener who uses Spotify, Apple Music or some other streaming service and the traditional listener who prefers a physical media. There are a lot more streamers though than physical media purchasers. It’s the clear dominant preference of the average listener right now.

You could make a big argument that streaming has become so popular because the quality of music is down and people are reluctant to trust the music marketplace. But that involves a lot of opinions and it’s an argument that will just go round and round. I prefer to point out something more factual: streaming is simply too convenient. For $9.99 month you can get all the music you want from Apple Music, Spotify or Google Play. Spotify sweets it up even more by offering new users three months up front of Spotify premium for only 99 cents. These streaming subscriptions allow you to download unlimited music for offline play as long as you continue to pay a monthly fee. If you download just one album and you listen to it, you’re already getting your money’s worth. It’s ridiculously friendly to customers and inherently unfair to artists who aren’t named Katy Perry or Taylor Swift.

After years of dismissing streaming, I gave into streaming this year even, as I subscribed to Google Play music. It’s kind of important to have this as a music reviewer though. Do you really think I’m going to buy Luke Bryan albums to review them? This is where I point out the good side of streaming, which is discovery and quality control. I’ve discovered numerous new artists via streaming and I never would have been able to find them without streaming. Buying blind is something I was never a fan of and streaming allows me to listen to the music before deciding if I want to purchase the album. So when an artist puts out a bad album now, you can stream it instead of buying it and wasting your money. Of course this isn’t possible with Garth Brooks albums, as he’s an old man who refuses to get with the times and is forcing his crappy GhostTunes down everyone’s throats. But you get the point with the good side of streaming: it allows you to be a smarter customer and expands your music collection with easy discovery.

Streaming is obviously proving to be too much of a good thing. There isn’t any balance here, as the customers are reaping all the rewards and artists aren’t reaping enough from it. That’s not to say customers shouldn’t be getting a lot out of it, as they’re the lifeblood behind every artist. The customer/listener should be the priority. But if the artist isn’t making any money, there isn’t any music for the listener to consume. So here’s my solution to this ongoing problem: limit the amount of streaming. It shouldn’t be taken away completely, as I believe it has its place in the music industry. Instead let’s just put a cap to how many times you can stream an album and songs before you have to purchase it. Bandcamp, my personal favorite streaming service, has something similar in place right now:

By default, fans can play tracks on Bandcamp only a few times in full, after which they get a dialog prompting them to buy. As the artist, you can up this limit, or remove it entirely, from your Profile page (you of course always get unlimited plays of your own tracks, but for the curious, here’s what the purchase prompt looks like). When a fan makes a purchase, they get unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app for Android, iOS and Sonos, an optional download in a variety of high-quality formats including lossless, and of course the satisfaction of directly supporting an artist they love.

This is a great idea that is fair to the artist and listener. Make it to where an album can only be played, let’s say six times before the listener can no longer stream it. Also the option to download songs for offline listening and paying a monthly fee to keep them in your library should be banned, as this is just too much for the listener. They must be forced to buy the album after so many streams if they want to keep listening. By doing this the listener still gets plenty of streams to determine whether or not to buy the album, while the artists will get more sales. Artist discovery would still exist too. This is a win-win for everyone involved. I plead to the streaming companies and the artists to heed my advice and make the music environment an even better place for all involved.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Jason Boland & The Stragglers will release their new album Squelch tomorrow.
  • Corb Lund will release his new album Things That Can’t Be Undone tomorrow.
  • Toby Keith will release a new album tomorrow titled 35 MPH Town.
  • Jana Kramer will be releasing her sophomore album thirty one tomorrow.
  • The Voice alumnus Jake Worthington will be releasing his self-titled debut EP next Friday. Based on what I’ve heard from it so far it’s very good.
  • Alt-country band The Yawpers will be releasing a new album on October 30 titled American Man.
  • Josh Abbott Band announced they’re releasing a new album on November 6 titled Front Row Seat.
  • The Band Perry will be releasing a new album on November 20 titled HEART+BEAT.

Great Music Currently At Country Radio

You know I spend so much time (rightly) ragging on all the crap on country radio at the moment. But I realized I need to spend more time promoting the good at country radio too, even if there isn’t a lot of it. So a new feature I’ve added here to The Hodgepodge is a playlist of the songs I consider good currently at country radio. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly. So check it out below!

Throwback Thursday Song

“I Will Always Love You” – Dolly Parton – I’ve been listening to the new Don Henley album a lot and of course as I said in my review of it that my favorite song on it is the duet with Henley and Dolly Parton, “When I Stop Dreaming.” This made me want to listen to more music from Dolly and one of my favorites from her is this song. Everybody loves to say this is Whitney Houston’s song and it isn’t. This is Dolly’s song and she does it best and I will argue this with anyone. I also discovered Dolly sang this with Carrie Underwood a few years ago and you can see that here. Listen to both, as the first one is not only Dolly performing it, but explaining the story behind the song.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

“Born to Shine” – Big Grams, Big Boi & Phantogram featuring Run The Jewels – One of my favorite groups in all of music and my current top favorite in hip-hop Run The Jewels is featured throughout this song, so I checked out this entire album from Big Gram, Big Boi & Phantogram. I didn’t like the album, except for this because it’s Run The Jewels and everything they touch is gold. I can’t wait for RTJ3.

Tweet of the Week

Drunken Martina is the best and if you’re on Twitter, the account is a must-follow. Also it was so great to see Rhett get outsold by Strait and Henley. Quality wins again!

iTunes Review That Rocks

Great Strait Review

Now here’s someone who gets it. I love this review even more because it’s someone who says they aren’t even a country fan and they know Strait is the real deal. This is why Strait is one of the all-time best.

Thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in below! 

13 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Streaming Is Proving To Be Too Much of a Good Thing

  1. Clovis Mello October 8, 2015 / 11:31 am

    I agree in principle with everything that you’ve written. Honest music listeners like you or I wouldn’t have any problem paying what’s appropriate for an artist’s work. I think something that can’t get lost in the discussion is what the streaming sites are competing with. For the casual listener (particularly the selfish ones you referenced in this or previous posts), raising the prices or putting caps will just cause them to go download the album illegally. The question is what’s the tipping point?

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    • Josh Schott October 8, 2015 / 11:42 am

      Good point and that’s something that would definitely need to be considered if a cap was put in place. You want to find a good balance that prevents illegal downloading. Then again I think a lot of people are scared away from it out of fear and the ones who do it now will do it no matter what.

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  2. southtexaspistolero October 8, 2015 / 11:34 am

    Yep, this is one of the reasons I want nothing to do with streaming. My biggest reason is that I like to own music as opposed to just renting it (or the advertisers paying for me to rent it) — and I know that sounds selfish, but I do believe in supporting artists on a level that they can continue to make music as opposed to, say, having to apply for the stocker positions at Walmart.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Derek Hudgin October 8, 2015 / 11:45 am

    While I do enjoy and prefer to own my music, I do use Spotify quite frequently, mainly at work. It allows me to play some background music in my office and does make it easier to discover new music without wasting money on an album I may not end up liking. And to echo you, Josh, the convenience of Spotify in reviewing music is huge – I’m certainly not shelling out $10 to buy Tangled Up or Montevallo just to review them.

    But I’m always willing spend money on albums to listen to while driving or at home. I think I’ve bought more albums this year than I have in the past couple years. I do take advantage of the free streaming on Spotify, but I’m not going to give money to them or Apple Music for uninterrupted streaming.

    Liked by 2 people

    • southtexaspistolero October 8, 2015 / 11:58 am

      Now, I do think Spotify and the like are pretty good for discovering new music. I didn’t think about that. I just never really bothered with it for that, though. I just pull up clips on YouTube when I am sampling. My most recent YouTube discovery was Whiskeytown. (So far just their debut album, but it’s pretty killer.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mike W. October 8, 2015 / 12:31 pm

        YouTube is really no better/different than Spotify though. At least in terms of payouts and such.

        While I feel for artists, I also think Spotify gets a bit of a bad rap. Yes, I would like them to get rid of the free tier and such, but as has been reported many, many times….Spotify just doesnt make money. We can wish their payouts would increase, but until the company starts making big profits it’s a bit unrealistic to hope for that. As a matter of fact, none of the streaming sites seem to make much, if any profit. Google and Apple and Amazon all got into it for a variety of reasons, but none of them were in the hopes of making money off streaming.

        Apple got into streaming because iTunes was on life support in terms of it’s sales and relevance. Google got into it to promote their Play services and ecosystem, Amazon got into it to add perceived value to their Prime services. Tidal will likely be sold or just die off once Jay Z and his backer realize how badly they bungled that launch and RDIO and Rhapsody are somewhere on an island fighting to keep afloat themselves.

        I feel for artists like Zac Wilkerson, but the reality is that artists might as well give up on making money off albums and singles. It sucks, I hate it…..but the only way for an artist to scrape out a living is by touring now. Get rid of the streaming sites and illegal downloading will fire back up and that $300 won’t even be there for them. Albums are not going to make a come back either as they have all but disappeared from big box stores floor space.

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  4. southtexaspistolero October 8, 2015 / 1:20 pm

    YouTube is really no better/different than Spotify though.

    Yeah, I know. I didn’t mean to say that YT was my main way of listening to music, though; it’s just how I sample music I’ve heard about elsewhere when deciding to buy.

    And I do agree that albums probably won’t make a comeback, but I think they’ll always be there to some extent. Hell, you can still order stuff on vinyl, and how long has THAT not been the main thing?

    As far as brick-and-mortar store availability, that’s a lot less of a thing for me than it used to be. Before the new Strait and Henley albums, and the new album from Queensryche (heavy metal band popular in the ’80s, and it’s good stuff, Maynard), I don’t even remember the last album I bought in the stores. It’s mostly been from Amazon. And for folks like the Turnpike Troubadours and Jason Boland, the pre-order from those artists’ respective websites was a better deal anyway because we got the albums before release date (and in the case of the TT, a free, instant digital download of their first album, which is currently out of print).

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  5. Megan Conley October 8, 2015 / 3:40 pm

    I agree with your points here, Josh. I gave in to Apple Music to have a way to stream as a reviewer. I like it for artist discovery and for reviewing, so I think the cap is a good idea. Good addition to The Hodgepodge with Great Music on Country Radio!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lorenzo October 8, 2015 / 3:47 pm

    very interesting point Josh. I hate Spotify. I don’t know why labels let it happen, it really destroys them. expecially the weaker ones!

    your idea of adding a playlist of good music on country radio is great! but I have a little advice: can you put the official videos in it? for example, ‘I’m coming over’ and “I got the boy” both have an official video, and if the official music video gets more views well… who knows, it could possibly surpass Bro country videos :)! and that would be great. trust me, I have learned that the best way to help an artist is to promote their official music videos instead of video posted by casual fans (like the “I got the boy” video you have added to the playlist).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott October 8, 2015 / 3:56 pm

      I’ll keep this in mind. Thanks!

      Like

    • mikewimmer October 8, 2015 / 5:16 pm

      I find it hard to hate Spotify. No offense, but none of the streaming companies are looking out for artists best interests, I mean Apple likes to talk a good game, but plenty of reports came out prior to the launch of Apple Music that stated that Apple was basically trying to bully the record labels (and in turn artists indirectly) into lowering their asking price per stream and tried to bully Universal Music Group from taking off all their content off YouTube.

      Also lets not forget that Apple was planning on not paying artists or labels for the first 3 months of Apple Music until Taylor Swift of all people stepped in. The issue is more on record labels screwing artists over than any of the blood being on Spotify’s hands. Like I said, Spotify is currently losing money every month and they are the biggest streaming giant on the planet right now. Last I checked, the record labels are still making profits somehow, so to me the real problem is the record companies are still taking as much money from artists as they did during the CD era and have not adjusted their bottom lines to account for the fact very little money still exists in the non-touring side of Music.

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      • Lorenzo October 9, 2015 / 3:08 pm

        nobody is saying that Apple is better than Spotify. I’m just saying that Spotify sucks. and you know why? Because nowadays everyone can listen every single track without any problem. Spotify has brought us to a point where we don’t need to buy music anymore. Spotify don’t hurt strong artists like Thomas -the asshole- Rhett nor Luke Bryan. It goes to hurt weaker artists such as Josh Turner or David Nail. their albums get barely sold because they don’t have a strong fanbase, and casual fans won’t mind about buying albums because they can use Spotify whenever the hell they want to.
        and you know what’s worse? that white trash like Jason aldean and brantley Gilbert have been smart enough to get themselves out of Spotify, assuring themselves a lot of more copies sold!

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  7. Kent October 10, 2015 / 1:07 pm

    At least the artists get some money from these streaming program .They don’t get anything from Youtube
    Look at this band: It’s a Swedish band called First Aid Kit
    All albums of theirs are uploaded to Youtube.

    Their last album ,Stay Gold, now have over than 1 million views and they don’t get one cent
    from these views.

    And what’s even worse you can add a Youtube downloader to any browser, which of course means
    anyone can download any video for free and as bonus the ads disappear…

    They can of course get these videos taking down, but they would most likely be uploaded again.

    I am as you probably guessed Swedish…Sorry for the English…

    Liked by 1 person

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