We're not even halfway through 2016 but the year is as bleak as still ever for musicians. Despite best efforts to convince the world that streaming/webcasting is the inevitable future and it is great for artists one need only look at some examples closely and skepticism sets in.
Take Pandora. It's dropped from a market cap high of 7.73 billion in 2014 to 2.29 billion today, causing its own stockholders to revolt. And with Pandora's recent agreements further reducing the royalty rate for webcasting, the perception of the brand is at an all time low.
Meanwhile, musicians are filing class action lawsuits against Spotify on behalf of the independent musician who is either making a pittance in royalties, or not making anything at all, despite their catalog being streamed. Spotify claims it can't find the rights holders and is sitting on millions in unpaid revenue which sounds totally plausible, har har har..
Regardless, the questions we've been asking for years are questions we're still asking: If streaming is inevitable, and great for everyone why are so many musicians resistant to it? Why are these companies not profitable? Why should artists be forced to put their music in the free tier site when it is proven that windowing their music does better? These questions remain unanswered, or at least not answered with any credibility. The fight will continue for artists who just want to make a living off their music.
Thankfully there is some good news and surprising news to report today, coming from Bandcamp. I say "surprising," because a lot of the figures and stats coming from Bandcamp go against the narrative. In a recent post entitled: Bandcamp, Downloads, Streaming, and the Inescapably Bright Future Bandcamp reaffirmed its commitment to artists, as well as its healthy skepticism of Big Tech companies who still exist on round after round of funding.
Here's the post in its entirety, emphasis mine.
In light of a recent report that Apple will soon abandon music downloads (later denied, but undoubtedly containing a certain amount of inevitability), we thought we’d take a moment to update you on the state of Bandcamp’s business and our plans for the future.
Bandcamp grew by 35% last year. Fans pay artists $4.3 million dollars every month using the site, and they buy about 25,000 records a day, which works out to about one every 4 seconds (you can see a real-time feed of those purchases on our desktop home page).
Nearly 6 million fans have bought music through Bandcamp (half of whom are younger than 30), and hundreds of thousands of artists have sold music on Bandcamp. Digital album sales on Bandcamp grew 14% in 2015 while dropping 3% industry-wide, track sales grew 11% while dropping 13% industry-wide, vinyl was up 40%, cassettes 49%… even CD sales grew 10% (down 11% industry-wide). Most importantly of all, Bandcamp has been profitable (in the now-quaint revenues-exceed-expenses sense) since 2012.
Subscription-based music streaming,* on the other hand, has yet to prove itself to be a viable model, even after hundreds of millions of investment dollars raised and spent.
For our part, we are committed to offering an alternative that we know works. As long as there are fans who care about the welfare of their favorite artists and want to help them keep making music, we will continue to provide that direct connection. And as long as there are fans who want to own, not rent, their music, that is a service we will continue to provide, and that is a model whose benefits we will continue to champion. We have been here since 2008 and we mean to be here in 2028. Thank you!
*Bandcamp is not a download store, and we very much embrace the convenience of streaming. When you buy music on Bandcamp, whether that’s in digital or physical form (30% of sales on Bandcamp are for vinyl and other merchandise), you not only get the pleasure of knowing you’re supporting the artist in a direct and transparent way, you also get instant, unlimited streaming of that music via our free apps for Android and iOS, as well as an optional, high-quality download. Your purchase is about direct support, ownership and access, whether that access takes the form of a stream, download, or both. So please consider joining us in never using “streaming” as shorthand for “subscription-based music.” The former is an inevitable technological shift, the latter is an unproven business model.
Note the asterisk there. As has been stated by artists and companies like Bandcamp multiple times: no one is against streaming. They are, however, against artist exploitation. They are for the ethical treatment of artists, as creators. They are fair pay for fair play types. And they wouldn't mind accountability on the part of said streaming and webcasting companies. If we demand the same of banks, mortgage lenders and insurance companies, is only reasonable to expect the same from Silicon Valley.
As for Apple, I hope they don't drop music downloads; I for one get as much pleasure in knowing my dollars are supporting someone who can make a living, make another album, or mount a tour so I can see them live once or twice a year as I do actually listening to their music. But if Apple decides to thumb its nose at the musicians who helped propel that company to the stratosphere with the advent of iPod and then the iTunes store, then hopefully musicians will look for an alternative. Bandcamp is just one of many. But its good to see one putting their affirmations in writing.