Ever since the pandemic put a hold on to live gigs and performances, the spotlight shifted on streaming sites, since the latter became the main source of earning revenue for the artistes. Earlier this month, music-composer Vishal Dadlani, took to Twitter to express his thoughts on the revenue a musician earns from streaming platforms for their music.
Music producer Nikhil Malik aKa Iconyk jokes that the revenue from streaming a track is equivalent to a cup of coffee. “I consider myself lucky that I don’t drink coffee otherwise I’d be broke,” he quips.
“If you were to take simple math into account, recording, mixing and mastering a song on an average costs anywhere between 25,000 – 40,000 INR. To recover that money an artist needs close to 500,000 – 700,000 streams on a streaming website,” Varun Rajput, vocalist/guitarist for Antariksh, breaks it down and adds that “money spent on marketing, promotion, rehearsals and video” would mean that a musician would “need millions of streams to actually break even,” on a song.
While indie music has reached unprecedented heights this year, the revenue for musicians from streaming platforms remain largely negligible.
“The contracts are very badly skewed in their favour as opposed to artists. Musicians still rely entirely on shows or licensing deals for paying their bills. Streaming revenues will become important in a few years from now, but very big changes need to happen in the streaming contracts with the platforms who have a monopolistic approach at the moment,” says the Delhi based electronica duo Midival Punditz.
But, given expectations around low price or free-ad supported music across music streaming platforms, and the sheer amount of content, as singer singer songwriter Devika points out, “it’s unrealistic to expect that anything will change in favour of the majority of artists on this front.”
“I think more innovative approaches to creating virtual live events are a more likely and promising revenue opportunity for artists. I’ve been approached by upcoming platforms to try out their virtual live concert capabilities, and I’m looking forward to testing them to create new performance formats,” she says.
With negligible revenue from streaming platforms, and uncertainty over live gigs still looming large, many feel that musicians should be ready to adapt, and as Srijan Majahan aKA Pupster says, be ready to “explore other sources of revenue.”
His bandmate from Parikrama and a veteran musician, Subir Malik, agrees with Mahajan and says he has always urged musicians to “never totally depend” on live gigs.” “Do related activities around what you love like jingles, sessions, music classes and the earlier you start the better and more secure you would be,” he says.
Internationally as well, artists are demanding streaming platforms to change their contracts with the artists. Earlier this year, Kanye West had demanded music labels to transfer Rights to the Masters of West’s music to him. Flipsyde’s Dave Lopez feels that “owning the masters” is when streaming sites are lucrative for a musician.
“These days we own our masters for all our music that we put out independently and we are grateful for the money we make from streaming,” he says adding that money is “being made via streaming” and “labels should share the revenue from the Masters with artists so everyone can eat.”