Digital Streaming – A Musical Blessing or Curse?

Rebekah Spratt | 14th July 2015


Last month’s launch of Apple Music has sparked a return of the question; is streaming bad for artists? Once again Taylor Swift publicly voiced her disdain at musicians – especially herself – not getting paid by streaming websites. Swift criticised Apple for its decision not to pay artists throughout Apple Music’s three month trial period during which people have access to a vast collection of music with no restraint. Swift was hailed the most powerful woman in pop and it shows as, within hours, Apple had reconsidered its position and Swift was declared a musicians’ champion while the company was shown to be willing to take artists’ rights seriously.

Now the company has declared it will pay seventy-three percent of the subscription revenue of music owners and Swift is now offering her latest album ‘1989’ on the streaming service. Musicians and labels, who were previously skeptical of putting their music on Apple music, were reassured after Swift paved the way for them to get something out it, while fans of Taylor Swift and Apple Music will both be more than happy.

Digital revenue has become a vital part of the music industry. The industry itself has reached a tipping point with many artists stating that income from digital services is now their main source of business revenue. Even with the sudden revival of vinyl listening, vinyls and CD’s just don’t sell like they used to. Although they might not like to admit it, many artists would suffer greatly without the presence of digital streaming services. For some it’s a blessing while for others it’s a curse. Artists suggest that anything that gets music out into the world and heard has to be a good thing and streaming sites like Spotify have ensured that artists who might have previously gone unheard now have an opportunity to be listened to. However the way this affects the sustainability of artists is becoming a problem. There has been a rapid increase in emerging artists. New artists are being discovered everywhere and this sudden fascination with discovering new music leaves little or no room for mid-career artists. Artists with particularly long careers benefitted from having a focused audience as they weren’t battling against the ‘next big thing’ every other week. These days there are hundreds upon hundreds of artists, both upcoming and already established, vying for the public’s attention. Whoever gets it the probable winner overall is likely to be Apple.

words, Emily Shawcross