I'm not into streaming. I've never really made a secret of that, and as such it occurred to me that rather than simply bashing it and those who seek to profit from it, I should come up with a solution that would make it work for everybody. And yes, this includes the independent artist as well.
The Problem As I See It
Streaming services do nothing to motivate anyone to buy. Sure, they offer buy buttons or affiliate links that send referral fees to the streaming service whenever the link is clicked and a purchase is made. That's great, but it still doesn't address one simple fact: If I'm a fan and I can play a song an infinite number of times, why would I actually spend money to buy that same song?
Streaming companies have long argued that they're seeking to address piracy by turning would-be thieves into subscribers and thereby injecting money into the industry. The counterweight to this argument, however, is that artists are not getting their fair shake when it comes to the accounting side of this income. As you can see, things get complicated pretty quickly with this model.
When we launch a direct-to-fan campaign for a PledgeMusic artist, it's usually not that artist's first time to release music. They generally already have music on iTunes, Spotify, Rdio etc. and so my plan is not to get fans to buy what they're already listening to; my plan is to get them to pre-order or pledge for the band's next album while it's still being made.
Let me give you an example. We're currently in the pre-order phase of the new Ben Folds Five album, (http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/benfoldsfive) and at this point, I think it's safe to say that people are already streaming the band's music on Spotify, Rdio and YouTube et al. However, they have no way of knowing from those platforms that Ben Folds Five is in production on a new record and that they're sharing behind-the-scenes exclusives from the making of their album with fans whilst also raising money for music education and music therapy.
If you're playing "Brick" on MOG or Pandora, why shouldn't you be made aware of the new album that's being made? Since Pledge campaigns can often run the length of the recording cycle, this gives ample time for fans to take part in the release of that music. If Pledge and the streaming services work together, users can discover new music by the artists they're listening to already and get involved (instead of just passively listening and not buying anything).
If any of our artists, from Luscious Jackson to The Libertines, are being played on YouTube or Last.fm or any other streaming service and said streaming service is making money from rev-shares, advertising and subscriptions, then shouldn't they also allow said artists to share information about the making of their new music?
We just built iTunes links into all of our artist profiles, and in full disclosure we too make 5 percent when clicked on, but even if we didn't, we would still have them in there.
In short, if we can help artists get their albums made and sell their back catalogues, why can't the streaming services assist us in getting new music made, thereby creating more music that they can stream in the future?
Artists win because they get their new albums paid for in advance with the assistance of the streaming services and their back catalogue.
Fans win because they discover not just new music but a way to directly participate in the making of their favourite artists' music and get behind-the-scenes access to new music before anyone else.
Charities win because PledgeMusic artists donate a portion of their profits to a charity of their choice. The more exposure the upcoming album gets, the more money the charity receives.
Streaming services win because they are directly helping in the making of new music that will end up back in their catalogue anyway.
The music industry as a whole wins because it's using the catalogue it already owns to ensure less risk on its investment in new artists, all while combating piracy.
The technology exists. If you can add a "buy" button, you can add a "Pledge" button. We'll even offer a rev-share.