How Music Streaming Services Could Help Artists, Fans, Labels, Charities & The Music Industry

image from post by Benji Rogers (@benjikrogers), Founder & CEO of PledgeMusic.

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.

My Solution Pledge-logo

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, ( 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 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.

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  1. “Streaming services do nothing to motivate anyone to buy” True, streaming and selling subscriptions is their core business. Streaming is no meant to enhance sales it is mainly there to for those who don’t need to own music.

  2. Streaming is great for pre-listening, for checking out an album to see if I like it or not. But I would not pay for that. In the days when record stores went from playing actual CDs to playing 30 second streaming samples of inferior sound quality to you if you wanted to check out an album, I have probably bought less albums because I just did not have the opportunity anymore to do a proper pre-listening session because songs cannot be summarized by just a 30 second excerpt. I guess brick and mortar stores have felt that. But they felt so much they couldn’t decide which is which in recent times so they just reduced their repertoire to the major labels’ usual suspects which, of course, have been pirated everywhere, and are promoted to an annoying intensity.
    Once I listen to a free stream in such a pre-listening session, I usually don’t care if there is a purchase link placed on the site. Instead, if I want it, I head to my favourite online retailer and check if they have it.
    My girlfriend, when she moved out with her parents and into her own place near university, she did not take her CDs with her. She did not buy a stereo. She listened to the music exclusively via streaming for several years – until I bought a new stereo for myself.
    She surprised me by deciding it was a good idea and also bought one for her place. I guess we both got lucky we found that store where they had a few for sale at a good price, which sound good, too. It took me a while to find it, given my budget at the time, also studying at uni. I ran around with a CD-R with songs for acoustic testing purposes in my jacket for about 3 years. Crazy you say? Well, it became an inside joke between me and my girlfriend.
    By now, she has gotten back her CDs and bought some albums which were deleted from youtube here in Germany which she liked. In fact, it could be she has bought more CDs this year than I have.
    We don’t have any iPod or any iWhatever though. Her sister used to have one but it broke and all the music was lost. Did she care about getting back the music. No, she didn’t but I guess people’s opinions about music change as they leave behind their teenage years.
    I don’t know if she enjoys streaming, though.
    To everybody who believes the success of music streaming has got something to do with people no longer wanting to own anything: You are wrong. People want to own stuff they like, also want to re-sell it when they don’t like it anymore. But when they don’t like it, they are just not buying.

  3. Couldn’t agree more, I wrote an article based on one on CNN titled “young people opt not to own music.”
    I have never been encouraged to buy music by any other means than the fact that I really enjoyed it and I’m a big fan of the artist. I generally buy music that I appreciate, don’t think that would ever change.
    Streaming helps in discovering artists and music that would not otherwise be discovered by any other means. There’s no difference between streaming and the radio…scratch that, there is, I don’t have to put up with the crap that the radio plays all the time and I get to listen to the type of music that I enjoy and not be subjected to the limited playlists the radio play repeatedly.
    They are the same however. If I don’t pay to listen to the radio, I will not pay to listen to internet radio…another lie, I pay for the internet connection. Streaming services inject too many commercials, some how they all profit.
    There’s need for a better business model, one where everyone profits, especially the artists, no point putting more money into the Labels’ pockets…

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