Music Business

Streaming Habits Mirror Purchasing Habits: The Big Lie Of Spotify [David Lowery]

1A theory often perpetuated by Spotify maintains that streaming will yield more revenue than downloads or traditional retail sales, as it generates money for the artist with every play, as opposed to a one-time purchase. Unfortunately, streaming is a lot more like traditional sales than Spotify is letting on.


Guest post by David Lowery from The Trichordist

One of the biggest lies told by Spotify is that streaming will provide more revenue over the life of a record because every play will be monetized. This as opposed to the one time payment earned from a transactional purchase where all the revenue from the purchase of the record is paid at once. There is however, a very big problem with this theory, which is that the consumption curves of streaming match the consumption curves of transactional sales.

So, what about that so called long tail? Well, it doesn’t exist. Not for music consumption. Or we should say, it doesn’t exist any different for streaming than it did has for transactional sales. What do you think is more profitable in generating revenue? Is it the album sales of artists catalogs, or is streams?

Keep in mind, streaming is a fixed cap market. So it does not matter how much the market grows in actual consumption, the revenue is capped by the amount of revenue earned by the hosting provider. If consumption doubles, but revenues stay flat, every stream is worth half of what it was previously.

We’re already seeing this trend as we noted earlier this year that Spotify per stream rates appear to be dropping steadily by about 8% per year. This is likely a combination of both the growth of consumption and the slowing of revenue across both subscriptions and advertising.

If anyone truly believes streaming is going to generate more revenues than transactional sales, we have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you cheap. The fix is simple. The industry must move towards adopting an industry standard streaming penny rates. Only by setting fixed per stream rates will compensation scale with consumption.

[NOTE:] Chart from a mid size indie label showing revenues from Downloads and Streaming. The Spikes indicate new release activity / hits which reveals that revenue tails off for streaming the same way it does for transactional downloads.

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  1. The economic value in streaming was never, and will never be, the “stream” itself. The currency is the nr of paying subscribers, or ad revenues, depending on which model you choose. The “stream” can not be compared to a “unit”, it has no economic value whatsoever.

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