Should Your Band Give In To Streaming?

Like it or loath it, streaming is here to stay. In this industry blog, we look at the pros and cons of streaming and propose a release tactic which will keep the dollars rolling in for years.

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The streaming revolution is well and truly underway. Since YouTube premiered in 2005, consumers have become used to finding free media on demand. The last two years has seen dedicated music services like Spotify, Deezer and Rdio spring up to monetize streams and combat piracy.

Streaming hit the big time towards the end of 2011 when Facebook began to tie in music streams with "frictionless sharing", where users automatically recommend music to friends just by listening to it. And with 2012 promising a digital revolution in TVs, with both Apple and Google making moves to improve living room connectivity, streaming subscriptions are set for the big time.

All in all, streaming is hot, and it's growing fast.

But should your band take part, considering the meagre payouts compared to traditional sales?

To stream or not to stream?

The pro-streaming argument claims that it helps new fans discover your work, and in turn, pay for it.

But what is to stop the listener simply saving your album to a playlist rather than buying a full copy?

Letting your fans skip the traditional purchase route is a problem because streaming an album will barely earn the artist a couple of cents. It's a far cry from the several dollars they would earn with a regular sale.

But what if your music is good enough that the fan regularly streams your music for the rest of their life? Over the years, that fan could potentially earn you more than if they paid for a physical copy in the first place. Whether your music will hold their attention for so long is for you to decide.

Striking a balance

Some major artists are starting to find the sweet spot between their album launch and offering their music for streaming so they can get the best of both worlds.

Take Coldplay as an example. "Mylo Xyloto" was not available on streaming sites upon its launch, which allowed for a flurry of regular sales which helped them top download charts around the world. Had their music been available on Spotify, their sales could have been dampened - making it harder to cover those stratospheric recording costs.

But that doesn't mean Coldplay decided to shun streaming all together. In fact, they recently confirmed that the album will eventually land on streaming sites, allowing for a lifetime of streaming revenue on top of the millions their album has already earned.

As far as today's digital landscape suggests, you should opt for a similar strategy.

Release your album as usual and ignore the streaming sites until sales die down and your promotion budget has expired. This is when you want to submit your album to the streaming sites, in a bid to claim extra revenue over the long term. Make links to those services prominent on your websites, and remind your existing fans to use the streaming versions too. The more plays you get, the more those royalties will build up.

Giving in to change

Whether you like it or not, streaming has secured its place in our future.

It might not be long before a subscription package which bundles movie, music and TV streaming in one package. Some entertainment providers are offering those very packages already.

As internet infrastructure improves to help manage demand for the jump in data loads, and with the impending internet-enabled TV revolution, more consumers will replace their cable subscriptions with streaming packages.

This means the age of selling records for a fixed price could be over in a matter of years. As a result, artists will start to lose that bump of revenue from a fresh album release - which means having to spend less on the recording and promotion process.

For rock artists, this will be a devastating blow. Recording a full band can cost thousands in studio time, and it will be increasingly difficult to recuperate those expenses via streaming revenue over the short term.

Does this mean you should ditch your guitar for a laptop and produce electronic music, just because it has lower production costs? Not necessarily.

Live music can't be downloaded, and merchandise has long been a primary source of income for alternative rock acts. Ultimately, little will change for artists who didn't make their income from record sales already.

What will change is your release method. Streaming will become a de facto standard, and your job will be to make music that draws in listeners for the duration of their lifetime. Nail that, and you'll stand a chance of reaping royalty rewards for years to come.

By Tom Davenport

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    garret718
    CDs are still the best. There's nothing like opening a brand new CD from one of your favorite bands and seeing the lyrics, the artwork and liner notes. And listening to it of course, they still sound better in my car than mp3 files
    Pagan_Poetry
    ^Exactly. CDs until I die or they die, whichever comes first. Think of it like this. Remember Habbo, that stupid site where the pool was closed? Yeah, you buy furniture on there but it's all digital. I know it's not a great representation, but at the same time it is. I feel like I get gipped if I buy music digitally. It's a picture and static sounding songs No depth, no artwork, no satisfaction.
    fastlanestoner
    streaming is totally necessary in order to maintain any kind of web presence now-a-days. ...and as long as it's an uncompressed file that's being streamed I'm all for it!
    fleaonnj4
    Streaming is a useful promotion tool. When my band released a demo ep we streamed it first through our fan pages to build anticipation and then a week later we released a download option as well and what do you know people actually downloaded it EVEN WHEN THEY COULD STILL STREAM IT. Bottom line if you have loyal fans and/or good music, then streaming is a good thing, if not then you're ****ed.
    Eirien
    Pagan_Poetry wrote: ^Exactly. CDs until I die or they die, whichever comes first. Think of it like this. Remember Habbo, that stupid site where the pool was closed? Yeah, you buy furniture on there but it's all digital. I know it's not a great representation, but at the same time it is. I feel like I get gipped if I buy music digitally. It's a picture and static sounding songs No depth, no artwork, no satisfaction.
    Totally agree with you, I'll always buy CDs if they're available and then I can rip them to mp3s if I want. I never thought I would pay to download music until I found bandcamp. There are so many excellent bands on there without labels that can't afford to widely release their music in a physical format. Most stuff on there is pay-what-you-want usually with a minimum price of about $5 US dollars and you can download in multiple formats. I usually go for FLAC and 320kbps mp3.
    GrungeHippie26
    fastlanestoner wrote: streaming is totally necessary in order to maintain any kind of web presence now-a-days. ...and as long as it's an uncompressed file that's being streamed I'm all for it!
    I'm for streaming live concerts for fans who cannot be there, but not entire albums. If you have to stream to stay relevant, then i guess I'm not relevant. It's not worth it to me. I guess if you are some huge band like Metallica or Kiss, then you should just do it. It's not like they need the money from more hard copies, but indie bands should not be forced to conform to rip off.
    abigor731
    coldplay ... well ok, there is lots of interest in their music, they are better off that way, but i think for every band that is not known much, it'd be retarded not to give your stuff away for streaming, i never buy cds without streaming them first unless its really stuff where i know it just can't suck