• Puneet Sharma

What is the Best Way to Listen to Music?

White Earphones

Music has been around for ages and has established itself as one of the most influential and important forms of entertainment. Music has evolved throughout the years, progressing from vinyl records to tape cassettes to MP3 players and finally to its digital nature today.

With this progression came improvement in the ease of access of music. Coupled with the advancement in computer programs supporting torrents, music is now regarded as a ‘free’ commodity to most. Over the years many have gone straight to online download instead of heading to a store or iTunes to buy a copy of an album or a song. Piracy has become second nature for music consumers with the creation of various phone apps that make stealing out of the pockets of artists extremely easy.

Platforms like Napster and LimeWire (and the resulting controversies surrounding them) have brought more attention to this particular issue. As services began to face the threats of copyright infringement, it seemed as if artists would begin to receive payment for their work -- or at least forms of recognition. Yet, as one service got shut down many more sprung up, and since Napster’s prime years, music has been illegally downloaded by a huge number of people.

However, there are people who actually want to support the artists they listen to. Most of these people, however, do not have the amount of money required to listen to the amount of music that they do on a daily basis. Of course, there will always be those who simply won’t be bothered to pay for something they can already get for free.

Either way, those who are stuck in this predicament often turn to streaming programs or websites which promise to help the music industry while offering music for free or for very cheap prices. Various services have sprung up over the past years but one is particularly attractive: a platform with free or cheap music that also reimburses artists.

Spotify has become a huge leader in terms of the music streaming industry and, quite frankly, it makes sense. Spotify, on the surface anyway, is the best of both worlds. It promises to pay artists for their work while providing listeners with free music along with a couple ads here and there. Most importantly, however, is that Spotify actually lets you skip more than three songs in a row. Spotify’s main goal, according to their 'Spotify Explained' section on their website, is to “offer music fans a legal and paid service capable of generating for artists the royalties that they deserve.”

Spotify believes that they “migrate (listeners) away from piracy” and that they have “succeeded in growing revenues for artists and labels.” However if this is the case, why have many artists, such as Taylor Swift, decided to ban their music from Spotify and, additionally, why have artists such as Kanye West and Jay Z started to support the paid-for music app, Tidal?

It seems that, according to artists, Spotify does not pay enough attention to the artists it has on display. According to Spotify, they pay an average of $0.006 to $0.0084 to rights holders per stream. This isn’t the worst case scenario, keeping in mind that many will simply pirate it and give nothing at all back to the artists.

However, what is often skimmed over is the fact that artists don’t get 100% of this money. For one, the label that an artist signs to has rights over their music and takes a percentage of their earnings. So an artist can expect very little from streaming services such as Spotify.

Streaming in general is not exactly the absolute worst thing for artists. This can be shown by a very simple example. If one were to buy an album from a store, the money would go to the artist -- once. This person could then listen to this album hundreds of times over and over and still the artist would have only gained the money for their content once. If this person decided to use a streaming service instead, and listen to the album a hundred times, the artist would continue to gain money every time their content is streamed.

So streaming isn’t necessarily the worst thing for artists. Yet, although Spotify may not pay artists enough, they have no substantial competition to challenge their pricing. You may think that if more similar streaming services were to spring up, competitive pricing would occur and offer artists even less than Spotify. However, there is a way to encourage greater pricing through the use of exclusive streaming or premier streaming from an artist.

If a streaming services decides to pay an artist more than anyone else, they could ask for exclusive streaming. This means that the artist’s music would only be available on this particular service. If the artist is not willing to do so, as it could lead to fewer listeners, the artist could simply offer the streaming service their new album weeks before the others and in turn receive sizeable payment.

However, this article does not even come close to tackling this issue. Rather its purpose has been to persuade music listeners to think about their actions and encourage people to actively look for the best ways to reimburse the artists they listen to. This issue has been around for years and repeatedly it has been ignored by music consumers.

It is important, as a music fan, to at least have an awareness of this issue and to not obliviously download illegal music, thinking that it's the proper way to enjoy music.

Although piracy will never completely cease to exist, it is important for fans to try their best to avoid it and consider using other music services. Unfortunately, as of right now, there doesn't seem to be a perfectly flawless, free, sensible option.