While it has allowed bands to reach fans more directly and more easily distribute their music, it’s also created a lot of hurdle. The market has become incredibly saturated, making it difficult for artists to stand out from the pack. On top of that, streaming has made consuming music easier than ever, but it’s also had a serious impact on the ability of artists to make money.
For all its problems, most bands (at least those on a major label) could count on album sales to sustain themselves as a viable source of income. In today’s age of streaming, the music almost serves more as a marketing tool to get fans to attend the more lucrative concerts. Streaming services like Spotify are a great way to be heard, but these companies also pay only a few cents for each time a song is played. It’s made it so that there’s less overall revenue from music sales. This forces artists to make tough decisions between finding time to practice, record, and tour while also ensuring that they’re going to have a roof over their heads.
This dilemma is particularly true when it comes to indie bands. Like we said before, in some ways the internet has made things easier by streamlining the ability to get the music out to people. On the other hand, it’s made its harder than ever to actually make money off of this music. It’s not uncommon for most bands to have some kind of side-hustle going on. Indie folk artist Wooden Wand described how he’s taken on a number of questionable jobs in order to make ends meet while pursuing his music career. This path is all too common for indie artists who are required to find whatever menial jobs are available when they’re not on tour promoting their new record.
This has led some bands to try and find new ways to use technology to their advantage. Licensing has quickly become an attractive proposition for many artists that have reconsidered any past qualms they might have with the commercialization of their music. Getting a placement in a big commercial can result in tons of exposure for a band, which can in turn lead to a huge boost in streaming numbers, not to mention what’s usually a pretty decent licensing fee up front. More established acts are taking this a step further by loaning out their entire likenesses and catalogs to online gaming companies. Motörhead is one legendary band that partnered with a developer to create their own slot reel that contains audio content produced by the heavy metallers that does justice to the iconic group. The game has proven to be a hit, and it also helps to provided an important revenue stream for the remaining band members after their beloved frontman, Lemmy Kilmister, passed away.
The digital age has definitely made things interesting for bands trying to make a living, but it has also presented plenty of new opportunities for those willing to take advantage of them. Hopefully, streaming will be figured out to the point where it can be more fair to the artists themselves. In the meantime musicians will just have to get creative in order to make the most of the situation.