Select Recording Studios Blog

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To talk about how streaming has changed the way people consume music is not a straightforward conversation. For a good number of people the ability to stream any album (well, most albums) at the click of 

a button on the likes of Spotify or Apple Music has completely revolutionised the way they consume music and for many the idea of purchasing a record, CD or even a download is alien.

However, there is a substantial number of people for whom streaming is not a means to an end, but rather a discovery tool: a try before you buy kind of deal. In 2021, vinyl sales in the UK were at the highest level in three decades, while between 2015 and 2022, vinyl sales in the US have gone from 10 million units a year to over 40 million – and this is only counting new stock, not second hand records, for which there is a substantial market. This trend is not just restricted to nostalgic older music fans either. Younger generations are jumping aboard the vinyl train, while simultaneously maintaining their Spotify subscriptions.

Despite all the good news for the many parts of the industry that benefit from the sale of physical releases, the scale is still dramatically reduced from the halcyon days and combined with tighter margins this means that artists themselves don’t tend to be able to subsist on album sales alone. The revenue from streaming itself is borderline pitiful, with Spotify, as of May 2022, paying artists between $0.003 – $0.005 per stream on average. That’s around $30-$50 for every 10,000 streams and even a million streams represents a relatively miserly $3000-$5000. Just think how much an artist would have got in the ‘80s for selling a million singles! It doesn’t take a genius to work out that you’re going to need a whole lot of streams to get rich.

There is, therefore, a gaping hole in the revenue stream for contemporary artists. So how do they fill such a hole? Well, they are getting more and more creative, that’s how. One example is not exactly removed from physical sales. Artists, via their labels are agreeing to collaborate with record stores, who sell tickets to one-off gigs including album bundles (a CD or record that customers buy with their ticket) and maybe even a signing event. This helps the artist and record label buy boosting chart position, while benefiting independent record stores at the same time.

In addition to this, while the pandemic made touring impossible for many, playing live tours remains inarguably the best way for artists and bands to make a living. Before what is being billed as the ‘vinyl revival’ many people (especially the younger generations) were far more likely to spend their money on gig tickets and merchandise than on physical formats of the albums themselves. This disparity is shrinking, but it remains to be seen how long it will continue to do so. In the interim, playing live and selling shirts and other merchandise is certainly the safest revenue stream for most musicians.