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Home / Brunch / Sunday Debate: Can independent musicians make money?

Sunday Debate: Can independent musicians make money?

One young star says a vehement no. The other looks for opportunities beyond.

brunch Updated: Sep 27, 2020, 14:14 IST
Adityan Nair and Subir Malik
Adityan Nair and Subir Malik
Hindustan Times
Are music streaming platforms exploiting artists, or opening new avenues?
Are music streaming platforms exploiting artists, or opening new avenues?(Getty Images)

“I get a measly 30 paise for each stream”

By Adityan Nair

Adityan says in the digital era, there is only space for music that is replayable, catchy and formulaic
Adityan says in the digital era, there is only space for music that is replayable, catchy and formulaic

CEO Daniel Ek of music streaming giant Spotify, who built an empire worth $4.7 billion on the sweat of millions of musicians, said in an interview that he expects musicians to churn out more content if they wish to make a ‘viable’ income from streaming revenues. He implied that musicians shouldn’t be lazy.

But while streaming services provide a platform for the democratic distribution of music across borders, what do they really do for the artists?

In the digital era, there is only space for music that is replayable, catchy and formulaic. If such formulaic music must be monetised, then musicians must produce music more rapidly. This compromises quality. So essentially, musicians of the streaming era must mechanically produce commodified art in large volumes which requires investment in equipment running into lakhs of rupees while earning a laughable Rs 30 for 100 streams.

Avenues for musicians to earn money through live shows are now out of question due to the global pandemic. This makes me wonder how many songs per month I must churn out on streaming sites to be able to afford rent and food.

Adityan Nair is a Delhi-based musician who performs with PANiC and The Urban Earlymen. He’s also an English teacher and HOD at St. Mary’s School, Safdarjung Enclave.

“It’s just a platform. Play it smart”

By Subir Malik

Subir argues that streaming platforms should be used to promote one’s music and reach out to new audience
Subir argues that streaming platforms should be used to promote one’s music and reach out to new audience

Lemmy, aka Ian Fraser Kilmister, frontman of Motörhead, said, “If you think you are too old to rock and roll, you are.” What I understand from this is: Life is about your attitude, zeal and drive. This is how it has always been and will always be.

I have often heard musicians complain that we don’t earn enough money via online platforms. Well, the first step is to accept that if you really want to earn through them, you have to work for it.

Compare this to live gigs. We get the musicians onboard, rehearse for weeks, figure details with multiple organisers, sort out issues on D-Day. We work really hard for that one show. Eventually, after multiple shows, sometimes over many years, we get results.

So if we think we’ll just put our songs on a platform and they will be heard, we’re wrong. We have to understand that it’s a brave new world and we ought to learn it.

Use it to promote your music and reach out to new audiences and organisers, which will help you get live gigs. Distribution companies like CD Baby give artists opportunities beyond streaming – they put their music on Instagram and activate YouTube monetisation. Streaming just opens these avenues.

Musician and keyboardist Subir Malik is the co-founder, organiser and manager of Parikrama and Parikrama Inc

From HT Brunch, September 27, 2020

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