Radio Berkman 226: Pay the Musician

August 5th, 2015

2015-07-29_musicListen:or download | …also in Ogg

The market for recorded music has undergone at least three major reinventions since the dawn of the Internet. At the turn of the century illegal downloading ate away at the music industry’s bottom line. Then the iTunes music store made it easy to buy music again, albeit disaggregated from its album form.

Then along came streaming. The combination of ubiquitous Internet connectivity and bottomless consumer appetite for music has led to the success of applications like Pandora, Spotify, and Rdio which allow users to access entire music catalogs from virtually anywhere for next to nothing.

Streaming has worked. In 2014 alone, at least 164 billion tracks were played across all streaming services according to Nielsen. And these streaming companies are raking in incredible amounts of cash from advertising and user subscription fees.

Where does the money go? A recent study from Berklee College of Music’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship showed that 20 to 50 percent of music revenues might never make it to their rightful owners. In some cases artists might get 20% or less of the already tiny dollar amounts coming in from streaming services.

But no one knows for sure. In a New York Times Op-Ed this week David Byrne asked the music industry to “open the black box,” and let everyone – the artists, the labels, the distributors, the listeners – know exactly where your money goes.

On this week’s episode of the podcast we try to find out if we can crack into the stream and figure out where the money is flowing.

Flickr photo courtesy of hobvias sudoneighm

Reference Section:
Berklee College of Music’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship’s study Transparency and Money Flows in the Digital Music Industry
David Byrne’s New York Times Op-Ed
Our full interview with Damon Krukowski

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This week’s episode produced by Elizabeth Gillis, Beatrice Igne-Bianchi, and Daniel Dennis Jones.

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