Why I Paid $30 for One Song

The recipient was a critically acclaimed veteran Canadian indie singer-songwriter.  23 thousand monthly listeners on Spotify vs. 240 thousand for Blue Rodeo vs. 52 million for Drake, to place him on the music industry’s ladder of achievement.   23 thousand listeners on Spotify, is probably going to earn him a couple $100 per month from streaming, once you add in other platforms.  I sincerely doubt royalties break $1000 per month.  That’s it, for 20-plus years of consistent high quality output into the Canadian music scene.  I think he earns more by producing records for other people now, and probably has a few "sync" deals on TV.  Music making isn't free either, there are non-trivial ongoing gear expenses and an ecosystem of other contributors who ultimately feed off those royalties.  I don’t have any real insight into the guy’s personal finances, but he's openly hinted about them not being particularly healthy which is entirely consistent with what his peers say.  I do have some perspective on how hard it is to do what he does musically, and how hard it is to work in finance.  I’d say his relative talent is worth a minimum of $200k in finance (with no expenses).  I wouldn’t balk at $500k.  Not to mention the guy is consistently nice on Twitter, so clearly and authentically a "good guy".   Basically, he’s earned some karma, so I gave it to him. 

This is the state of cash compensation for making good art.  Artists are also paid in the satisfaction of making the art, and social benefits like hanging out with more than their share of fun people.  Intangible benefits that are hard to trade in when your kids need new shoes, but benefits nonetheless.  It’s a lifestyle choice we might say, perhaps fairly.  We could debate that all day. 

The bottom line is, if you’re paying $10 a month to stream unlimited music, I’d reconsider the ethics of that choice these days.  $10 is way too cheap, and is the result of the streaming platforms competing with each other to please the listener.  $10 is only possible by exploiting the supply of good music and musicians as scorched earth casualties.  None of them like it, but they have no choice if they want to access 90% of ears.  Retro vinyl pressing will not save them.   Maybe you didn’t realize that before, so sorry, now you’re complicit in taking the discount.  If you only listen to the Top 100, I really don’t care about Drake.  That is definitely not the suggestion.  Do not buy tracks to support Drake.  If you listen to anything-but-the-hits music for $10 a month unlimited, I would look for ways to re-balance price vs value.   Most indie musician’s would point you to Bandcamp.com or Apple Music to buy a track, if you want the specific suggestion. 

On behalf of all the indie musicians, thanks for listening.

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