Streaming = free for you = not so good for us

There were many reasons why I retired from music last year. I’ve never explained them or felt the need to, so I’m not going to start today.

But I do want to point out something that made a chilling difference in my decision. And that is streaming and downloading music versus selling physical cds/vinyl/cassettes, what have you. You’ve all heard how it affects us: the songwriters, the musicians, the bands. I want to share a living example of what streaming does. Because streaming is killing the opportunities of musicians to make a living off of their creations.

My song “I Couldn’t Help Myself” was my biggest success, in consideration of what the industry expects, it wasn’t much. But when it came out in 1990, there was a lovely video, lots of airplay, touring, promotion teams and I was flown to radio stations all over the country to perform live and chat with the DJs. All this to say hard work helped move the song to #3. I was blessed to appear on “The Tonight Show” while it was the single.

All this to lead up to the fact that it is 2018 (28 years later) and I just received my quarterly royalty statement from Warner Music Group for all the songs from “Shortstop”. Believe it or not, my songs still get airplay around the globe, which blows my mind and, of course, makes my heart smile.

I hope you’ve read this far.

Because the pay off is you’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you.

I recognize the numbers I’m about to share don’t amount to beans when compared with musicians who have made it to the big, BIG time. But I’ve always considered myself a working middle class musician; I worked my ass off to make a decent living and I was cool with that. I had a niche. I learned how to diversify my talents, read contracts, distribute, create and publish content (music) to support my dream. I enjoyed understanding what I was making and releasing into the world, knowing there would be end results of, hopefully, satisfied listeners and a financial reward parallel to the work, time, effort and costs associated on my end.

Having said that, I’ve watched how income numbers on royalties have dropped since streaming/downloads started.

My new earnings notice (Oct-Dec 2017) shows “I Couldn’t Help Myself” played 14,789 times (U.S., Italy, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, United Arab Em., Belgium, etc) and here’s what that provided:

$15.98

That’s right.

FIFTEEN DOLLARS AND NINETY EIGHT CENTS for 14,789 captured results of people listening to my song.

That equals .0010 per download or stream. It’s not even
a PENNY per play. And it’s not because it’s me. That’s the level playing field of payment for all of us in music on Spotify, YouTube, Amazon download, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Tidal, Rhapsody, Slacker…even something called Neurotic Media.

Let me hip you to how many of those were downloads (as in paid for content):

19

Here’s how much streaming this one song of mine received:

14,770 plays

As today is the International Day of Women, I thought it was important to remind you of not only how women musicians are treated, but how ALL musicians are compensated and WHY it is IMPORTANT to remember to pay for music.

Video may have killed the radio star, but streaming is ending wages and opportunities for your creators.

One Comment

  • Dorothy Zerbe

    Hi Sara – I saw you perform in Appleton, WI at the public library, many years ago. I love your music, and am sorry that the industry/streaming is making it impossible for you to continue making a living doing it. I too am a singer-songwriter and have seen the eentsy weentsy amounts produced when my music is heard around the world. I am fortunate not to have to make my own living, as I live in a 2-income household. My main income is from a combination of playing piano around town, singing various gigs and teaching children music at an arts-influenced child-care center. The center wanted me to punch in on the same clock that all the other employees used, to be paid hourly, but I asked them to instead pay me per class, and we came up with an amount that we were both happy with. This ensures that my prep time is covered, as well as compensation for the lifetime of music I’ve invested in. All this to say that, I believe in you that you will find ways to share the amazing world of music that you have created for yourself and all those who love you. I wish you the very best, and thank you for all the beautiful songs you’ve created and that I believe you will continue to create. I hope this note doesn’t come across as “Pollyanna-ish” but I just wanted to wish you the very best as you continue living your musical life, no matter what direction you may choose to take it.