Treatment of artists by streaming services (payment of musicians)

Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum Suggests Spotify Is Immoral Even Though It “Is Not Illegal Yet”…If you’ve listened to the Microphones Microphones in 2020 , you might have noticed that it’s not available on Spotify. Now, songwriter Phil Elverum has given an explanation to explain why, as he’s shared a harsh indictment of the streaming giant.

I completely agree & don’t stream. It cheats the artists. Sure it’s fine for classic rock and similar genres, where those artists are well off, (or not even living), but how are smaller artists meant to survive on tiny royalties? This is not something new and many artists have cried foul over the years.

Of course whilst consumers support these large conglomerates, not much is likely to change, whilst neglecting the artists themselves.

This doesn’t only apply to Spotify, it’s the same with other streaming services. The consumer wants it all for a few dollars a month without a care for the musicians.

The reason why I stumbled on this article is I was checking whether this album was finally available via streaming services as it’s one of my top releases for the year & wanted my son & some mates to check it out.

Good on ya Phil for drawing a line in the sand. It takes guts and true conviction as to your real value as an artist. Perhaps other artists will follow.

And whilst such services are king today, I wonder how they will look in 5 to 10 years time and beyond. The reality is unsustainable for many artists that’s for sure. :thinking:


Artists have never really made money a lot of money from record sales. The labels have typically taken the lion’s share (and more) of that and artists relied on touring to make their money - and that hasn’t changed. In fact, one could make an argument that free/low-cost streaming is better for them as it increases their exposure and therefore drives more people to see them live. And there are also ways, such as Bandcamp and Patreon, to support the artists you like directly - without the label taking its enormous cut.

All that said, it doesn’t make the sharing of royalties from streaming “fair” at all. And yes, I still feel guilty when I stream, but that is more because I have a friend with a record store! :grimacing:

I stream, and I don’t feel guilty. It is the best and most practical way to be exposed to music and current masterings.

My philosophy is when I listen to something, I ask myself “would I miss this if I was to lose access to it?”

If the answer is yes, I buy either a physical copy or a download from Bandcamp or Qobuz.
I purchase more new music BECAUSE I stream.

If the answer is no, I listen to it as offered by a streaming service and don’t spend money on a permanent purchase. Has radio been immoral all these many decades?!

I know my method is not the common practice in the world, but makes sense to me and it would likely benefit artists if it was more common amongst music junkies. I am middle aged, have disposable income, and a music collector. Purchasing music makes sense to me. So does growing some of my own food, but that isn’t common either.

To make a universal claim that streaming is immoral is too absolute to me, and the world is more complex than absolutes. It is like saying digital is cold, or analogue is best… and around and around we go!


Bravo! Probably a question we should be asking about more things in the audiophilia domain. Not just streaming.

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I buy downloads from Bandcamp (first choice), Qobuz (second choice) or other download stores (third choice), or CDs (if no other choice) from artists that I follow and want to support. When live music is back after covid, I’ll go back to live shows, where I also buy CDs if the artists are selling them. Just bought several pre-releases and several existing ones from Bandcamp, and one from Qobuz. I can afford it, and it’s the least I can do for the musicians I get so much from every day.

I use Qobuz streaming for everything else.


Please consider I did not create this thread and hence the title was created by a mod. Had I have created or wanted to create a separate thread for this discussion, I’d have used another word other than ‘immoral’. Simply because I’d also say streaming isn’t immoral, just as watching YouTube isn’t immoral.

However, the gist is there - largely about streaming services do not support many artists in meaningful ways. Furthermore, by supporting streaming services only, you essentially are supporting large conglomerates rather than the artists themselves.

Of course, we know the younger generation do not buy their music, they essentially only stream. Perhaps that may change as they grow older and their disposable income changes. It seems unlikely as such habits are engrained, but we cannot say for sure.


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:rofl: I always wanted to own a record store. Was close to a number of serious purchases, but this was at the time CD’s were just starting to take a hold. I was wary of the future and decided against any purchase, especially considering I was early 20’s and essentially needed to reply on the bank to get started. I suspect I made the right call, albeit I’d still love a record store. :thinking:

@TuliaNonTroppo I agree - it certainly has its upsides. I’ve always been one to purchase more due to the ability to listen via whatever platform, than if I couldn’t, I’ve always argued likewise. Further, there are very few artists I would likely purchase without the ability to listen prior.

And of course, making a claim it’s immoral is too absolute. However, I think we should think about the sentiments of the artist and other artists before him who have claimed streaming is hurting them, rather than his choice of words. Cheers.

@Fernando_Pereira Here, here, here…excellent to hear that there are still people such as yourself who recognise the importance of supporting their favourite musicians. It doesn’t mean you must buy every single album, something is certainly better than nothing.

Current times have demonstrated how many people involved in the Arts have struggled without their typical revenue streams and how many seem to exist on a month by month basis. Unless you’re a major commercial success, life is tough as a musician.

Rough guide to royalties
(hope it’s clear when you click on it, I needed to reduce the page to capture more of it)

And sure - exposure is extremely important; perhaps not via streaming services alone without further support.

It was a dream of his as well - he left a professional job for it. It’s actually more of a CD store, and when buying CDs became less popular, his income was supplemented by selling concert tickets. Clearly, in the age of Covid, neither of those are particularly great right now - hence my guilt!

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Markets are amoral, not immoral. They don’t make judgments about the prices bid or the deals struck.

Markets are not designed to “lend a helping hand.” So here’s a thought: make a list of your favorite artists, send them $100 a month or so for a few months and then encourage others to do the same.

They will feel good. You will feel good. Just please stop suggesting that streaming is immoral. Its a simple contract, nothing more.

Arby’s just offered Two Gyros for $6. Nothing immoral about that either.


To be fair, I think OP indicated that he didn’t choose the name of the thread, as it was split from another thread. And just because there is a market for something, doesn’t preclude that market from being “immoral” in the views of some.

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I use Tidal. At $20 for a CD I would have to listen to either one song on the CD 1557 times or, at ten song per album, 155.7 times to the whole album.

On average I would say that some artists would be better off me streaming their album than buying it. Most artists though, would lose out big time.

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What’s missing from this discussion is how much the artist would receive from the sale of that CD - which probably varies considerably between international stars at one end and local groups at the other. I don’t have any sense for those numbers though.


Other than for the corona virus, this is how this industry operates in 2020 in a free market economy. Good and smart musicians will figure out how to survive and make money. Others will go the way of the buggy whip.

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Exactly my order of preference too. Bandcamp is fantastic.

  1. The record labels love streaming. Their revenues are way up. (The streaming services are all still losing money, so it’s not like Spotify is making off with money that would otherwise go to the artists.)
  2. The trouble, as always, is not how much money is going to artists; it’s how that money is allocated between them. The “Big Pool” model means that the bulk of your subscription fees are going to the most popular artists (who, I’m guessing, you’ve never heard of, let alone listen to).
  3. A “User-Centric” allocation would send your subscription fees to the artists you actually listen to. The major labels (who, btw, aren’t selling their recordings on Bandcamp) probably won’t like that. It’s only going to happen if consumers insist.
  4. The current revenue model is not some magically-perfect outcome of the workings of the free market. It’s the result of negotiations between the streaming services and the record labels. You, the consumer, had no say in the matter, if you were even aware of it at all.
  5. Even if you were aware of what you were signing up for, free markets produce an optimal allocation of resources only for a rather unintuitive definition of “optimal”.

A really interesting post with two strong sides
Most people will see it how they want to, including me.

Larger artists make an epic amount of money, but as with a lot of Sportsters, it’s not through their skill, it’s via the fame & sponsorship opportunities it brings.

Smaller/newer artists - how would they find exposure/gigs or work without streaming now? Which kids would be going out to buy their albums in high Street HMV stores to hunt out old CD Players to listen to them on? None, I imagine. It’s great kids are buying in to vinyl but I can’t help but feel it’s more for trend, rather than has any weight behind it. (I may be wrong)

It’s just the way of the world and it will continue to go the way of the masses.

I love streaming from Qobuz, but also love vinyl.

I’m finding that if I really like an album on Qobuz, I’ll probably end-up buying a vinyl copy.


Interesting that Tidal pays more by a long long way


Not quite the full story Jim - a user flagged it as off-topic. I find that interesting as plenty is discussed about music within that thread. Further, I deliberately posted it there as I did not want it to become a full discussion, rather that people could click the link and read about it they chose. However, it wasn’t specifically what I was listening to - other than the album itself that I’ve posted previously, along with another user who must have purchased it to support the artist.

And would it have hurt that thread if some people chose to comment? Of course not - it’s filled with everything and is a mess of a thread as it is. However, it is the most used thread and the one where people post music of any genre they please, despite there being genre specific threads; which to me are far more user friendly and thus are a very useful resource.

Oh and btw…you can see the original post at the start of the thread (up top) where the mod moved it to - yours isn’t exactly the full post.


I am not going to begin a discussion on a free market economy, but will say ‘we’ do not have such a thing.

However, I would like to discuss your suggestion that ‘good & smart’ musicians will figure out how to survive & make money.

Firstly, good is subjective and we all know that many ‘good’ artists have done it tough or struck out so to speak through no fault of their own. Just think how many artists have been ‘discovered’ years later after they decided to give it away or worst case scenario death. Or perhaps had poor management and floundered. You can’t expect every artist to have sublime managerial skills or even to understand how to flourish in these ever increasing difficult times.

If your expectation is that now musicians must also have the savvy to know how to market themselves, sell their ‘wares’ just to survive that’s a tall order.

I get you love your streaming and you’ve spoken about it in 100’s of posts. Your strong love of music lends itself to mostly rock from the 60s-70s (with a sprinkling of blues/soul) & that’s perfectly fine. However, those artists aren’t battling this new world and the obstacles before them. In fact, most of the artists you love have made a mint.

So, yes…streaming their music is little more than icing on the cake for the vast majority. It’s the others that tend to struggle, that I don’t believe you understand very much about. Hence the need to support artists by doing more than just streaming.

I think it is Chris UK who’s on here who often laments how tough it is for his artists to stay above water. I’m not sure if he’s a manager or his exact role, I’m just inferring based on his many posts.

It’s sad that people figure that a few bucks a month is doing good for the industry. Sure for some that’s more than they spent prior, but I’d suggest for many more their spending has gone elsewhere - other than the artists!