Streaming: The blessing and curse of indie artists

It’s been a minute since I wrote a blog entry. Sorry life got pretty hectic for a while. I started a new job with a steep learning curve and pretty intense hours. It’s been challenging and getting out of that headspace to sit down and be “artistic” is something I’m still figuring it out.

That being said I wanted to write about something thats been on my mind lately: Streaming.

In the past decade Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music and a dozen other platforms have given us access to nearly the entity of recorded music. At any time, day or night, I can listen to the new Run the Jewels album (my personal album of the year) or track down the Street Brats (an obscure punk band a random dude turned me onto like 15 years ago). Streaming is easy, convenient and a great way to find new music or get back into stuff you haven’t heard since high school.

Not to mention as an artist it’s never been easier to get my work out into the world. See, here’s the Spotify link to my comedy album This Was A Bad Idea. It’s streaming everywhere and I did it all myself. I didn’t need a record label, friends at radio stations or a grueling touring schedule to get my work in front of people. I just needed 50 bucks and a CD Baby account. I cannot stress enough how dumb I am when it comes to tech. If I can figure out how to get an album on Apple Music, anybody can.

Of course, as you are probably aware there is one huge drawback to streaming platforms. Money. If you ain’t famous you ain’t getting paid… or at the very least you’re getting paid pennies. This probably isn’t news to you, but if you are curious about just how little artist make per stream check out this article on the ditto music blog. It includes a calculator that estimates how much an artist will make based on their number of streams. It’s pretty interesting… and depressing.

It boils down to this: If a solo musician or comedian wants make anything approaching a living wage they’ll need to average somewhere in the ballpark of 20,000 streams a day. I can tell you right now, I’ll be lucky to hit 20,000 streams for the entirety of 2020.

Now I’m hardly complaining, given the fact that I’ve barely toured and have never been on TV, I never expected to get more than a couple thousand listens at most. I’m not even angry that multibillion dollar corporations pay shit. I mean, multibillion dollar corporations always pay shit.

But I can’t help but think we as fans should be getting one over on them. (BTW this is the part of the blog called The Call to Action!) Here’s what I suggest: Make a playlist of some of your favorite local, indie and underground artists on your preferred streaming platform, listen to it when your working out or in the grocery store or whatever, but then (and this is the important part) put it on repeat in the next room while you’re sleeping. Give a band or singer or comedian that gets 15 listens a day 115. It isn’t going to make them rich, but maybe it will pay a cell phone bill every couple months. If you share the playlist with your friends and they do the same, Maybe it’ll buy them a tank of gas too.

It goes without saying there are much better ways to support the artists you love. Buying a T-shirt or shelling out 10 bucks for a CD or digital download will help them out a hell of a lot more than a few extra streams, but hey, this costs you nothing and will in a small way help out a person or band who’s already brought joy to your life.

Anyway here’s an example: Last week I made a playlist of every artist or band from I know of from my home town, Colorado Springs. I’ve been listening to it a lot lately. Many of the people on this list are my friends, so maybe I’m biased but it’s a pretty damned good collection of talent. Talent that deserves to get paid. So I’m playing it on repeat every night. I think you should make a list of your own and do the same. Or just listen to mine.

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