Note To Struggling Bands And Singers: Sorry But Most Of Your Fans Don’t Care

The plight of artists and songwriters grappling with download dollars transforming into streaming cents is well documented and a series of long term, sustainable solutions are needed (I wrote about some here). The debate occurs alongside an assumption that there is widespread concern for the creators’ and their livelihood. Unfortunately the general sympathy that is apparent within the echo chamber of the online press and social media does not translate to the broader population

In a recent MIDiA Research survey we asked consumers the following question:

“Some singers and bands are concerned that streaming music services like YouTube, Spotify and Deezer pay too little money back to them compared to selling music. Using a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 equals ‘do not agree at all’ and 5 equals ‘agree entirely’ indicate how much you agree with this statement: This issue concerns me enough to reconsider my music buying habits.’

Just 15% of respondents said they agreed and only four per cent strongly agree. And this is against a backdrop of 60% of consumers stating that they consider music to be worth paying for.  So willingness to pay is not the overriding issue here.


Things don’t look quite so bad when you start diving into specific segments. For example among Music Aficionados – those who spend and listen above average – the rate is 30% and among subscribers it is 34%. But even those rates are remarkably low when you consider that these are some of the very most engaged music fans and that more than 80% of them think music is worth paying for.

So what is going on? Artists and fans are closer than ever before and artists are undoubtedly finding the transition to consumption models a difficult process. To some degree there has always been some fan ambivalence. Mainstream consumers tend to think of artists as megastars who drive around in sports cars and sip champagne for breakfast. So getting the mass market to feel sympathy is not an easy sell. Even though the music world has changed from its 80’s and 90’s excess, many consumers just haven’t paid enough attention to the plight of artists to join the dots. Others conveniently turn a blind eye and use their old-world stereotypes to justify piracy to themselves.

Artists and fans have an unprecedented array of tools and services to connect them and to help build genuine engagement. But outside of their core followings, artists should not expect their wider fan bases to have any particularly strong feelings about their struggles. Even less should they expect those fans to do anything about it: 54% of consumers specifically would not change their buying behaviour.

Streaming is ramping up fast, that much is clear, but even among those consumers just 24% care enough about the plight of artists to consider changing their behaviour. As bitter a pill as it may be to swallow, artists have to accept the fact that beyond their super fans, most consumers (and three quarters of streamers) simply don’t care whether streaming is making it harder for them to build and maintain a career.

27 thoughts on “Note To Struggling Bands And Singers: Sorry But Most Of Your Fans Don’t Care

  1. I wrote a blog called “Who Cares” saying the same basic thing. Artists need to help their fans care about their music. The song is just one of many tools to get the job done.

  2. I don’t think anyone will care until it becomes a point where no one can afford to have a career as a musician or Artist, and then maybe when there’s no new music people will care. Issue there is that technology is at a point where that is philosophically and physically impossible. So the problem then becomes the Artists they love might be also working a 9-5 for corporate America, just to make ends meet, whereas 20 years ago they were able to just focus on the Art, and I think this will mean the Art suffers which is a shame and a loss to all of us who value music as an art form, a career, and a calling.

  3. Liz: While it is worse now than it was 20 years ago, even 20 years ago only the most successful musicians were in a position to focus all of their time on their art. It’s important to be realistic about that. Failure to do is a complementary mythology of rich rock stars driving fancy cars. Even in the best of times, the universe of people driving fancy cars was likely less than 5% of all musicians. Perhaps now it’s less than 2.5%. And that is something to feel bad about. But it’s important to remember that we’ve always been talking about a very small sub-segment of “artists.”

    In the tournament of rock, at least 95 out of 100 people have always been losers (actually there’s a good chance it’s more like 99/100). We just didn’t hear as much about all those losers back in the pre-internet era. They mostly labored at their day jobs in obscurity, working for a big break.

    To be sure, it is a shame that it has gotten even harder to make a full-time living from music. Perhaps art will suffer. On the other hand, it’s never been cheaper to own the tools of music recording and production. So the barrier to making high quality music recordings has never been lower. So it’s much easier to do music on the side in 2014 than it was in 1984.

    Or perhaps the notion of “great art” will just change. That’s thing about art: It’s meaning is contextually determined. To a certain extent, each generation gets to determine what it means. Every type of art doesn’t mean the same thing through time and space. Music had a really nice zeitgeist defining run through the 20th century. But in the 21st century, music may have a more complimentary (and perhaps diminished) role to play (e.g., as a soundtrack to a video game, a video, or in a multimedia art installation). Game designers and certain figures in the technology field may turn out to be the zeitgeist defining people who embody the “rock star” archetype in the here and now.

    Personally, I mourn that a bit. These new rock stars seem kind of boring compared to the ones from my youth. But that’s because I’m old enough to remember the way things were. If I was 17 or 22 or even 30, I might well feel very differently. And I’d probably be focusing my attention differently as well.

  4. It’s good to have some numbers to back this up!

    I guess the thing artists (and the industry in general) need to do now, is figure out how to grow that core group of ‘hard core’ fans, and work out ways to engage fans and sell them something they are prepared to buy.

    The good news is, it’s an industry full of creative individuals and creativity is exactly what’s needed, to find new creative soloutions and ideas to. Loads of great ideas artists are coming up with, but think the industry is just evolving and playing catch up.

    People are often reluctant to change, but it’s inevitable and people are starting to (are being forced to) realise that now – whether it’s wrong or right is irrelevant, but actually if there is a best industry for something like this to happen to, perhaps it’s this one..

  5. As an artist myself…who didn’t know this already? Everyone here makes a valid point & have their belief on how things are going now for struggling artists, but it doesn’t mean that you give up and throw in the towel, because you never know if your creativity will transcend all these new obstacles to being heard and finding a true fan base of your own that will appreciate what value that you bring them from listening to you. Trust me, artists have been going through this since the dawn of the music business & I believe with faith & perseverance that blessed true talent will find a way to it’s deserved audience. No matter what technology has done to the business…stay true my fellow artists!!!

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  7. Artists and labels simply need to NOT allow streaming! That is what’s killing the money in the business. Get back to “you have to buy” to listen. Remember that? You heard in on the radio, then went and bought it!

  8. this is a Business and lifestyle for the Talented and Strong,no fear allowed here,success stories of the down and out Rising to be the Best of who they are,is Legendary, you write and Produce your life’s script every moment. this “is” your life and Dream,it is a gift, do what you want with it,…

  9. The thing about musicians who choose to do this for a living is, (especially those of us who are not as young as we used to be 🙂 lol! ) we have to change with the times. We have to find ways to make this new system work for us. I do feel like we are not getting paid by the new system like we should but, on the other hand the music gets heard my many. I’m not getting thousands of dollars from SPOTIFY but, those consistant cents from all those different sites does add up to a check. Plus, live performances sell product as well. For those of us who are still independent, what choice do we have? The key for me is to keep putting music out there and finding other ways that my music can make money and use the Internet to my advantage.

    Peace, Love & Blessings to you all!

  10. I think this is oversimplified. Fans are not the villains.

    I don’t care about this issue particularly, because I am so used to seeing that labels and distribution organizations screw artists and cry foul whenever somebody streams something, that I’ve just come to the perception that it isn’t really the artists that are the forefront of this, it’s organizations that want to make money off of the artists.

    Do the Rolling Stones really care if somebody streams Brown Sugar? I think not. It is the corporate machine around them that gets enraged because the money mountain isn’t growing a foot a minute anymore. I mean c’mon…TWO HUNDRED BUCKS for a ticket to go to a rock concert? It’s become like sporting events, elitist. And people hate elitism and will try to beat it, every time.

    New artists? I know several, I myself am rock musician. I WANT you to circulate my stuff. The more the better, because to get gigs and interest in cutting an album, you need FB likes and so forth. The higher the play count and the more people like your pages, the more money you will make because you will get paying gigs. So please STREAM MY STUFF.

    Why don’t we go after who is really screwing artists; the corporate machines built around them, and the venues that actually think it’s reasonable to pay a local band fifty bucks for a four hour gig and get away with it, “because you get exposure”. There isn’t a bar in NYC that will actually pay a band anymore. I gave up on performing live because nobody pays.

    Lastly, times are hard. The rich are richer and the poor poorer. So when I hear some rap star complaining about piracy and then sailing off in a yacht to his 7 acre estate, and I’m trying to figure out where to get the money to fix my car…no. I don’t care. Because you’re not talking to me, you’re talking to somebody with a pile of disposable income.

  11. This is bound to stir a hornets nest. Perhaps it is about time.
    I don’t agree that fans don’t care.
    The problem lies much much deeper than that.

    If anyone has a doubt that the Left wants to marginalize the individual in this country then they probably already live in Colorado.
    Just take a look at the educational system that is and has been bringing up the next generation of us for the past half century.
    The family unit, for the most part, has been deteriorating and so more and more control of our children is being turned over to this system of indoctrination that has very little to do with education.
    Perhaps it wasn’t so noticible at the beginning.
    It is amazing to see that the current day Pied Piper leader of this movement has the power to make the dumb even dumber. or should I say the numb even number.
    Are Civics taught in school anymore?
    Is responsibility taught in school anymore? … not that it ever was a Heading on a course outline.
    But in the past you can believe that when the subject came up, a teacher would try to instill a sense of responsibility for what a person, an individual, does or does not do.
    Remove the individual and you remove responsibility. My, how easy is that?

    So it is not that the fan doesn’t care.
    It is that he or she, the individual, has no foundation for being responsible.
    It’s no wonder that society has denigrated itself to the lowest common denominator.
    … just another point of view.

  12. I agree with the previous post. Don’t allow streaming. Years ago- there was a subscription site that wanted 10/month for all the downloads you wanted( and the download were good unless you cancelled the service) But all they had was crap. None of the main artists I wanted to hear were on the site. As a result I cancelled the service and went and BOUGHT the albums I wanted. If artists don’t allow their work to be streamed- then they can’t be taken advantage of. THat’s the bottom line. If you don’t feel adequate compensation is being offered for a gig- you wouldn’t take the job…why would you treat your “recording” with any less respect than you would a performance? The recordings actually take a lot more time, energy and investment. I’ve been scratching my head for years wondering why so many musicians are drinking the kool aid that “exposure= success.” …Money in the bank and being able to pay your bills= success. Otherwise- you have a day job and music becomes a hobby not a career. How sad is that?

  13. I’ve been playing, performing, recording, touring, blah blah.. now for 27 years.. Have seen a lot n done a lot. Most of which you never could have told me was possible as a kid growing up in the inner city.. But at this time the pursuit of art as a viable career option has become something for the middle and upper classes to pursue. There are very few musicians, DJs singers etc… from the past 10 years that any of you could name that didn’t come from money or have access to it.. That’s pretty much a fact.. This is true not only in one genre or scene either it’s widespread. Once upon a time poor people had more of a chance of coming up through the ranks of life. We had sports, crime, music and school as options to move ahead but now? Our ability to be a career artist has pretty much vanished.. It’s more of the same war on the poor.. No one ever wants to talk about the social economics of these and many other pursuits. Some of us are simply limited by nothing other than our access..

  14. Liz Downing, above, nails it with her post so I don’t need to say it again but I will say I no longer post any of my songs online complete. I post only the first minute of three or four. I would suggest all artists develop that as a habit, whether they sell their songs online or not.

  15. These days just as in the past exposure=success, most assuredly! I also think though streaming pays little to struggling artist there is the benefit of exposure both from fans who just love music and fans who say are directors to films that may hear your song for a possible scene to a film or television show and so on. It’s also much easier to find success today than say in the 80’s simply due to the fact it’s easier to connect with other artist, purchase, learn and use music software. I mean it’s possible to put an entire record together using just your iPad with the help of different apps, etc just as today many get the chance to be photographers but the key here is being generally really good at what you’re doing, diligent and timing. So many people are attempting a role in the music industry as a producer, singer, rapper but the really good ones get the farthest and last longer. The ones that struggled the hardest find greater, lasting success. Having a great voice doesn’t guarantee success in music any more than being hot means you can be the next Giselle.

    Also, it is true many of the newbies and some of the oldies got where they are because of a family member or because they were already rich so making certain things happen was easier but there is still room for those who literally come from nothing, have no connections to their name, etc. I mean look at Lindsay Lohan. Everything was handed to her essentially and it’s been her downfall. Do you want to be Lindsay? If you’re diligent, open minded, kind and passionate about your craft I say skies the limit. I am a singer/songwriter and when I really started taking this whole thing seriously I had no support, little vocal talent(the tone was there) but I could write and I wanted/want this. Going through a few things I’ve found myself in a position to get closer to my dream. Money problems faded to the point where I could put songs together and play them live with a full band(that I paid for) eventually recording with not one but two producers(that I paid for) and putting out solid songs that spoke to me and didn’t or does not follow every whim that is expected in music today. I am obviously inspired by certain artist both past and present but I am making my own rules and trusting my gut. Sitting on a still incomplete but great record I’ve gotten this far because I believed despite that little thing called, logic! Anyway, I may still have yet to see any real income but I think when you hone your craft and show people it’s real, not a gimmick solely based on making a £$ I think that’s when people, present fans and future ones will rally behind you. Adele sold because what she brought was authenticity, same with Amy Winehouse and so on. If you truly seek it eventually you’ll be found and FYI people still buy records. Fuck EP’s!!!!!! Write good music and they will cum(pun intended)

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  17. This is not just general apathy towards musicians, artists, creators; it’s a general amoral apathy towards others in general.

    You might get similar results if you ask:
    If you know that workers are being seriously underpaid and exploited in sweatshops to make all your cheap consumer goods, with awful environmental destruction as a result as well, would you pay substantially more to buy products only manufactured in ethical and environmentally sound conditions?

    The sad reality that “morality” and “ethics” for most people means “what can I get away with without getting caught” and “if it doesn’t affect me directly, I don’t care”.

    Hence the need for laws, police, lawyers, parents, teachers, to attempt to make savages behave like civilized citizens and compassionate beings.

  18. Fans are everything in this business. In the new day of technology, its not about how much money you can receive it on how many fans can you reach. Streaming should be used more as a marketing to then a money making tool (Yes I know as musicians we wanna make money from our music) but their are plenty of other ways to do that. Artist have to be happy that their song is privileged enough to get streamed 500,000 times. Because that is potentially 500,000 people who can spread the word to another 500,000 people.

  19. Why are indie artists still complaining about streaming and online sales when they know they don’t pay out? This is no secret so they need to STOP complaining and start concentrating on other more lucrative avenues.

  20. Indie artists need to learn from the established ones- in today’s market, live shows, appearances, licensing, and endorsements are the money makers for most musicians, even those with healthy online sales. You need to focus on the bigger picture, getting your music out there in anyway possible so that you can build a fan base that want to pay to see you live.

  21. @destiny
    When you don’t have the same support as an established artist or even an artist that has someone behind them with money and connections promotion can be difficult beyond getting your music on iTunes, Spotify, etc. Virtually anyone can do that today and do. Playing shows especially depending on your genre can be difficult because if you can’t get a decent crowd to come out to see you play clubs and bars will not book you. I was actually blacklisted once because I apparently didn’t meet the numbers they wanted but the funny thing was I actually had the biggest crowd I’d ever had at that time but the door person did not tally up the numbers. They, the bars and clubs aren’t interested in helping you become someone as an artist as they once were back in the 80’s or so. It used to be about artist support and using your music to bring in a crowd/drinkers but now they want you to do their jobs and come in with a built in fan base to buy their alcohol and order their food. At the end of the day it’s about getting your work in front of the right people at the right time.

    Personally I am out there. I am on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, I am an ASCAP member, I’ve done shows though it’s been a while mostly due to getting people out largely because I don’t want to play to empty rooms any longer and that’s what I’ve faced. You can’t build a fan base playing to an empty room and trust me my work is good. So good that randomly I was asked to open for a couple of indie bands. So, it’s not like the talent and work isn’t there. I just haven’t been fortunate enough to see my work as of yet reach further than it has currently. I’ve done the advertisement and I track my plays and I can tell you from all the ads and promotion virtually no one other than people I know personally have actually even listened to the music.

    It’s all about timing and having your work placed in front of the people that get it.

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