The three major record labels made a reported one-million dollars an hour through streaming platforms alone in 2019, per a new report from Music Business Worldwide.
In the report, journalist Tim Ingham found through publicly disclosed documents that the “big three” in music, Universal, Sony, and Warner, made a combined $22.9 million every 24 hours in 2019. That comes out to roughly $953,000 every hour, until the fourth fiscal quarter when profits soared even higher, with Universal cracking over $1 billion, and the combined “big three” labels made $1.03 million an hour.
A year-end report from Alpha Data noted that in 2019 streaming reached a record-high one-trillion listens across all providers. Even with these record numbers, however, the medium still saw a decline from years past, largely due to the fact that the previous five years had seen unprecedented growth that simply was not sustainable. Even with streaming as a whole seeing a decline in growth compared to the past few years, revenues still managed to hit a record high in 2019 as streaming subscriptions increased by 25 percent, raking in a combined $1.4 billion worldwide, and accounting for nearly 80 percent of all music revenue. Essentially, while less people started streaming in 2019, more people finally broke down and began paying for it.
While the major record labels are raking in the cash, however, the problem still remains of how to properly compensate small, independent artists who aren’t signed to major contracts. According to a report from Business Insider last month, artists on Apple Music make approximately $0.012 per stream, while artists on Spotify earn roughly $0.003 per play. Those numbers are infinitesimal and discouraging, especially considering how much the major labels are pulling in every hour, but it is important to note the huge disparity between those two amounts. While both are extremely small payouts, artists still make four-times more on Apple Music than on Spotify. This is emblematic of the fact that there are still very few ground rules in the wild west of streaming. This lack of rules is something that RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier attempted to address in a recent blog post in Medium.
After the release of RIAA’s revenue reports from 2019, Glazier didn’t stop to pat himself on the back as he looked ahead to maintaining consistent growth, something that he recognized requires “good public policies.” While initially addressing these policies as confronting the growing need to allocate “an appropriate share for creators,” Glazier quickly shifted focus to also discussing the dire need to stop “stream-ripping and other forms of piracy.” After some more empty words about the need to “respect the true value of music,” he ended the article without laying out so much as one concrete step to address any of the aforementioned issues.
Zoë Keating, an independent artist quoted in the Business Insider piece, perfectly articulated the tug-of-war between distributors and artists, with the listeners caught in the middle.
“These companies are taking power away from listeners, because listeners don’t have any say where their money goes,” Keating said. “If you only listen to me, I should get all the percentage of the money you spend on music.”[H/T MBW, Business Insider, Medium]