Streaming music online is a touchy subject with some musicians, therefore there are a lot of different viewpoints on whether or not it is beneficial to allow free access to your intellectual property. The fact is, the benefits and disadvantages will depend on what level you’ re at in your music career. Figuring this out, along with your personal preferences, can help you decide what the best route to take is.
There are some artists spanning over many different types of art, painters, musicians, writers, etc, who have expressed a view that art should not be bought or sold, and its beauty is so great that it’s necessary to a society that it’s freely shared for everyone to enjoy. One can say that these types do have a morally correct viewpoint, and in theory, it’s a wonderful concept. If you are this type of music artist at any level of your career, by all means, let your music stream away and be happy that someone is listening and hopefully being inspired! However, for those of you that are starving and not o.k. with it, it might do you good to just accept the fact that streaming your music is becoming necessary evil, especially when you are an unknown.
The main reason for it being necessary is the invaluable exposure you or your young band can get from allowing your music to be streamed online. Free for anybody to listen? The shear fact that you have made your music free and widely available, could be the only reason new ears are listening. Also remember that the current fears about our economy have resulted in consumers being very selective when buying any product, even if it is just a measly $0.99 song. Allowing your music to be streamed gives a way for the consumer to first “test out” your music before making the decision to buy it which is good because people want to be absolutely sure these days that what they are buying is going to be worth the price, and they’ll actually use it.
Most importantly, in the first stages of your music career, not enough consumers know about you for it to be worth you trying to sell your music through a distributor like iTunes or CD Baby. Sure, you can register with one of these distributors and you may get a small number of loyal, local fans, that will buy your music, and you may receive a small royalty check. Royalty checks, no matter what the amount, are kind of neat to receive, but if you factor in the monthly/yearly cost to have your songs registered with iTunes, and the more expensive, non-monetary, cost of keeping your music sheltered, it just doesn’t make sense. Knowing how tough it can be for a starving, up and coming band, any money, no matter how small the amount, does seemed needed, but in the long run, getting a $100 royalty check every six months won’t do as much for your career as opening it up to everybody, and letting it stream.
There will be a certain point in your career, however, where you’ll have to decide when the best time will be to start really focusing on selling your music. This decision can be made based off your personal opinions about art and intellectual property, or based off the numbers that you proved you can hit, or you can project. We all remember Radioheads big deal a few years ago, where they allowed anyone to download their whole new album off their website for free. This left a lot of people angry, and guaranteed, most were probably those who stood to profit from Radioheads proven track record of selling mass amounts of records. Up until their latest album, The Black Keys would allow anyone to stream any of their music off their website, but in a recent interview, they revealed that it was time for them to stop this, realizing that streaming just doesn’t make sense for established, revenue-generating bands. What this really means is that someone figured that they had potential to make huge profits if they just stop giving free access to their music.
If you are one of those types that would care to make some dough from the work they put in their music (there’s probably a lot of you), the best thing to do is be patient about it. As long as you write good music, stay persistent, and effectively market it, people will buy it. The thing that a lot musicians don’t seem to understand is that ther’re a lot of opportunity costs when starting out a music career, and giving free and easy access to your music through streaming it online, at least in the beginning, can be the one investment that will pay off the greatest.