This week saw the release of statistics that show that sales of CD's dropped by 23% last year - down to 32 million from 41 million in 2017. To put that into perspective, less than half the population bought at least 1 CD in 2018. This news comes just days after HMV announced it intends to go into administration (a 30% drop in DVD sales over Christmas hasn't helped this though).
A traditional artist album doesn't appear to have the same pull as it once did in the physical world. In the top ten best-selling albums of the year, 6 were either a film soundtrack or a Now compilation. This has been noted by some bigger artists, with Cardi B not even releasing her latest album on CD in America last year - and it seems likely others will follow.
2 artists that were in the top 10 album sales of 2018 were Drake & Post Malone. Both of their respective albums performed well, but less than 10% of their sales were of physical items, with the vast majority being streaming results. Now we know how poorly streaming pays artists, but with the amount of sales these 2 have between them, it's not like they'd have had to be frugal over Christmas.
But what amount those musicians who aren't Drake or Post Malone?
Having posted the story onto our Facebook page, musicians posted some of their thoughts on whether streaming was the way to go.
Phil Doleman said; "Being streamable doesn't add up if you want to make a living. I've just made a new album, pretty cheaply actually, but still a big outlay. I could put it on Spotify right now, but I would never, ever recoup even half of what it cost. I might as well give it away.
On the other hand I expect to have covered my costs by selling CDs inside a month or two. 90% of my CDs sell at gigs, where people want something as a reminder of the gig, something they can get autographed.
I also sell downloads on Bandcamp, and I've made more from one new release on Bandcamp than all of my streaming payments for the last 5 years."
In response to this, Sam Lyon said; "I completely second this! Similarly, I BUY all CDs from gigs too. Though, I'm guilty to admit that if it's an artist whose gig I can't get to (e.g. they're a big star and tickets are expensive), I will stream rather than buy a physical CD."
Let's think of streaming as marketing and promotion, rather than a less beneficial source of income
It's a fact that you shouldn't expect your music to go on Apple Music or Spotify and to be able to buy a yacht in a few months, the likelihood is you probably won't make a profit if it is available only to stream and not for download. However, streaming does give you another platform to attract a new audience - which is something every musician should strive for. At last count, there were 83 million paying subscribers (likely to hit 100 million at some point in early 2019), and that's not even taking into consideration the free users. There's an additional 50 million Apple Music subscribers to add on top of that too.
This article by Forbes outlines how Americans are now spending over 32 hours a week listening to music, and a lot of that is down the ease and accessibility of finding new music alongside your favourites on streaming platforms. Streaming and the internet is allowing you to send your music worldwide, without actually having to spend much (if anything) at all - something that would have seemed ludicrous years ago. Anyone can stumble across one of your new songs and suddenly find themselves falling in love with your back catalogue, and with the generation of sharing everything on social media, word can spread to friends pretty quickly.
Streaming should be thought of as a way to shout about your music to the entire world. It's rare that someone who isn't particularly into the new music scene will buy a CD from an unknown artist, but they probably will tell their friends to go and listen to "this great song they've heard" online. Streaming is the 21st century version of discovering new music - make sure you're out there to be discovered.