Talk of the way that streaming services divvy out subscription revenue has been under scrutiny for a while. It is a model which introduces some challenges and identifies some unfairness in the agreements between artists and labels.
Nonetheless, the model is sound and ensures that those artists who get the most listening time get paid the biggest share of the pot. Artists and scammers trying to game the services by artificially bumping up the number of plays they receive - and by association their share of the pot - have meant that services are forced to implement tests to ensure that play counts are legitimate.
Now a group are calling for listeners to get involved in a protest called 'Silent September' whereby listeners leave their music players on a constant repeat cycle with the volume turned off. The logic being that by selecting an independent artist and repeatedly playing their music you help to bump up their share of the pay-out.
And this is a protest against gaming of the system?
Aside from the obvious objection that this is deliberately depriving other artists of their legitimate share of the pot, there's no clear articulation of how this will bring about a change which the sponsors of the protest seek. To whit, if many users do this the overall number of streams increase, the per stream remuneration drops and whilst the indie artists who are selected by Silent September listeners benefit by a small amount the bigger artists, who number their plays in the tens or hundreds of millions, won't even notice the drop in their share of the pot.
How does that incentivise change?
Certainly the aim of the service, to replace payment based on percentage of overall streams with one based on a share of each individual's total streams - paid from that individual subscription - is laudable, although much more complex to calculate. However whether it would actually materially affect the amount of cash paid out to individual artists is another matter and as yet untested either way.
Silent September won't effect a change and will hurt artists by reducing their payout. Taking part really doesn't help anyone.
In the meantime artists need to look at streaming income as part of an holistic model for payments, with live performance, radio play and licensing all adding to their income.
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