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Free Vs. Paid Streaming Sites

By Micaela Aboody

Every musician’s dream is to have their lyrics and sounds heard by billions, noticed by big record labels, have their name up in lights and playing at the most iconic places in the world.

For artists and bands, it used to take years for this to become a reality. These days it’s, literally, just a click of a button and the right streaming site.

Three teenage friends created a band, made up their own music and posted it to a few streaming sites. They never thought that anyone, other than their friends, would listen or take interest in their songs.

Melbourne Alternative/Indie band, Postblue, started out thinking they wouldn’t be much but a few friends playing music they liked.

Postblue band member, Jordan Saul, said they never expected success when uploading demo tracks to their Bandcamp and Triple j unearthed accounts.

“Triple J featured our EP [Extended Play] and selected us to play at ‘Splendour in the Grass’. From there, having some kind of profile, it was much easier to have our music heard.”

However, when Postblue put their music to Spotify and iTunes they saw the difference that free and paid streaming sites offered. Although, Spotify exposed them to wider ranges of audiences, iTunes helped them more financially because fans were more likely to purchase the album.

“The primary income for bands now is touring and merchandise, fans just don't really pay for music anymore.”

Releasing their album through a label helped boost their profile – getting tours and bigger shows. However, since then Postblue have independently released their music through Bandcamp, Spotify and iTunes.

These free streaming sites, such as Spotify and Soundcloud, have shown to give minimal royalties back to the artist whereas the paid streaming sites, such as iTunes and Google Play, give much more revenue towards the artist. Because of the internet the music industry is technologically changing and artists are having to change with it. Audiences and fans are streaming their favourite artist and songs instead of paying for them giving the artists a reduced amount of royalties.

Electronic Music Specialist from APRA AMCOS, Frank Rodi, explains the per stream rate is a continuous issue and the global revenues are half of what they were 15 years ago.

“Because the traditional revenues aren’t there and the artists, to survive, need to innovate and think of the best way to maximise the opportunities to make a living from their art and intellectual properties…what actually makes it back to the artists is not fair.”

Artists don’t usually get more than the aggregators because most of the time 30 per cent goes back to the DSP (Digital Service Providers). The remainder gets split between copyright owners, being that of labels and publishers, and the PRO’s (Performance Rights Organisation) who tends be more in favour of the label.


Although, depending on contracts how much an artist gets back differs between labels. However, Rodi believes that free and mass funded services are services that need to be reassessed because there is a value gap between money that is generated and money going back to artists. Less money is being split across many more tracks and is why revenue is being effected.

“Unless people are at the level of Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran, it is really hard to make a decent chunk of income from sales or the streaming of music and is why people are reverting to touring.”

The music market is moving away from purchasing music and this can be seen in the digital downloads, especially Apple Music and iTunes who are in “free fall”. However, the decrease in digital downloads justifies why there is a continuous increase in subscriptions to free streaming services which also shows a decline in the piracy of music. This is possibly indicating the music industry is going into a good space for the audience but not so much for artists.

Rodi explains that it’s not just the revenue that is a problem for artists, because there are so many ways to success with the internet it is becoming difficult to “break out amongst the noise”.  

“The discovery [of artists] on streaming services and playlists are kind of the new music curation.”

People are changing the way they access music and artists are needing to work with how people consume music. The consumption of the music is primarily taking place online through these streaming sites.

Statistics from the ABC show that during 2015, 45% of the market was made up by digital sales, 39% in physical sales (CDs), 14% in performance rights and 2% was used for synchronisation (film soundtracks). However, statistics from Aria Charts have shown that digital downloads have declined by 13% within the last year and although physical sales are still on a decline they only fell 3% in 2015 compared to an 18% fall in 2014.

Aria charts statistics also reveal that revenue has doubled throughout 2015 because of streaming sites.

Technology advancements have made these digital streaming sites more popular and easier to access for fans. Because these streaming sites, especially free sites, have become so popular paid downloads are declining because fans are streaming music.

Although, this may be good for the consumers of music and, even though, artists are getting paid per stream it’s not as much as they would get from paid sites. Because of these technology advances music stores are few and far between and it is hard for the few that are left.

“Many music stores are part of big chains that also sell other technology,” Says Rodi who believes they are going to be a “legacy of our past”.

Long gone are the days where you could buy your favourite record or CD from the music store down the road. It’s all here for you on your laptop or mobile device to stream and listen for free.

Though, live performances are increasingly becoming popular. Many major artists were discovered through gigs at café’s or pubs, such as Taylor Swift who was picked up by her current recording label by a performance in café. Compared to today where people are discovered through streaming sites and singing competitions, such as Justin Bieber who was found through YouTube by his current manager and Jessica Mauboy who was discovered on Australian Idol. The ABC stated there has been a growth trend in live performances and the performance revenues would rise by 3% annually by 2020.

Brisbane artists Maddy Thompson and Lachlan Wallace have done gigs at small events and put some videos up on YouTube and Soundcloud to get noticed in the industry.

“[People] are making money through live performances,” Thompson says who uploads videos mostly to get gigs.

Performances at gigs can help promote an artist and bands wanting to make it big in the industry. Because fans aren’t buying the music anymore and live performances are artists opportunity to get noticed and self-promote.

Thompson believes that streaming sites have had a negative and a positive effect on the industry and artists. Because of the way technology is evolving artists can only do the best that they can to get recognition and get their name out there.

Wallace agrees that streaming sites can be seen to be boosting the industry because it is easier for artists to upload music and for fans to find the music, “[it’s] a lot easier than finding a CD”. Though, it is harder for people already in the industry and people trying to get into the industry.

“It’s also more competitive for artists because there is so much music [out] there,” Wallace says.

Wallace explains that these streaming sites are a good way to come across artists in playlists and suggested songs and can be a good thing for people to “discover new and different things”.

Discovering different bands and artists and their songs is what fans can do through these streaming sites. Although, this benefits artists and bands with exposure to audiences, depending on whether it is a paid or free streaming site, it may not support them financially.

This is exactly what the band of Postblue found when putting their songs through paid and free streaming sites and the royalties they received in return. However, these sites definitely helped them get noticed and how people discovered them when searching through Spotify or iTunes for new songs.

Streaming sites have and will continue to change the industry, effect upcoming artists and be updated for the next generation of fans.

Woman in Combat 

By Micaela Aboody 

Women have been taking on combat roles in the military since the ban was lifted in 2013 in support for gender equality.

A five-year implementation plan was initiated in 2013 to supply support for women being gradually phased into combat parts of the military.

Discharged member of the Australian Army in Strategic Workforce Planning, Carrissa Ibbott, confirms the plan is going accordingly but not many women are interested in combat roles.

“There hasn’t been a huge amount of interest from people already in the military who are transferring over [but] there are females applying for it,” she said.

The five-year implementation plan has been a turning point for the issue of gender equality in the military.

Discharged member of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Gaye Mitchell, agrees that more work can still be done to involve women in ANZAC day services and the military.

“The military as a whole are working very hard to increase the gender female participation rate,” she said,

“It is getting better and better,” she said.

The five-year implementation plan has allowed for women going into these roles to be mentored from female support networks.

Reserve member of the Australian Army, Ross Cable, acknowledges that activists would “hope” for more women to apply.

“Fundamentally there is miniscule number of women who actually want to do these combat roles,” he said. 

Sex Discrimination Officer, Kate Jenkins, proposes that organisations are making progress towards gender equality.

“There are many benefits that would come from improving gender balance in both male and female-dominated workforces,” she said.

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