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Living in a Digital Age

Summer 2024 is fast approaching. At Cathartika, we’re excited for all the fun this season brings: swimming, hiking, picnics, and, of course, music festivals where we come together to celebrate art and community.

For artists and musicians, the warmer months are time for live performances and touring. In the digital era, this time is more important than ever for artists–for most of them it represents the bulk of their income.

The digital age has brought us so much: the ability to stay connected with family and friends across the globe, interact with diverse cultures, and learn about a wide array of subjects. We manage our lives and careers through tablets and smart devices and build hobbies, friendships, and entire lives online.

The cross-pollination of musical ideas and vast audience reach enabled by the digital world also benefits musicians. Everything from musical theory to production tips is just a click away. We can promote our tours, share updates, and release music instantaneously to listeners worldwide, powerful tools for independent artists like us.

 Challenges for Musicians in a Digital Age

However, living in a digital age is a double-edged sword for artists. On one side, digital platforms have democratized access to music, allowing artists from all corners of the world to share their work with a global audience. For just the cost of a cappuccino, fans can explore hundreds of millions of songs at their fingertips. 

However, the same platforms that help us connect with fans also inundate them with choices. It’s hard to stand out from tens of thousands of tracks released every day. Algorithms that favor certain types of content can bury even the most talented artists under a sea of digital noise. Some musicians feel forced to tailor their work to fit streaming algorithms, especially in genres like jazz, where the complexity and depth could be compromised for more stream-friendly compositions.

While digital tools allow us to manage our careers independently, they also require us to be marketer, content creator, and business manager all at once. The expectation to maintain a constant online presence can be overwhelming, especially when balanced with creating music and performing.

At Cathartika, we don’t stream our music, with the exception of our upcoming YouTube channel. We’ve made this choice, as many artists have, because it just doesn’t make financial sense to stream. Artists receive a mere fraction of a cent per stream. With over 100,000 tracks uploaded daily to streaming services, the battle for visibility is fierce, and the financial returns are minimal. 

The average artist earns less than $240 annually from streaming—a far from sustainable income. Meanwhile, major streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music make tens of billions a year (source).

The call for a fundamental overhaul of the music streaming industry is loud and clear. Insiders criticize the current model as “archaic,” pointing out that it benefits major labels and platforms while musicians struggle to achieve a living wage (source).

Deep-Rooted Issues in Streaming

The core issue lies in the distribution of streaming revenues: approximately 50% to labels and 30% to streaming platforms. Only 20% is left to be split among everyone else involved in making the music, including the artists themselves. That’s why, despite billions of dollars generated annually in the industry, artists can’t make a living. 

Many musicians and music lovers advocate switching to a user-centric model where consumers’ payments go directly to the artists they listen to, prioritizing artists over disproportionate profits to labels and platforms.

David Brewis of Field Music has noted that the music industry’s shift due to technological advancements has not been accompanied by appropriate regulatory updates, leading to a “free-for-all” where major streaming platforms set the terms to their benefit at the expense of the creators (source).

While platforms may argue that artists can tour for their living, musicians aren’t satisfied with this solution. Musician Kate Nash explains how forcing artists to rely on touring as their main source of income is exclusionary, forcing artists to handle a difficult life on the road to make a living (source).

Touring has traditionally been a vital revenue source  for musicians, especially in the wake of dwindling physical album sales. However, touring isn’t always feasible. Whether it’s due to studio commitments, internal band changes, or global health crises, there are times when hitting the road isn’t an option. Without tours and limited in alternative revenue record sales, artists may struggle to pay the bills while they create and share new art, and may be forced out of the industry altogether.

A Call for Industry Reform: Insights from Industry Insiders

Prominent voices in the industry advocate for a user-centric model; funds from subscribers to streaming platforms directly support the artists they listen to, empowering artists and ensuring that fans’ spending directly benefits the creators they listen to.

As we navigate the challenges facing the music industry today and make our mark without streaming, we ask for your support. Download our music, share our content, and explore our merchandise. Each contribution, no matter how small, plays a crucial role in sustaining our ability to produce authentic, original art. 

Until the music industry sees reform that puts more money into the hands of creators instead of the streaming platforms, artists like us rely on our fans to support our work. 

This summer, remember the artists who soundtrack your most memorable moments. 

We’re excited to offer new subscribers a free song, “What Would You Do For Love,” as a token of our appreciation. This song will also be the tie to our first animation video due out early this summer. Your support ensures the continuing vibrancy and diversity of the music world.

Sign-up Today and Receive Your Free Song

Sign Up to Download a Free Song – “What Would You Do for Love”