Why Spotify and Rdio are Worse Than Torrenting: Op-Ed

Why do musicians need album sales revenue?

A common refrain is that although musicians no longer make much money from album sales, they make up for that in touring revenue. I’ve heard Tom Merritt of Tech News Today express this point of view on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, touring isn’t the cash cow some might think it is. Granted a large band playing stadiums every night does make a lot of money doing so. However, for an independent band like mine (Minto), a successful tour might actually mean that you didn’t lose any money. You’ve achieved a level of success as an indie band when you can do a “break even tour”.

Why do musicians need money anyway?

So when did this become all about the money? Shouldn’t musicians be doing this because they love it? Shouldn’t that be enough? Aren’t you just “playing” after all?

The reality is, trying to make it in music is really hard, and nobody would be going through the difficulties inherent in such an endeavor if they didn’t love music. The unfortunate reality is that being a musician isn’t cheap. Musicians have to pay for their expensive musical instruments and required accompanying gear, maintenance of said gear, usually student loan payments, and often years of music lessons to get to the point where they’re able to perform.

Recording an album is expensive too. You can record an album on the cheap, and low-fi recordings are great, but that doesn’t suit every aesthetic. If a low-fi recording isn’t consistent with your artistic vision, you’re needing to raise a substantial amount of money to record your music. I’ve heard some fantastic, high quality recordings done at home, but that requires know-how that not everybody has.

Conversely, a low-fi sound doesn’t necessarily mean a low budget.

Most musicians need to work day jobs in order to pay for all of this, and not everyone’s able to muster the energy required to be creative after a long work day. Allowing musicians to earn an income means that they’re able to spend more time making music, which means they’re able to produce more music for you to enjoy. Denying them that income can compromise their ability to create music.

You should support your favourite artists if for no other reason than because you don’t want them to stop making music because they’re too tired to be creative after working their day job.

From my own experience, I’ve had music that I’ve wanted to record but have been unable to do so due to a lack of funds. And now that it’s a few years later and I’ve moved on from that music to something else, that’s a record that’ll probably never be made, entirely due to my own lack of funds.