Independent artists do not get paid enough for their work

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By Tori Templet | Staff Writer

The music industry has evolved over time, and more and more independent music artists are emerging from all over. Being a “starving artist” is not easy, and they don’t get the credit they deserve.

As an independent music artist myself, I have experienced the peaks and valleys that come with pursuing a music career all on my own. I have written my own songs, created my own website and built my own brand. It has been about three years since I released my first song. Releasing music is exciting, but I have also patiently and anxiously waited for the possibility of getting on a Spotify editorial playlist or going viral on TikTok. I feel like I am just gasping for air as I wait.

To explain, editorials are the playlists that Spotify curates. These playlists have many followers, which means more streams, which means more money. It’s a waiting game to see if you are good enough to make it. Getting on a playlist is a great outlet to get exposure, but even then, it’s not enough. Spotify helps an artist get on these playlists, but they pay the tiniest fraction per stream.

Business Insider estimated that Spotify pays between three hundredths of a cent and five hundredths of a cent per stream. Yes, you read that right: hundredths of a cent. The article stated that an artist will need about 250 streams to make $1.

Streams are only one way an independent artist can make money, though. If you factor in merchandise and ticket sales from going on tour, then maybe you could break even with the cost of getting a song produced.

Along with Spotify, Apple Music for Artists stated that, on average, it pays 1 cent per stream. That sounds better, right? Of course, but in order to get on Apple Music playlists, you have to know people in the industry. No exposure means no streams.

Even if you do know people, it does not always mean you are with the “in” crowd, which is especially frustrating. Making connections in the industry is great, but does anything ever come to fruition? In my case, no. I have been contacted by managers and labels, yet here I am, still unsigned. A record deal or management could mean finally being able to fully pursue what you are most passionate about—no more picking up extra shifts or part-time jobs. However, you really have to find the right people in the industry who will not use you for their own benefit. Any manager or label I have come across is basically asking me to sign my life away, which leaves me questioning if my talent even matters. Maybe I am just stubborn, but I know what I am worth.

Over time, I have realized there is not really an algorithm or equation that helps you grow all on your own. I just recently released my debut EP. I put over a year of my time into a project that I am so proud of, but no one is listening. In this industry, you are more likely to feel discouraged than encouraged. So now I am here, three years into pursuing a passion of mine that is slowly fading. I am burnt out, but I try to remind myself of the spark that lit the fire in me. I am going back to the start, when it was just me and my guitar.

So, broaden your horizons. Seek out those smaller artists. Add them to your playlists. Give them the credit they deserve for working harder than anyone else in the music industry. You may even be able to say, “I knew them before they got big.”