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Northern California woman sparks industry-wide discussion on streaming music

It seems a Northern California musician has kick-started an interesting discussion about the future of the music industry.

The woman, a cellist, posted an exceptionally detailed spreadsheet to her Tumblr blog detailing what she makes each time one of her tracks is played on a streaming-music service, like Pandora or Spotify.

In short, she doesn't make much. For example, after having her songs played 1.5 million times on Pandora over a six-month period, she earned just $1,600.

This has prompted discussion because streaming music has been seen as the future of the music industry. If it is true that streaming becomes the standard way to listen to music, then we must ask whether we are hurting musicians.

Services like Spotify allow people to listen to legally licensed music without actually buying it, the way they would have to on a service like iTunes. Streaming music services are quick to point out that they pay artists and record labels for the use of their music, so streaming has always positioned as a way to combat privacy. Some musicians have also spoken up in favor of streaming because songs are not played without legal permission from the artist or record label.

However, if only artists like Katy Perry and Justin Bieber are making money from streaming, then we have to ask what we are doing to the community of artists that generates the content for streaming music services. For a great many professionals, music has never been an exceptionally lucrative line of work, but it shouldn't pay poverty wages, either.

If you are an artist or creative professional, or even if you are just a fan of music, we would be interested in hearing your thoughts about the rise of streaming-music services.

Source: The New York Times, "As Music Streaming Grows, Royalties Slow to a Trickle," Ben Sisario, Jan.28, 2013

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