• Jonathan Lakeland

Stream and Purchase!

For those of us that work in non-profit live performance, we know that our industry is far away from returning to some kind of "normal" - when performances can resume, and administrators and performers can begin earning income again. Right now, all of us are struggling.



In the classical music world, we are all trying to monetize our skillset to meet this socially-distanced, almost entirely digital professional world. The result has been a large influx of now furloughed or unemployed musicians seeking to sell their services as virtual music teachers - myself included. Though many of us have found limited success in recruiting new students, this by no means pays all of the bills. And over the next few months, as people slowly return to work, classical musicians (and other workers in the live performance industry) are one demographic of worker that will likely be left behind.


Major organizations within our industry continue to signal that they do not expect a return or regular performances until there is a widely-available vaccine, which isn’t expected to come for months or years. This means that classical musicians and industry administrators are out of full-time work indefinitely, and without a stable income that allows us to pay our bills, provide for our families, and save for the future.


So - if you are financially stable (or mostly stable) right now, and enjoy streaming classical music, consider heading over to Amazon or iTunes and buying a couple classical music recordings over the next few months.


Why? Because: Right now this is possibly the most effective way to get money into the pockets of musicians.

We don't really make money from streaming. For every listen we get to one of our tracks, we receive a fraction of a cent. That's not an exaggeration. Each streaming service varies, but musicians could receive anywhere from $.001 (one tenth of a cent) to $.007 (one seventh of a cent) per listen on a streaming service. With royalty sharing agreements, individual musicians may earn even less than this. Most recordings released today will never recoup the cost of producing the recording. For many, even the minimal expense of digitally distributing their recording will never be covered by the money earned from streams.


Buying the tracks or albums that you listen to is the only way to ensure that musicians are fairly compensated for their work on the recording.


Here's an example - one of my royalty agreements for a disc I worked on gives me 10% of the income generated from the disc (this is a generous agreement).


So, if 100 people stream this particular disc, I would make somewhere between $.60 (yes - 60 cents) and $4.20 .


But, if 100 people BUY this disc, I would make about $150.


This is a small-scale example, but when you extrapolate it to the large, global classical musical audience, you can see that streaming services decimate revenue that musicians and classical music organizations are owed, and need in order to survive and flourish. At a time when we are all stuck at home, or socially distanced, maybe now is the moment when people can start buying recordings again to support the artists and music that they enjoy.


So when you stream classical music and find artists or pieces that you really like, consider purchasing a digital or physical copy of the recording(s). When you purchase, you ensure that classical musicians and organizations are better able to survive this difficult time when our income is greatly reduced. If you like classical music, and want musicians to survive this pandemic, this is one of the most effective ways to help.


PS - I write all of this from the perspective of a classical musician, but this suggestion applies to all music that you stream.


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