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Is It Time Zimbabwean Artists Fully Embraced Streaming Platforms?



For over a decade now music has firmly been in the streaming era. A shift in the industry that has seen CDs, cassettes and vinyl being almost completely forgotten. Yet it seems there has been a reluctance to fully embrace this shift. Zimbabwean artists have long complained about piracy and how it deprives them of income but yet they haven't fully taken advantage of everything that can ensure income comes into their pockets. It is now a world of YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Deezer and Audiomack among others. Hard copies are now bought more for the novelty than the purpose of listening to music.


Within the music industry though it seems like the new generation of Zimhiphop artists understand this shift more than others. Their music is available everywhere and they're at the frontline of taking advantage of new developments in tech like NFTs (Non Fungible Tockens). In the reluctance to fully take advantage of streaming platforms artists leave a lot of their fans with no option but heading to one mp3 download site or the other to listen to their music. If you don't provide a way for fans to access your music they'll find their own ways, be it via Bluetooth, WhatsApp and so forth.




Just over a week ago I encountered quite a few frustrated music fans when Holy Ten's album was released on other platforms but it wasn't available on Spotify, in fact the full album was only available on Apple Music. Admittedly Spotify has the longest review process (About a week or long) when you're uploading music to it but artists should learn about these things and adjust their processes accordingly. There was massive anticipation for the album on the 16th and capitalising on that momentum is essential to every artist. The social media hype doesn't just infect your regular fans but other people who hadn’t tried your music yet and it's important for the music to be available on various platforms so those people can be converted into fans.


And even with the other streaming platforms it wasn't great organisation from Holy Ten and his team. The album didn't go live at a set time and even after his launch concert had ended there was still no album up. What went live first on YouTube was a leaked version of the album that contained tracks that weren't actually part of Risky Life but people ran with that. And at the end of the day that eats into the bottomline.


They're so many marketing opportunities being left on the table, like taking advantage of album preorders by offering exclusive content to those customers like a bonus track. Especially in these Covid-19 times, every tool available should be utilised. Of course I'm not sure what contracts artists have and how much control they really have over their music but it feels like there's a lot of room in streaming that's not taken advantage off. Even one of my favourite artists in Winky D seems to have not fully taken advantage of this space. I found myself nostalgic about some of his earlier work in Igofigo but I couldn't find it on Apple Music or his YouTube.


A lot of artists who've embraced streaming services focus mainly on their latest material but the old catalogue is just as important too. There's so much earning potential that's just lying dormant in files on a computer somewhere. Yet a few simple steps in uploading these could see the bank balance slowly rising.


So how do you get music onto streaming platforms?


If you're an independent artist then you're going to have to work with an artist aggregator/distributor to allow you to place your music on these various streaming services. It might sound complicated but it's actually simple, making good music is by far harder than getting your tracks on these streaming platforms.


So they're multiple distribution companies online:


TuneCore

Distrokid

CDBaby 

Ditto


They all work in more or less the same way. You pay a fee ($20-$50 yearly for most), then upload your song or project, entering all the required information like the release date, featured artists, title, cover art and so on. After some time which is usually a week or so (Some platforms take longer than others), your music will be available on the various platforms. 


Now when choosing an aggregator you should find what works for you. They each have different charges for setting up accounts and the portion of royalties that get to you differ. Distrokid is cheaper than most but TuneCore pays out 100% of royalties while CDBaby sells your music on their site and can manufacture CDs for you while Ditto Music is an official partner of Vevo and so using it could facilitate making your YouTube account Vevo verified.


This brings us to another question Vevo or YouTube?


When you go on YouTube have you noticed how Vevo accounts have this official look to them? Without a doubt Vevo accounts look premium as compared to the regular YouTube ones and this is one advantage to them. Vevo accounts also have a higher earning potential as compared to regular YouTube accounts that monetise and in addition to this they offer opportunities for exposure through things like Vevo LIFT and Vevo presents.


However there is a downside to Vevo; You lose a lot of control over your account and if you intend to change anything on your channel you have to send a request through your video distributor. You will also have limited ability in interactions as you won't be able to respond to comments via your Vevo channel, nor receive notifications. Do your research thoroughly and then decide if Vevo is for you or not.


So what is the earning potential from streaming services?


Between June 2019 and June 2020 the top 10 biggest-earning YouTube stars took home a total of $211 million, according to Forbes business magazine’s analysis of their estimated earnings. So streaming is big business. 


On average a YouTube channel can receive $18 per 1,000 ad views with Vevo channels receiving slightly more. This equates to $3 - $5 per 1000 video views and about $3,000 - $5,000 per 1 million video views. But it should be noted that most people utilise that skip ad function while watching YouTube videos so the earnings from ad views may be much lower than this. But for artists they're also earnings from royalties, this is from videos where your music used.


According to a Hypebot article, as of August 2020 Spotify was paying rightsholders a total of about $0.003 to $0.005 a stream. This translates to about $300 - $500 per 100K streams and $3,000 - $5,000 per 1 million streams.


In a recently published letter to artists by Apple Music said it paid an average of $0.01 per stream for individual paid plans last year. This translates to an earning of $1,000 per 100K streams and around $10,000 per 1 million streams. The rates paid by Apple Music still vary by region and Apple Music didn't issue the full breakdown of this in their letter.


On TIDAL it takes you about 50 - 150 streams to earn a dollar which translates to 50 - 150K streams to earn $1,000 and around 500K - 1.5 million streams will earn you $10,000


On Amazon Music it takes you around 250 - 350 streams to earn a dollar which translates to 250K - 350K to earn $1,000 and around 2.5 million to 3.5 million streams to earn $10,000.


On SoundCloud it takes you about 500 - 600 streams to earn a dollar which translates to 500K - 600K to earn $1,000 and around 5 million to 6 million streams to earn $10,000.


On Tiktok it takes you about 650 - 750 streams to earn you a dollar which translates to 650K - 750K to earn $1,000 and around 6.5 million to 7.5 million streams to earn $10,000. While Facebook/Instagram takes you 48K - 63K streams to earn a dollar.


For a lot of the streaming services a song has to be played for at least 20 to 30 seconds for it to be counted as a stream. While platforms like Facebook, consider a track to be played after just 3 seconds. So there you go, the fans are waiting for the music, get it to them.


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