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Prog musicians juggling music career and work?

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GolfBoi View Drop Down
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    Posted: August 13 2020 at 08:12
It's no secret that for most artists engaged in it, progressive music isn't a source of great wealth and fame. How do underground legends and aspiring musicians manage to get by when the sole process of recording an album demands great costs?

The major prog acts of old have no doubt succeeded to guarantee themselves an extravagant lifestyle through the sales of legendary albums, but how do those who operated in niche regional scenes (e.g. Rock Progressivo Italiano) fare? I would imagine music production and songwriting for more mainstream acts to be two common career paths?

Curious to hear the input of those well-versed in prog lore from reading numerous biographies and interviews as well as users who produce music in this style themselves. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Grumpyprogfan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 09:32
Recording an album no longer costs much. A laptop, interface, headphones and instruments. Anyone can make an album. Problem after that is how are you going to interest people to listen. It used to be the job of the record company or manager to push your music to get played on the radio to get exposure. They would pay radio stations to play a song so many times a day. Now the artist has to wear all hats and many of them don't have the patience, time and money to do that. There are too many musicians trying to juggle work and music. I can't think of many that are successful enough to quit their day job. And sales from albums are nothing unless you sell millions. Most weekend prog musicians are lucky to sell 100 copies of an album. Streaming revenue pays even less. The artist gets approximately 1/1000 of a cent for one play. Very dismal. By touring and merch sales maybe the artist can break even, but if your job pays more, and covers health insurance, it seems like you would take that over poverty for your passion.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Manuel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 09:59
Music might be your passion, but to make a living, for a lot of artists (specially in the prog scene) it's treated as a hobby. You need a job to pay the bills, and music is just a side endeavor that fulfills your emotional needs, but nothing more than that. Quite unfortunate for most, and a very sad reality.   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AFlowerKingCrimson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 10:25
Most prog musicians have day jobs. That's true. Some actually have jobs in music though and make a full time living out of music but just not usually full time out of prog. For example, I know that is the case for two members of echolyn, the keyboard player also teaches music full time and another member is an engineer, producer, and also a teacher.

Even musicians who probably could make a living out of just prog choose to do other things. One example would be Steven Wilson. There's no doubt in my mind that he could do nothing but just have a solo career and or PT and be successful with just that. However, he's also an engineer, producer, and remixer. About a year ago he got married. He stated in the past that he didn't want kids but who knows what the future will bring for him. People change their minds. 

There's also Neal Morse. I'm pretty sure he makes a living out of just music also but he does christian music as well as prog.

Another example is Mike Portnoy. Mike has been in a plethora of bands so it's no real surprise he is able to do it. He seems to be always very busy like the other above examples.

Anyway, I'm not sure about others but I would say that about 99 percent of prog musicians do not make a living in music.


Edited by AFlowerKingCrimson - August 13 2020 at 13:20
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Homotopy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 12:02
Originally posted by Grumpyprogfan Grumpyprogfan wrote:

Recording an album no longer costs much. A laptop, interface, headphones and instruments. Anyone can make an album. Problem after that is how are you going to interest people to listen. It used to be the job of the record company or manager to push your music to get played on the radio to get exposure. They would pay radio stations to play a song so many times a day. Now the artist has to wear all hats and many of them don't have the patience, time and money to do that. There are too many musicians trying to juggle work and music. I can't think of many that are successful enough to quit their day job. And sales from albums are nothing unless you sell millions. Most weekend prog musicians are lucky to sell 100 copies of an album. Streaming revenue pays even less. The artist gets approximately 1/1000 of a cent for one play. Very dismal. By touring and merch sales maybe the artist can break even, but if your job pays more, and covers health insurance, it seems like you would take that over poverty for your passion.

It still costs a lot according to my friend who plays in a rock band. 
Also, 1/1000 of a cent is wildly wrong, with the real number ~500 times higher, as can be googled in 10 secs.


Edited by Homotopy - August 13 2020 at 12:06
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 12:42
This should come as no surprise, especially any new bands make very little to no money with their music. Getting the music out to the public is a pretty easy task, post it online and its there, problem is its there for free. The trick and challenge is releasing your music in hopes that people will pay for it, issuing something nice say on CD with case and insert is gonna cost you some money, plus you have minimum runs pressing plants require, in the neighborhood of 300-400 pcs, with vinyl its like 500 pcs I think. So do the math......

500 albums at $20 = $10,000
The pressing plant will run you about $2500, then studio time, engineering the album and once you divide up the difference say between 5 band members and pay your taxes on it you might have have $200. Then divide that by IDK 100 hours of work..you might have made $2/hour.

I'm sure my numbers are off but insert your own......They need another job.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Grumpyprogfan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 13:20
Originally posted by Homotopy Homotopy wrote:

It still costs a lot according to my friend who plays in a rock band. 
Also, 1/1000 of a cent is wildly wrong, with the real number ~500 times higher, as can be googled in 10 secs.
You are 100% wrong on both points. I have been recording music for over 35 years. Once you own the equipment, it costs nothing. If you book a studio sure, but no one does that anymore. If you make CD's or LP's there are expenses. But most unknown artists realease digital only to avoid these costs.

And here is what you can google about Spotify..."Spotify pays whoever holds the rights to a song anywhere from $0.006 to $0.0084 per play. The rights “holder” can then split these earning between the record label, producers, artists, and songwriters, which means splitting pennies between many parties." This is nowhere near 500 times higher as you suggested. I also know how much I get paid through my cdbaby artist account. The streaming amount I gave is accurate.

Edited by Grumpyprogfan - August 13 2020 at 13:23
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AFlowerKingCrimson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 13:27
The music industry has gone down hill. With youtube many music fans(especially younger fans)can listen to the music for free without ever having to pay for it. Some maybe pay for services from spotify.

It's very risky for musicians to release music these days(especially now with the pandemic)in physical format. Not just cds but also vinyl. The majority of the music buying public are probably on the younger side and most of them do not buy physical format. Period.The ones who do probably only buy vinyl. I seriously can't imagine many younger fans(or even many under 35 which to me is still younger)buying cds. So that leaves online. MOst are not going to pay online. They maybe subscribe under their parents or friends account on spotify or listen on youtube or some other way I'm not aware of. Also, I've been told that most of the money that musicians make comes from live performances anyway. However, with the way things are these days that can be very tricky and with no live performances unlikely. Hopefully that will soon change.


Edited by AFlowerKingCrimson - August 13 2020 at 13:28
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rushfan4 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 14:08
To a certain extent, I wonder why bands allow or choose to have their music streamed in its entirety.  When you can listen to an entire song or album for free on-line, other than music collectors, what is the incentive for a listener to purchase their music.  For some, it is about the art and sharing the art with as many people who are willing to listen to it.  With any luck, it might turn in to dollars from a purchase of a download, or physical item, and hopefully, result in the purchase of a ticket to a live performance.  Is digital pirating still as prevalent as it used to be...or has that mostly been wiped out due to every thing being available for free on-line?  If I were a band, I think that I would have to seriously consider not allowing my music to stream in its entirety.  The 30 second or minute clips should be sufficient to decide if you want to purchase the entire album.  I see a number of bands that have their albums for sale on BandCamp, where they allow streaming for 2 or 3 of the songs, and if you want to hear the rest you have to buy it.  That seems to me like a better way to go.  It just seems to me that if you aren't happy with the money that you get from streaming sites, then the answer is to remove your music from these sites.  Or maybe do something like progstreaming, where it is available for streaming for a month after its release, and then after that it is removed.  Of course, I don't know if that would lead to more sales....or just more piracy.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote cstack3 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 14:14
Great post!  

Prog music is a cruel mistress....those of us who play/compose are a slave to having to always acquire new & better equipment/software, devoting many hours of practice, and striving to find ways to stand out in a somewhat crowded field (I do consider it a bit crowded, since we not only compete with bands in the present, but also bands in the past!). 

I had been tempted to work as a full-time gigging musician since the 1980s (new wave Chicago band "The Marquis"), and decided that it was better to keep my own music playing as a hobby.  To paraphrase the late John Wetton, I've "trod the rock & roll stage" and had my fun with it.  

Some prog musicians survive by going a commercial route = John Goodsall, one of the best prog guitarists in the world, was forced to play in country-rock cover bands in Minnesota, USA to make ends meet!  Others are academics....the amazing Fareed Haque is a college professor of music and leads many projects.  (Fareed puts the afterburners on about 2:40 in this clip. Dig!)




Edited by cstack3 - August 13 2020 at 14:17
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AFlowerKingCrimson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 14:14
Some bands have one or two songs up on youtube as a way to give you a taste as to what they are all about. I think this is preferable because it gives me a chance to hear what they sound like. You like what you hear you buy the album. Otherwise it just hurts them more. If they put the whole album up sure some people will listen to it and want to buy the physical format but most younger fans will be happy just to listen to it on their computer or iphone and forego the physical format altogther and not buy it all(not even on streaming). At least this is how it seems to me. For example, close to the edge now has almost 6 million views on youtube. My guess would be maybe 50 percent have heard it before or own it and the other 50 percent have never heard it before but will just listen to it on youtube. I doubt many people who are hearing it for the first time will buy it(either on spotify or a similar platform or a physical copy). 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 14:16
Totally agree, I have heard and read same that Spotify and the like don't even pay as much as one penny for a play, fractions only if they are lucky.
The internet for the most part changed how artists make money, I won't say ruined it but pretty close. The internet made music more accessible, which is great, but with little to no monetary gain.

This is why I say PAY FOR YOUR MUSIC, BUY PHYSICAL MEDIA!!!!! A subscription is what $10-20 a month, that's like 1 CD or 1 record.....You can still do that but at least buy some CDs or LPs.
I love logging all my records, CDs and tapes in Discogs as it will give you a $$ value of your collection. Sure it is not accurate as the value is what was sold on the site, but it makes me proud to see that number, that I know is much higher based on actual purchase price.

Listening without paying should be against the law....punishable by death.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rushfan4 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 14:34
Originally posted by AFlowerKingCrimson AFlowerKingCrimson wrote:

Some bands have one or two songs up on youtube as a way to give you a taste as to what they are all about. I think this is preferable because it gives me a chance to hear what they sound like. You like what you hear you buy the album. Otherwise it just hurts them more. If they put the whole album up sure some people will listen to it and want to buy the physical format but most younger fans will be happy just to listen to it on their computer or iphone and forego the physical format altogther and not buy it all(not even on streaming). At least this is how it seems to me. For example, close to the edge now has almost 6 million views on youtube. My guess would be maybe 50 percent have heard it before or own it and the other 50 percent have never heard it before but will just listen to it on youtube. I doubt many people who are hearing it for the first time will buy it(either on spotify or a similar platform or a physical copy). 
Putting one or two songs out on YouTube makes sense.  I'm sure that it could be fun making a music video as a separate artistic expression of your music....or just showing the band playing the song live works to and is probably far less expensive.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rushfan4 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 14:41
Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

Totally agree, I have heard and read same that Spotify and the like don't even pay as much as one penny for a play, fractions only if they are lucky.
The internet for the most part changed how artists make money, I won't say ruined it but pretty close. The internet made music more accessible, which is great, but with little to no monetary gain.

This is why I say PAY FOR YOUR MUSIC, BUY PHYSICAL MEDIA!!!!! A subscription is what $10-20 a month, that's like 1 CD or 1 record.....You can still do that but at least buy some CDs or LPs.
I love logging all my records, CDs and tapes in Discogs as it will give you a $$ value of your collection. Sure it is not accurate as the value is what was sold on the site, but it makes me proud to see that number, that I know is much higher based on actual purchase price.

Listening without paying should be against the law....punishable by death.
I agree.  I have Spotify streaming and Amazon streaming which I use to try and listen to as much new music as I can.  I've been using YouTube a little bit more recently too.  I don't buy vinyl like you as I think it is just too expensive, but I am always buying CDs or digital downloads.  Granted, many of my purchases are off of Amazon, so I don't know how well that really helps the bands either, but it is usually less expensive that route. I have been buying more digital downloads on BandCamp on their Friday all proceeds go to the band days.  Music collecting is a very expensive habit that causes me to have to keep working in order to support it.  Ouch
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AFlowerKingCrimson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 14:46
Originally posted by rushfan4 rushfan4 wrote:

Originally posted by AFlowerKingCrimson AFlowerKingCrimson wrote:

Some bands have one or two songs up on youtube as a way to give you a taste as to what they are all about. I think this is preferable because it gives me a chance to hear what they sound like. You like what you hear you buy the album. Otherwise it just hurts them more. If they put the whole album up sure some people will listen to it and want to buy the physical format but most younger fans will be happy just to listen to it on their computer or iphone and forego the physical format altogther and not buy it all(not even on streaming). At least this is how it seems to me. For example, close to the edge now has almost 6 million views on youtube. My guess would be maybe 50 percent have heard it before or own it and the other 50 percent have never heard it before but will just listen to it on youtube. I doubt many people who are hearing it for the first time will buy it(either on spotify or a similar platform or a physical copy). 
Putting one or two songs out on YouTube makes sense.  I'm sure that it could be fun making a music video as a separate artistic expression of your music....or just showing the band playing the song live works to and is probably far less expensive.  

I meant one or two songs per album. I think that's reasonable though and since bands can change their sound from album to album it makes sense. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 14:52
Originally posted by rushfan4 rushfan4 wrote:

Originally posted by Catcher10 Catcher10 wrote:

Totally agree, I have heard and read same that Spotify and the like don't even pay as much as one penny for a play, fractions only if they are lucky.
The internet for the most part changed how artists make money, I won't say ruined it but pretty close. The internet made music more accessible, which is great, but with little to no monetary gain.

This is why I say PAY FOR YOUR MUSIC, BUY PHYSICAL MEDIA!!!!! A subscription is what $10-20 a month, that's like 1 CD or 1 record.....You can still do that but at least buy some CDs or LPs.
I love logging all my records, CDs and tapes in Discogs as it will give you a $$ value of your collection. Sure it is not accurate as the value is what was sold on the site, but it makes me proud to see that number, that I know is much higher based on actual purchase price.

Listening without paying should be against the law....punishable by death.
I agree.  I have Spotify streaming and Amazon streaming which I use to try and listen to as much new music as I can.  I've been using YouTube a little bit more recently too.  I don't buy vinyl like you as I think it is just too expensive, but I am always buying CDs or digital downloads.  Granted, many of my purchases are off of Amazon, so I don't know how well that really helps the bands either, but it is usually less expensive that route. I have been buying more digital downloads on BandCamp on their Friday all proceeds go to the band days.  Music collecting is a very expensive habit that causes me to have to keep working in order to support it.  Ouch
I buy some from Amazon, but I mainly buy from music selling sites, the record label or the band site direct. I buy a ton from Burning Shed, LaserCD (LPs only), Greg at SynPhonic, Music Direct, BlueNote Records and recently Tower Records, they have some great prices. Plus my local record stores to support small business......I invest now with physical media as when I retire and live on fixed income can't buy as much....but man will I have a hard rockin retirement, sitting in my lazy chair spinning music all f'ing day long!!!!! Clap
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progaardvark Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 15:07
Speaking as a hobbyist who has released nine albums of wackadoodle prog going back 20 years, you need a day job to feed your hobby. No doubt about that. While doing that, you do find cheaper alternatives and have to make some sacrifices from having a top-notch product. 

I've used on-demand CD production dating all the way back to mp3.com (remember DAM CDRs?), followed by Ampcast, Cafepress, Createspace, and now Amazon Media on Demand. I honestly don't know why I bother because these simply don't sell anymore. I have 10 printed up for myself and I give them to my friends. These are CDRs, and as such, they aren't of the same quality as pressed CDs, but I have CDRs that over 20 years old now and still work and sound fine. If you want a more polished product, it's going to cost. A run of 500 CDs could cost you over $1000 to have made, and then what do you do with them? They would be sitting all over my house if I had chosen this path. I do believe there are some places now producing runs of 100 CDs if I'm not mistaken. Vinyl is just too expensive for a hobbyist to pursue.

As for software, you have some cheap alternatives for DAWs like Reaper and LMMS (which is open source). I actually used an old school sequencer called Making Waves for my first eight albums before switching. The guy who made Making Waves passed away in 2011 and once I had to update from Windows 7 to Windows 10, that was the end of using it. There are tons of VST plugins that are free, and Reaper and LMMS have some built-in. I am guilty of coughing up money for some of the better ones, like from G-Force, Ample Sound, and Toontrack. A decent MIDI controller is rather affordable these days.

I don't bother with streaming services. I don't have the time to figure out how to get my stuff on them. I've loaded a couple things onto YouTube. Video really isn't my forté, but I'm slowly getting better at it. I found Bandcamp to be the easiest to use and I only list my albums as "name your price" downloads. If you like it and pay me a $1, that's fine and thanks for doing so. If you like it and don't pay me anything, that's fine too. I'm just thankful that you were interested enough to download it. Just enjoy it. When I do get money, I turn it around and buy some more stuff for my collection. That's been my philosophy for 20 years now. I'm just a hobbyist. I don't expect money for something I know a more talented musician could do better.

I think the only downside to having a day job is I wish I had more time to make more weird stuff to put out on the unsuspecting two people on the internet that find my little corner of insanity. I am thankful that I can even do this. This wasn't even possible before the internet existed.

Like others here, I still prefer purchasing CDs for my collection. When only available as a download, I burn the album to blank CDRs. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AFlowerKingCrimson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 15:08
^So you are a vinyl only person?

Edit: That question was meant for catcher but if someone else wants to answer that's ok to. Wink


Edited by AFlowerKingCrimson - August 13 2020 at 15:09
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Catcher10 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 15:20
Originally posted by AFlowerKingCrimson AFlowerKingCrimson wrote:

^So you are a vinyl only person?

Edit: That question was meant for catcher but if someone else wants to answer that's ok to. Wink

When I am working in my home office I have a media player that plays all my digital files that I have either ripped from CD or bought digital files, its background music. I don't stream anything....

Serious listening is 100% records sitting in front of the audio system......it takes me to another place.


Edited by Catcher10 - August 13 2020 at 15:21
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2020 at 19:33
Originally posted by AFlowerKingCrimson AFlowerKingCrimson wrote:

The music industry has gone down hill. With youtube many music fans(especially younger fans)can listen to the music for free without ever having to pay for it. Some maybe pay for services from spotify.

It's very risky for musicians to release music these days(especially now with the pandemic)in physical format. Not just cds but also vinyl. The majority of the music buying public are probably on the younger side and most of them do not buy physical format. Period.
...

Hi,

I do not disagree with anything written here ... although I am of the opinion that the "music industry" needed to die ... and DID ... although they are trying hard to intimidate people on the mp3 front, because if these get taken out of circulation a larger amount, it makes more room for the record company to release some CD's ... which are not an expensive proposition in most cases ... although having a musician also have the ability to run the business side of things is challenging and NOT RECOMMENDED!

The "specially younger fans" ...are doing EXACTLY THE SAME THING that we did in the old days ... you heard something and you went after it because it was good ... I had about 15 Led Zeppelin bootlegs BEFORE I ever bought an album, but by 1972/1973, the excitement was in the new music and not on LZ as much, and those were all vinyl.

I would almost say, that it is a transitional phase until such a time as someone, ends up selling "big", without having to wait for a "record company" ... these days, no one will EVER AGAIN sign with a record company, UNLESS it is for a distribution deal, so you don't have to concern yourself with it ... and they will demand X number of CD's at this or that time.

The future for the "music buying public are probably on the younger side" is OBVIOUSLY putting up something that they can afford and appreciate ... and this will eventually happen, when the time comes and new music shows up, and the ability of people to "copy" something and show it somewhere else will be curtailed as technology advances ... this is already available, but it is a bit expensive at this time, but will become a do-able process ... the younger generation that you mention DOES SPEND money, however, it's uses right now are a lot less towards music or the arts, than it is towards their "reefer" stash (so to speak!) ... and things change every so often.

Any musician, waiting for GODOT to come and save them with a contract, is, for the most part these days, an idiot, and not likely to stick around with music at all ... and in the very end, this is good ... why? It will create a big difference between the "musician" that plays notes in his bedroom and laptop, and the artist, that created something a lot more than a 3 or 4 minute riff for a song.

Just consider it a change of the guard ... no band will ever again get a bazungle of money ... unless you do something like Steven Wilson, who could/should write a book if it were not for the fact that his interest does not lie in that area ... time for another song, instead! But he had sold enough of these, and more than likely he had receipts and bank statements to show for it, that several "record companies" showed up at his door complete with cape, hat and cane and briefcase, and gave you money for the signature ... but SW was smart ... he only allowed a distribution deal so he didn't have to do it himself ... 

So my take is ... we're not focusing on the right parts of the process ... and we are likely confusing issues ... 

PS. Streaming will become more valuable when the new technology takes hold ... so that things can't be copied ... but at this time, there is not much security for it, and the result is rampant chaos with musicians works.
... none of the hits, none of the time ... now try finding your own mirror/art! www.pedrosena.com
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