It’s no secret that being a musician is less financially viable than ever before. With physical albums sales plummeting to record lows, musicians have had to get creative to even survive – everything from crowdfunding campaigns for new albums and Patreon campaigns to keep content thriving have been options for much-needed monetary injections. Even established bands aren’t immune to the new reality – just ask Sheffield’s While She Sleeps.
The Sheffield metalcore band have experienced much success in their over 10 years in the music scene, as they now sell out some of Europe’s biggest music venues. Their 4 full-length albums have seen the band travel far and wide across the world supporting bands from multiple genres of music, and it’s safe to say they’re what most people would consider “successful”.
However, the band’s financial reality has come to light many times, especially when the band notably went independent for their 2017 record You Are We – and have maintained that status since then, as well. The band recently took to social media to issue a lengthy statement on the new reality for musicians, and what fans can do to ensure their favorite bands are able to function properly.
“This is about how you can support the music you love.
Not just our band and our music – this is aimed at every working band trying to make music and get it out there. Today, we are launching a free-to-use design to highlight the realities of being a band today. It doesn’t matter how successful you look from the outside, the music industry is a tough place to survive.
There may be thousands of people listening & coming to shows but that doesn’t mean there are thousands in the bank. There’s also a long line of people with a straw in the glass who are going to make sure they get a drink before it gets to the artist.
There’s a big change from artists who made their mark in the days of people buying records, compared to those gaining success since streaming platforms came into power. There’s nothing negative about the latter – if anything it’s been an incredible thing for our industry & opened the doors for so many artists that probably wouldn’t have ever had a look in.
But that doesn’t mean things haven’t got to change for those artists to survive. We’re not talking about your major label radio pop stars. We are talking about the bands who believe in their message and fight to get it out there & make a positive change. This is your message too.
Dress it up any way – touring and travelling is incredibly expensive. The bigger the band gets, the more you get paid, but the more it costs to keep the machine running. In truth, (and this is from 14 years of experience working as hard as possible to make it sustainable) there haven’t been many times when we’ve sat back and been financially stable. One tour could make a profit, but the next might be tens of thousands in the negative, and that’s where a lot of artists get pushed to breaking point or miss the opportunities that come their way.
The majority (76% in fact) of music in 2019 is streamed. Probably by you, definitely by us & there’s nothing bad about that. But if bands and artists are to survive and win the battle of art vs money, we need to find new income to keep afloat. One stream on Spotify pays approximately 0.00429p to the artist, which means it takes around 5000 streams to make £20. The same price as a normal band T-Shirt.
We’ve created this to try and shed some light on how much band merch does to support an artist. This isn’t a fashion statement, it’s here to explain in the simplest terms how important it is to support the artists you love and what’s the best way to do it. This T-shirt isn’t just for our band, it’s for all bands & we want it to become a staple in the positive change needed in the music industry. It’s for your band as much as ours. Here’s the print file – download it, print it and let it help your band too. This message isn’t ours alone, it’s for all of us. It’s here to show people how much of an impact buying merch has.
They’re not the only band who has something to say about this. Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor chimed in as well.
No one points this out. And while Congress has passed legislation to right this wrong, almost all the streaming services are APPEALING, which means we STILL don’t get paid for our work. But please people, by all means- stream away… 🙄 https://t.co/QsaVVdrvUI
— Panickin’ Skywalker (@CoreyTaylorRock) August 3, 2019
This is about how you can support the music you love.
Not just our band and our music – this is aimed at every working band trying to make music and get it out there. We are launching a free-to-use design to highlight the realities of being a band today.https://t.co/84LyW9LCyZ pic.twitter.com/HEB082D6JX
— WHILE SHE SLEEPS (@whileshesleeps) August 7, 2019
Even a band like Florida alt-rockers Nevertel have something to say on the subject as a local band who’s starting to establish themselves, though their experience is a fair bit different than you might expect. Nevertel vocalist Jeremy Michael had this to offer about his band’s experience:
So for Spotify you’ll usually see a payout in 2 months. In the month of May, we had a total of 69,223 streams concurrently. That totaled out to $234.91 exactly. Previous payment was $189.25, and the one before that was $232.82. This is the most consistent paycheck we’ve seen as a band. With digital album sales, it’s a rush of sales first week and then it trickles down hard from there. As a local band, this is the most reliable paycheck you can bank on month to month. It’s like having another band member to help throw in money for a things like music videos, mastering, running ads, ect. A lot of things, such as the music video for Down, just wouldn’t have been possible without this money. We would’ve never tried to shoot something ourselves if we also had to pay out of pocket for all the gear we needed. A lot of bands rip on Spotify, and it does sort of hurt the artists at the top for sure. But it’s the absolute best way for local bands to get their music heard while also making money in the process.
While bands have more access than ever to get their music into the greater consciousness of the world – one where almost anyone can go viral in an instant – what While She Sleeps have to say on this subject is very compelling. After all, if a band like them isn’t exactly rich, what does that say for bands who aren’t established yet? What does this mean for the future of music? Is it still possible to make enough from streaming and merch sales to survive? Chime in with your thoughts below.