Making Money (or not) from Digital Music

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Elliot Van Buskirk, editor of, discusses the popularity of digital music services like Spotify, how they can make money while allowing users to listen for free, and how these services affect the musicians themselves.

Are you a music buyer? A musician? What's your take on the economics of digital music?


Elliot Van Buskirk

Comments [15]

jim fouratt from greenwich village

Pls talk about the revenue stream TO spotify . How do they profit .. what is the revenue split? As to Michelle comments .. a couple of bands in Seattle don't care ... well maybe she should answer the question: should musicians expect to be paid for their creative work or not ? Really she just wants free music. period,, and seems not to care if musicians have a career or simply a hobby. Radio playsnow get a much higher return to the artist than this new FREE service. What an insult .. a penny a play ... what are the advertising rated ??/ What happens with all those $10 monthly fees ,..... hummmmmm did one caller say she as a mnember of ASCAP got an invitation from ASCAP to join and get a FREE account ... ??/ Ascap is a collection agency.. what is going on here ????

Aug. 23 2011 12:05 PM

I've been using Grooveshark for several months. It's free on the desktop, but I paid $30 for a year subscription in order to get the Android app. Good choice of music, but their library is poorly organized compared to Spotify.

Aug. 23 2011 12:02 PM

Is this story about the muscians being affected by the new music models? .. or Spotify? Seems everyone is putting their 2 cents in about Spotify..

Aug. 23 2011 11:58 AM
Alan from Manhattan

what about the songwriter? - royalty income is down since the digital revolution - it's not fair - it's stealing

Aug. 23 2011 11:56 AM
tony from manhattan

large payments to labels do _not_ translate to large payments to artists. artists do not even receive 1 penny per play, it is $0.0002 per play. these services are hugely unfair to artists and songwriters, but that is nothing new in the industry. there is also tremendous dishonesty about this, which is also not new...i suggest reading robert fripp's blog for insight into the music industry's relationship to those who earn their money for them.

Aug. 23 2011 11:56 AM
John from NYC

When will book publishers figure it out?

$20 to download a book, and 10 cents for a song!!!!

Book publishers could increase their market a hundredfold if they got with it!!!

Aug. 23 2011 11:55 AM
Yosif from Manhattan

So with the iphone app, do playlist you make on the desktop download/sync the song on you phone or is it streaming?

Aug. 23 2011 11:55 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Hey Brian,

Why don't you do some interviews about video gaming, online and offline? Or is that one subject you don't really know much about? :)

All we hear about is music and movies. Hey, the video game industry totally has greater revenues than both of those industries combined!

Do something on video games, and learn something for a change! :)

Aug. 23 2011 11:54 AM

So basically musicians only make money from touring and merchandise? Great if you're a young person with no family etc..

Aug. 23 2011 11:53 AM
Marshall from soho

Spotify is awesome - but just a heads up that there's another great (& free!) social music service, exfm - that's also NYC-based!

Aug. 23 2011 11:53 AM
Emily from Croton-on-Hudson, NY

I've been hearing about Spotify for years from my family over in the U.K., so as soon as I heard it crossed the pond to the U.S. I signed up for a registration A.S.A.P. I've been using it for a few weeks now, and while there is a bit of a learning curve, I think it is a great tool.

In terms of advertising, I do wish they would target their commercials... I don't exactly want to hear an advertisement for Justin Bieber while I'm in the midst of a Death Cab For Cutie playlist. I'm too broke and stingy to pay for Spotify right now, but I may consider subscribing in the future.

Aug. 23 2011 11:52 AM
john from john

Is anyone else tired of the newest big internet thing. Next month it will be something else.

Aug. 23 2011 11:52 AM

Pandora is notoriously worthless on Android; after trying it, there is no way I'd pay for it. How is Spotify?

Aug. 23 2011 11:51 AM
Eric from NYC

The ads are annoying. I listen to a variety of music on Spotify and it really makes no sense to get repeatedly interrupted with ads to buy music by Justin Beiber (and other acts that I would never even consider letting close to my ears). Also -- the catalog has a lot of holes in it.

Aug. 23 2011 11:51 AM
Felix from Dallas, TX

I've been using Spotify for a few weeks now and I feel it is worth moving to the paid version.

Aug. 23 2011 11:47 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.