Aloe Blacc's Royalty Reality Sucks, but is Not Surprising

With SoundCloud dominating the press of late, Pandora still strong as an established corporation, and Spotify getting active in EDM with everything fr

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Complex Original

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With SoundCloud dominating the press of late, Pandora still strong as an established corporation, and Spotify getting active in EDM with everything from Flosstradamus track premieres to Dillon Francis' album preview stream drop (and more), streaming is hotter than ever before. However, at the same time as these occurrences are transpiring, there's Taylor Swift removing her entire catalog from Spotify, likely due to wanting to be fairly compensated for her work. With SoundCloud about to head into pay-per-stream, and checks getting cut already by Spotify and Pandora, how does Swift's decision affect electronic dance music? Well, when Aloe Blacc revealed to Wired that he only has been paid $4,000 by Pandora from domestic streams of his Avicii collaboration "Wake Me Up," it should be cause for significant alarm. As well, it should provide an idea as to where dance and the music industry may be headed in regards to streaming.

Blacc is one of three songwriters for "Wake Me Up." When a song is digitally streamed, the lead artist gets paid, the songwriters (and composers, if different than the songwriter or lead artist) and publishers take a chunk, too. Intriguingly, one of the most impressive numbers to quote regarding EDM, the digital era and the genre's popularity is tied into "Wake Me Up," Spotify, and Pandora, too. "Wake Me Up" is the most streamed song in Spotify's history, and the 13th most played song on Pandora (168 million US streams alone) since the collaboration was released in 2013. The combined total of domestic royalties for those streams? $12,359. Break that down between three songwriters and the song's publishers, and you get the math that creates Blacc's claim.

It's entirely possible that in the calendar year of 2014 that one album—Taylor Swift's 1989—will reach platinum status. In one week, Swift's sales were responsible for 22% of all album sales in the United States. However, regarding dance music, for as popular as Avicii (or anyone in dance-as-pop for that matter), he's no Beyonce or Taylor Swift. As well, albums and singles (and mainstream pop sales in general) are (again) a new market. EDM's modern popularity comes at a time where economics, culture, and industry are in flux and traditional measures of success are irrelevant. Thus, while it's sad that Aloe Blacc has only made $4,000 from penning and singing one of pop-as-EDM's most iconic singles, it shouldn't be surprising. If albums aren't selling, and singles aren't selling, and Blacc isn't say, touring live with Avicii around the world, well...$4,000 from streaming are one of many "small" checks that are trickling in to make a stream of post-release income from the pop smash.

Streaming is the future. However, Spotify, Pandora, and SoundCloud are all relatively new companies attempting to first become stable in themselves before engaging in the business of making artists wealthy. Therefore, a future where artists earn as much from streaming as they once could earn from sales of physical/non-streaming content is frankly quite far away from occurring. As heartbreaking as it may seem to some, major labels getting involved as owners of these portals (as Warner is with SoundCloud) is not a terrible idea if we want to see artist's possibly getting paid a greater premium for their art/services.

Aloe Blacc's revelation is a bold moment. However, dance artists possibly discovering sustainability through major label involvement with all streaming platforms? That may be bolder. These are wild and intriguing times for certain.

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