ZBEAR’s Thoughts on Internet Music Streaming 

Abstract: OK. So for those of you who are really hurting from a financial perspective, yes, streaming is a good way for artists to reach out to you. For those of you who aren’t living hand to mouth, using official download sites such as iTunes or even app stores (eg. Search for ZBEAR on Google App Store) is fundamental in enabling artists to continuously produce music. Your support does not reach the artist through streaming, and it is a service that makes it continuously difficult for struggling artists to move forward.

Do you wish for your favorite artists to continue making the music that you love? Streaming services do not help in this respect at all. Streaming entails a significantly abnormal payment system in terms of value transfer. What I mean by abnormal is that the listener, since he or she does happen to be paying some sort of fee, may be under the impression that their contribution as well as their mental support will reach the artist. Many facts show that this is not the case. I do agree that it could be a great means for people who are financially challenged to access the music of artists whom they are fans of, but I mean this strictly from a ‘welfare’ approach.

The fact is that streaming is putting artists worldwide in a very difficult predicament. As I pointed out, the payment system does not delivery your support all the way to the artists. Many of you may know the song “Video killed the Radio Star” very well. Well, that may have been a certain range of stars put in a challenging position. In today’s situation, more fundamentally, “Streaming killed the Musical Artist.” Hell, someone might as well cover the original with the new title and accompanying lyrics. This is a real problem, and the problem stems from the streaming system which is almost – dare I say – communistic in nature.

The term ‘communistic’ can actually be easily envisioned:
Take North Korea for instance. Their Southern counterparts and other parts of the world have had a long history in providing them with basic necessities, even including rice. The rice hardly ever reached the people and ended up in the pockets (and stomachs) of the ones in power. Through the streaming system, you as the consumer may be providing rice that never reaches the people, in this case, the artists. Same difference.

To illustrate, let me share parts of my own streaming payment table as well as voices from globally renowned artists.
In the case of ZBEAR’s streaming (and a part of mp3 download) income, after tax deduction, one stream roughly equals 0~10KRW (1KRW = 0.0011USD)

ZBEAR’s annual income based on streaming equaled 60,000KRW (= 60USD, per year!)
But, get this, I haven’t seen a penny of even this money based on two streaming rules.

The first is a royalty payment standby policy, and the second is a three month delayed payment policy by the distributors. Three months is a pretty long time for fledgling artists. ZBEAR’s album took four years in the making. I have put everything into delivering that music by performing everywhere, be it the stage or on the streets. Everyone who has supported me, I am eternally grateful, and I know your intentions were sincere. But we are subject to a system that distorts your sincerity, due to the two policies I mentioned above. Any kind of system that entails economic care is limited to the so-called boy/girl-bands and idol groups. Anyone who is really focusing on honing the arts, independent artists continue to suffer. Tragically, this is not limited to just my work or the domestic scene. 

Let’s expand our horizons to artists abroad. This particular case states that 178 Million streams resulted in $5679 in returns. I cannot but agree with this article that this is far from what we can call a decent return on the emotional or mental satisfaction that one receives through any form of art.

The article fails to mention any kind of timeline. I can only suspect that the $5679 isn’t even an annual income, and most probably extends over several years to an accumulated amount based on the stream. Even assuming that it happened within a year, the artist has received approximately $6,000 for an annual pay. $3,000 annually if it were over two years, and so forth. No wonder the article goes on the state, what about the families?

This next article by the new vocalist of world renowned band Queensryche breaks it down into a bit more detail. A single stream equals $0.0084 ~ $0.006 in revenue, pay the record label and other costs, the artist is left with $0.001128

So…does “Streaming killed the Musical Artists” make sense a bit?
The artist never see the money.

Now, needless to say, money is definitely not everything to an artist. I’m not talking about getting filthy rich. I’m talking about being able to fulfill the basic necessities in life such as putting food on the table and clothes on your body. Transportation or gasoline that takes the artist to perform at the next gig doesn’t come for free either. This is the premise under which our capital driven world is currently founded upon, and this is the world that artists also live in.

Once again, I stress, money isn’t everything, but it isn’t something we can live without.

I had to go over this for those who think I am venting over money. I am bringing this up since many of us are only at a level in which we should live on welfare…which unfortunately doesn’t even exist.

Finally, the handful of artist that ‘made it’, who makes a living off of additional activities such as advertisements or just being on mainstream media, those would be within the 1%. Now, many of us already know that this does not refer to the ‘best’ 1% as there are so many great artists out there who are going unnoticed. Needless to say, most of them realize the fallacies of the current music scene, including the aforementioned streaming system, and are trying to compensate by focusing on their so-called day jobs.

It’s 2017 now. We are almost two decades into the 21st century. Shouldn’t we be able to handle this kind of imbalance at least a little better now? If course, changes in systems take time, and the only catalyst would be the consumers. How you understand streaming, and how you choose to use it. One method I have tried myself is to provide my albums as an app through Google Play Store. (Search “ZBEAR UF1” and “ZBEAR UF2”). Other helpful options would be to use the likes of iTunes and downloading the source; and of course, most ideally, to purchase the CD. All my contents are accessible at zbear.co.kr as well.
Although iTunes charges less than a dollar per tune, at least it’s not a fraction of a cent. I really wouldn’t mind providing my music through streaming to those who are economically challenged. I mean, for those people, I would gladly recommend streaming. But for those who can at least make a living, please remember that there are options through which you can access the music while supporting your favorite artists.

Thank you for reading this long rant that I have put together, hoping that true artists can also become a part of our capitalist based economic society one day.

Yours Truly,