On the Ethics of Streaming Music

Originally published at: On the Ethics of Streaming Music - ethical.net

These days, we no longer listen to music; we ‘stream’ it. In fact, with its global reach and wide demographic, streaming music on digital platforms is becoming the norm. This is one large, fast-growing medium, but we tend to get hung up on its technical possibilities and audience-focused excitement, rather than talking about its values…

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Does anyone know what the artist royalties are like per radio play, compared to streaming?

Hmm, no, but will look into it. However, from what I know, there are tighter copyright rules, maybe that’s why the playlists are limited and you end up listening to the same song a few times within a few hours :slight_smile:

I cancelled my Spotify subscription about a year ago, and am back to buying files, from Bandcamp on Bandcamp Fridays if possible. Then I’m streaming them to my devices from my self-hosted Jellyfin installation.

It at least gets me the same streaming benefit of not having to carry my entire music collection around on each device.

I do miss the discovery aspect of streaming in particular, it was nice to just pay a monthly fee and not worry about buying albums - it would be nice if there was a service that compensated artists fairly, but there’s a strong network effect barrier to entry for any streaming service - and I’m sure a dozen other hurdles.


Hey Jared, your self-hosted installation sounds like a great idea for streaming Bandcamp collections. I still jump from one album to another… I sometimes miss playlists too. Hopefully they’ll add a feature that enables playlists in Bandcamp. :crossed_fingers: I’ll have a closer look at Jellyfin. Thanks for sharing!

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This was a very interesting article! In my case, paying a monthly fee for streaming services has been a massive step up from the free YouTube audio download sites that my nearest and dearest used previously — and/or hours of time spent “watching” music on YouTube for free. Personally, I barely listen to music. I mostly put on some music in the background so that my 3-year-old son doesn’t get absorbed by a screen and was hoping the artists would receive a decent amount of money per play. Will need to research the options more thoroughly now to take my money as far into artists’ pockets as it can go!


I stumbled on some figures, for 2020, that were really interesting about which services pay the highest average royalties per streamed play.

The top three were Amazon Music Unlimited, Napster and Tidal at $0,0119 , $0.0106 and $0.0099 respectively.

Amazon looks pretty good according to that, but it all depends on which service you are using, most people using Amazon as a stream service are subscribed to Prime rather than Unlimited, in which case the average rate comes down massively to $0,0034.

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Thanks, John. The problem is that Amazon is not the most ethical company in the world. It is also the fifth richest (about 1.68 trillion $) in the world. It would probably be easy for them to pay musicians a decent rate… :thinking: However, they don’t do it.

I absolutely agree, but I found it interesting that the rate they are paying artists (on one selected service only admittedly) was significantly higher than other services that people might assume were ‘better’.

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