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Fact Checking: Did Bang shi-hyuk say in an interview that the music industry is abandoning streams?

Claim

Bang shi-hyuk said that he does not find the streaming/digital market profitable, which is why BTS does not post streaming links.

Rating

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Origin

The Tweet fails to mention the source of the interview, which indicates that it was published July 1, 2013, very shortly after BTS debuted on June 12, 2013. As of writing this post, [July 2, 2018] it has been over five years since BTS debuted. It is not clear whether or not Bang shi-hyuk still has the same opinion about streams now as he did in 2013. The best we can do is theorized based on his current behavior, but we cannot know for sure until he makes another direct statement.

It must also be noted that opinions on streaming services, such as Spotify, have changed greatly over the years. Spotify was launched in 2008 and was initially met with backlash because of low payouts, but the perspective is still changing as these services become more successful and profitable. In 2013, the music industry was in an interesting place, where many artists were beginning to revoke their albums from Spotify.

This was always the promise of the streaming revolution. When Spotify launched in 2008, it pledged to defeat music piracy and ensure that artists got paid for their music – but it quickly emerged that what they were willing to pay artists was a couple of thousandths of a penny for each stream. There is a big debate over exactly how many thousandths – the latest survey by Digital Music News suggests that Apple Music pays $0.00783 and Spotify pays $0.00397. However, Rolling Stone has reported that artists and labels with greater clout in the industry are getting better rates. When I ask Tim Dellow, at the indie label Transgressive (home to Foals and Flume), he says that they are “on a par” with the majors. What remains true is that the biggest artists will have more favourable deals with their labels, allowing them to see a bigger percentage of royalties, just as in the CD era.

Whatever the specifics, we are talking about tiny amounts of money, especially compared with CD sales. Initially, artists revolted, with, for example, Thom Yorke removing his solo album The Eraser from Spotify in 2013, after its producer, Nigel Godrich, complained the service favoured established acts and didn’t support new artists. Some of the biggest artists in the world – Taylor Swift, Adele, Beyoncé – followed suit, withholding their releases from streaming platforms either temporarily or indefinitely. Smaller artists signed to big labels were essentially powerless to choose whether their music went on to the service or not, and complained that labels were raking in big profits from Spotify while artists were seeing scraps.

But, over time, it has become clear that the fraction of a penny you receive from a stream can’t be seen in the same context as the royalty on a CD sale. The money an artist made from a physical album was a one-off payment; within weeks of it being released, this revenue frequently dried up.

On Spotify, every time a listener wants to play the song, the artist gets a tiny bit of money. If a listener adds the song to one of their own playlists, that can mean it will be repeatedly revisited over a lifetime. If it gets added to one of Spotify’s curated mood playlists – Acoustic Spring, for example – the artist can expect tens of millions of plays. Acts whose biggest hits came well before the streaming era are banking huge new revenues from their existing catalogue. Fleetwood Mac have 11 million monthly listeners; that’s more than Stormzy, George Ezra or Harry Styles. They will collect a huge cheque every month without doing anything.

— ‘We’ve got more money swirling around’: how streaming saved the music industry, The Guardian, April 24, 2018

It appears that many companies are beginning to fully embrace the streaming market. The music industry is still responding and evolving based on the changing situation.

Then, in the space of a decade, the music industry essentially collapsed – in the US, music’s biggest market, annual revenues fell from $14.6bn in 1999 to $6.3bn in 2009. Some artists still did OK, particularly those who focused on live shows, merchandise and brand endorsements, but labels had to dramatically cut costs. At EMI, Hands did away with the slush fund as well as almost half the workforce. At the label Per Sundin ran, the majority of the team was laid off. The expense accounts, the marketing budgets, the joy of taking a punt on a weird band of misfits in the hope something magical might happen – it was all over. Chart music became safer; the bestselling records of the 2010s have all been by middle-of-the-road acts with lots of “nan appeal”: Adele, Ed Sheeran, Michael Bublé and Take That.

People were talking about the decline, maybe even the end, of the music business. But recently things have started to change. In 2015, Universal Music Group, the biggest player in the music industry, posted revenues of more than $5bn, about $1bn of which came from streaming. Today, it was announced that streaming music revenues had surpassed income from the sale of traditional formats for the first time last year. And earlier this month, we learned that British music company revenues grew faster in 2017 than in any year since 1995, with labels experiencing a 10.6% rise in earnings year-on-year. British companies enjoyed a 45% increase in subscription streaming revenue in just one year – from £239m in 2016 to £347m in 2017. Spotify went public this month, with the company now valued at $25bn. And Apple Music says it is catching up in terms of paying users, especially in the US.

— ‘We’ve got more money swirling around’: how streaming saved the music industry, The Guardian, April 24, 2018

 

Hello, I'm Ella. I'm a psychology student from the USA and my native language is English. I became an ARMY in January 2018 and have never had a bias. In addition to BTS, I love books, anime, manga, food, sleeping, spending time with my cats, and writing poetry. You can find me on Twitter as @castles_of_air.

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