Last Week in Tech Law and Policy, Vol. 13: Digital Technologies and Innovation in the Distribution of Music

Last week, rapper and business mogul Jay Z reintroduced Tidal in a press conference highlighting the platform as an artist-owned, subscription-based music service. The service boasts a movement to “change the status quo” and “reestablish the value of music.” Tidal values music at $19.99 per month for high fidelity (lossless/CD-Quality) streaming, or $9.99 per month—comparable to other music streaming services like Spotify.

The re-emergence of Tidal as a music streaming service owned by artists themselves in order to procure greater profits for their music begs the question: how are artists doing now?

This infographic from data journalist and information designer David McCandless shows how many plays from each music service an artist needs to earn a monthly minimum wage of $1,260.

As we previously discussed, digital technologies have changed the way consumers receive all entertainment content. Some argue that the rise of music piracy and peer-to-peer sharing in the digital age have impacted profits, but the migration to streaming services may also have a countervailing impact on piracy.

Spotify claims that their free model shifts consumers away from piracy to a platform they can simply listen to music for free, and then drives them to the paid subscription ($120 per year), doubling the amount these average consumers spend on music (supposedly, $55 per year), and generating more royalties for the artists. Some artists, notably Taylor Swift, have qualms with the free tier service Spotify provides.