The rise of streaming platforms has only provided hope for budding musicians. This hope helps them survive in a cut-throat competitive industry and is now being perceived as the only way to thrive in the music business. Well, what if you make it. You become famous. You win awards. But you are still struggling to make money.
The monetary value of your talent is being undercompensated by streaming platforms even if you are represented by a major label.
In a (now deleted) Facebook post, Sam Barsh, who has credits on more than 100 songs including tracks by Kendrick Lamar, Anderson.Paak, Logic and Wiz Khalifa, has shared details of the royalty figures that he earns from streaming platforms for his services as a songwriter.
He also works as a producer and a keyboardist who has appeared on more than 70 recordings to date. His work as a keyboardist and a songwriter on Kendrick Lamar’s Platinum-certified album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ (#1 Billboard 200) has won 3 Grammy Awards. He only earned less than $20,000 from writing for Lamar.
For my songwriting on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Institutionalized’ from the album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly,’ I have earned less than $20,000. I have a 12% share of the song. The album went Platinum, won a Grammy, and was a worldwide phenomenon.
He went on to reveal even more abysmal figures for his work with Anderson.Paak and Logic,
For my songwriting on Anderson .Paak’s ‘Heart Don’t Stand a Chance’ and ‘Your Prime’ from the album ‘Malibu,’ I have earned less than $5,000 total. I have a 16.66% share of each song. The album was certified Gold in Europe, nominated for a Grammy, and launched .Paak into stardom..… For my songwriting on Logic’s “Black Spiderman,” I have earned less than $2,000.
Barsh earned significantly higher for Aloe Blacc’s ‘The Man’ only because it was a blockbuster on traditional AM and FM radio, was licensed for a number of TV shows, films and advertisements and was released at a time when “many people still purchased downloads” (2013).
For my songwriting on Aloe Blacc’s ‘The Man’ I have earned a little less than $200,000 over the course of the song’s 5 year existence. I have an 8.5% share of the song…
Considering the artists being represented by major labels, why did he not make money from streaming platforms?
To make the process of making money from streaming more relatable to people who do not fully understand the dynamics of the music business, Barsh used a simple analogy quite blatantly,
Imagine having the dream of being a doctor, and knowing that it’s a long and very difficult road, but if you actually make it there, you’ll be earning a comfortable living. You study hard in high school, get into a good college. Spend nights and weekends studying, forego most normal college social activities. By sheer hard work, and some luck (luck is ALWAYS one factor in success in music and in business, no matter what anyone tells you), you get into a top medical school. You work harder, get through school, do your residency, then you’re finally ready to work as a fully board-certified physician. Through more hard work and some luck, you get a position at one of the most prestigious hospitals in the country. But, when you go to sign the contract, you discover that the job which paid $400,000 a year when you started school now pays $60,000 a year.
He had ended the original post on an optimistic note believing in the power of songwriting. The post went viral, therefore compelling Barsh to delete the post. He later justified the entire original post in a follow up post which screams ‘damage control’.
I have an incredible team of collaborators, publisher, management and legal. I’ve never gotten an unfair publishing split on a major record, and my representatives have gone to bat on my behalf every time, in some cases holding out for months until things were settled.
I also have a very fair publishing deal, and a publisher that gets me a lot of sessions, and maintain great relationships with established producers and writers that treat me with the utmost respect.