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  • Writer's pictureTobi

Charting My Own Course: Free Music Downloads in a Streaming-Dominated World

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

Introduction: My Music. My Terms.

In our brave new digital world, content has been rendered all but worthless, and the evolution of streaming and social platforms is compelled by larger market trends; all of which, leaves grassroots artists sidelined and disenfranchised. In response artists must reassert the value of their work, and do so, within a context they control and can develop on their own terms.

Musicians dwarfed by a music industry monster in a business suit

It is for these reasons and more that I have decided to chart my own course and make my work available as free music downloads via my own website in this streaming world. By featuring additional content and supporting material, I can build a broader context around my music. I hope this will encourage a deeper understanding of the various issues my music explores and allow me to highlight related organizations that are deserving of support.

Chapter 1: No Payouts for Plebeians

On November 5th, 2023, World Business News reported that Spotify intended to change their royalty model [beginning the first quarter of 2024] to include a new annual minimum threshold of 1,000 streams before tracks generate royalties.

Given that Spotify has actively fostered a culture of encouraging, if not obliging, artists to upload as much music as possible, this reworking of their royalty model represents a blatant about face in terms of their business strategy, and an even more blatant slap in the face for grassroots artists.

Chapter 2: Faking It.

In placing streaming numbers front and center on artist profiles, Spotify has long cultivated the misconception that artistic credibility can be equated to the number of streams generated. A one size fits all broadside that takes no account of the varying commercial appeal of the wide variety of music genres.

Streaming Farm

Moreover, Spotify’s heavy emphasis on streaming numbers has given rise to a fraudulent and often criminal subculture of fake playlists and streaming farms. Not only does Spotify's new annual minimum payout threshold do nothing to address the problem of fake streams, it actively punishes artists who are clearly not faking their streams, while running the very real risk of encouraging even more artists to indulge in the practice of faking their streams.

Spotify's public rationale for making this change is to reward artists who are contributing to their platform, but this ignores the fact that a significant number of these artists either have in the past or are presently faking their streams.

Chapter 3: 90 Seconds to Midnight

While many of my tracks will fall foul of Spotify's new minimum royalty threshold, I have no such concerns when it comes to my latest release, “90 Seconds to Midnight”. Not because it is a juggernaut of streaming success, but because it is only available here on my website to download for free.

Made with the blessing and in support of the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, it became clear that “90 Seconds to Midnight” needed its own custom landing page where visitors could be introduced to The Bulletin and encouraged to learn about and support the work it does. In order to maximize traffic to the page, I felt all social posts, etc. needed to point to it.

Chapter 4: The Blueprint

“90 Seconds to Midnight” has become the blueprint for all my upcoming releases. Not that I rule out uploading future releases to Spotify, I still believe there is value in the discoverability and accessibility of Spotify's playlist-based ecosystem; but, at the same time, it is the convenience and inherently passive listening experience of playlists that devalue music.

Conclusion: Your Music. Your Terms.

In the ever-shifting landscapes of streaming and social platforms, artists need reliable platforms to develop their income and build communities. In our brave new digital world, how an artist presents and sells their music is every bit a part of developing their artistic identity as the music itself. It is clear that there is no one right way, only finding the right way for your music.

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