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New Irish bands cash in on Spotify and streaming music services


John Lambert’s listenership spiked when one of his songs was playlisted. Photo: Tony Gavin

John Lambert’s listenership spiked when one of his songs was playlisted. Photo: Tony Gavin

John Lambert’s listenership spiked when one of his songs was playlisted. Photo: Tony Gavin

While global music stars complain that Spotify and online streaming services have decimated their revenue, Dublin musician John Lambert is one of a growing pack of smaller Irish artists who are making a living thanks to streaming.

Lambert says popular Swedish streaming platform Spotify was the first real source of royalties for his music.

The musician, who is based in Dublin's Smithfield, performs under the name Chequerboard. His music combines guitar with electronic techniques.

"I was releasing for years on a Dublin label, Ladybird, and gigging when I could, while working as a graphic designer. I'm now on my third album. I made my music available online using digital distributors, who make sure your music is on all the main online music services. Bookers and labels are all looking for your online stats now.

"Then last November I suddenly saw a huge spike in my listener statistics online; the numbers just went bananas. A friend who has contacts in Spotify worked out the reason - one of the songs from my second album had been listed on a very prominent playlist on their home page.

"It's called Deep Focus, it has around 900,000 followers.

"Since then the song, ironically called Opening The Gates, has clocked up 2m listens. I'm now averaging 10,000 listens a day.

"Royalties have started to come through - the first serious royalties I've made from my music. It works out at around 0.005c per stream, which translates to about €3,000 to €4,000 for every 500,000 listens. Labels and digital distributors take a cut too. Spotify pays royalties once a quarter.

"For sole artists, it's a good source of revenue. For bands, where you are dividing the royalties between four or five, it's more difficult.

"But it's actually more about the audience you reach. A lot of Spotify users are based in the US - so 80pc of my listeners are from the US. I also get a lot of listens from the Middle East - my music is instrumental so language isn't a barrier.

"Those new audiences offer touring opportunities. I'm still a graphic designer too, though. It's always been difficult to make money from music and that is still the case."

Pop star Taylor Swift and many of the world's most famous bands have been highly critical of music streaming services, arguing they pay artists too little for the right to play their songs. Tech giant Apple, which is launching its own Apple Music streaming service to rival Spotify, was forced into an about-face last week after Swift published an open letter to the company.

Swift said she intended to hold back her latest album, 1989, in protest at the technology giant's "shocking and disappointing" decision not to pay artists for songs streamed by users during a three-month trial period

"We don't ask you for free iPhones. Please don't ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation," she wrote.

Apple reversed its decision not to pay musicians for the first three months of Apple Music's life, in response to her comments.

Apple Music is unlikely to differ dramatically from its competitors - but it comes with Apple's deep music roots, global brand and hundreds of millions of iTunes customers. Its push into the streaming business will further alter the dynamics of how consumers listen to music, analysts said, as the music industry grapples with declines in downloaded songs and tries to figure out new ways to get people to pay for music.

Big-name record labels are thought to have pushed hard to get a larger chunk of revenue than they receive under their current deals with Spotify.

Streaming music has also attracted the attention of online retailer Amazon, while earlier this year US star Jay Z launched a version called Tidal.

Sunday Indo Business