The world of music has reached new highs and lows in the aftermath of the internet revolution. Our connected world has made it easier for musicians to get their music to fans without the need for a record label or expensive recording equipment.
However, it's also made it more difficult to get paid.
Case in point: Mariah Carey had a stellar month, with her single "All I Want for Christmas is You" topping the charts again.
Who hasn't listened to that song this year?
The song always makes a resurgence around the holidays and has proven to be one of the most popular modern classics for Christmas. It is so popular that on Christmas Eve, the song broke the one-day streaming record on Spotify with nearly 11 million streams. That's more than 120 listens every second.
How much would you expect such a track to earn? How about $92,000? At most. Spotify pays rights holders between 0.6 and 0.84 cents per play, according to an article from TIME. This would put the maximum payout for the one-day stream at under $92,400.
This is one of the most popular songs of all time, with a world-famous artist, at the only time of year it can hit those numbers.
Mariah Carey isn't hurting for money. She's a big enough name that her concerts draw in millions, and is sitting at an estimated net worth of over half a billion dollars. But this does show what breaking into the music industry is like for someone who isn't well established.
Again, the issue is not about Mariah Carey specifically.
And it's not like streaming services are optional either. The Economist shows that music streaming is now the biggest generator of revenue. Programs like Spotify have reversed the revenue drops the music industry have been experiencing since the mid-2000s, and pay out nearly 70% of their revenue in royalties. But as new artists try to break onto the scene, they are vying for a much smaller piece of a much smaller pie than established artists.
After all, if one of the most popular songs only earns tens of thousands of dollars with more streams then most indie musicians might see in their lifetime, how are they supposed to make this a career?