Your Turn Challenge day 3 – The Spotify vs. Musical Artist conundrum

Day 3 – Write about something that you think should be improved

What truly defines the value of something? What really are the principle things that should be considered when anyone is paid a certain amount for what they do or a product is sold for a certain amount for what it is?

That is a pretty complicated question isn’t it? Things like that are incredibly nuanced but for most industries, it is a manageable question, from the price of coffee or designer clothing to the housing market and financial sector (without disregarding the obligatory bureaucracy)

Music on the other hand has in recent years taken that whole concept to another level and I have lost count about the amount of times that I have debated the issue or re-evaluated where I stand on the whole subject. Especially when the digital technology industry is moving so fast.

Over the last year, I have invested a lot of time into experimenting and mulling over ways in which I release and format my music. I use three main ways to distribute my music. My label undertakes one way and I deal with other two (I am very lucky to have a situation where everything is transparent and I have the option of distributing myself). The first way is through Bandcamp where I engage directly with my audience and the second is through a licensing company called Tunecore, which release my music to Itunes, Spotify and any other company willing to spare me a penny when my music gets played.

I was very reluctant to put up my music on Spotify and said streaming companies initially but eventually decided it was the best option to promote and advertise my first full-length release. I have countless spreadsheets of analytical data but if there were one thing I wish I could retrieve, it would be who out of the people listened to my music on Spotify, decided to buy a physical copy of my album. I would feel that then, I actually have some determination of how effective streaming companies are as a platform for discovery.

This is where the problem lies; streaming is a very grey area in terms of how music artists are paid. Taylor Swift and Thom Yorke are two figureheads to have spoken out about it and preceded to strip their catalogue from the service. Without, dwelling too far into the subject though, there is one fundamental improvement that needs to be made from both the streaming company and the artist: and that is attitude.

The attitude of streaming companies

It has been publicly stated that an artist is paid $0.007 per stream of a song. Over one year, I earned just under $20 for 3000 streams. What do you think of that payment? I’ll be frank, it comes across as approved piracy to me.

Spotify recently hit back at the criticism of Thom Yorke and Taylor Swift by stating that it has collectively paid out 500 million to artists in the last year. However, their argument disregards one major thing, and that is the fact that major labels tie in with this with deals that are not necessarily relative to the $0.007 per stream and a lot of the payouts would be to past catalogues, suggesting that there is a massive gap between those who get paid sufficiently and independent artists who don’t. I did do some research on Spotify’s explanation on how it pays artists, and only ended up feeling a bit more perplexed about the whole thing.

Whilst I am still confused enough to be unable hold an opinion that streaming companies are The Devil, I do question its sense of middle ground, and that’s where attitude needs to improve. Streaming companies need to make paying artists fairly and sufficiently a priority as they continue to grow.

In full perspective, it is still early days for streaming, and whether artists like it or not, it is rapidly on the rise, so we have to accept the reality.

The attitude of artists

Having said that about Spotify, I think a lot of the resentment and bitterness from some artists is misplaced and the attitude needs from us can be improved to some extent. Ultimately, as the artist, you have control over how you choose to format your music, you also have control over how you engage with your audience and communicate with them and add a sense of value to the art you display. Just because you release music, does not necessarily mean you have to stream it. The most important thing for any musician to remember when they are out there in the world trying to make music for a living is that music owes you nothing. One of the best artists in recent years to have embraced the new age of music is Imogen Heap. This wonderful woman has enlightened me with a big streak of positivity and I recommend any aspiring musician drowning in cynicism to read her story for a change in perspective.

There can be a simpler answer to the question initially asked.

What truly defines the value of something? You do.

Your Turn Challenge day 2 – Many more Phases to come.

Your Turn Challenge Day 2 – Write about something important to you.

Have you ever been blessed with an idea so lucid that it shifts your entire way of thinking; it transforms you to the point where your passion and drive becomes immoveable?

When I was 16 years old, I came up with the idea that I was going to make a record, I didn’t know how, where or when I was going to do it, all I knew was that I had to.

What proceeded was a four-year process of exploring music, enjoying the whole experience of writing and drafting, experimenting, then meeting a plethora of people who connected with my idea and wished to participate. My expression of such an idea meant that I ended up meeting two people who run a record label and were looking for just the kind of music I was making, connecting with fellow musicians who would become some of my closest friends and even being able to contact some of my inspirations for their input (Including Nik Turner who provided a guest solo on flute for us!).

Today, I celebrate the first anniversary of my debut album release entitled ‘Phases’ and under the band name Eden Shadow. A self indulgent progressive rock album. I hadn’t a clue of what was going to happen but when it did go out into the world and I was truly surprised that so many people embraced it and connected with it. The album has sold hundreds of copies in over 30 countries and I have had the pleasure of speaking to people who have bought this record from as far as Japan and USA.


Along with that, I learnt so much about the process of making the record. The concept of art, experiencing failure, learning to let something go, going with your gut instinct and accepting criticism. This record will be the first of many that I will make and looking back at this one, I know that there is much I can improve on, but the sense of uninhibited innocence I receive on the rare occasion that I listen back to this record is something I’ll always be proud of.

After a year to reflect on my first release and whilst being heavily involved in the production process of my second album, I am still discovering the infinite power of an idea. An idea is one of the most powerful things anyone can ever attain. My record got released because of an idea; the YourTurn Challenge that a plethora of writers around the world are participating in, is an idea so powerful that it is sparking a chain reaction of hundreds of other ideas.

So whenever one is graced with inspiration or an idea, my advice is this.

Explore that idea

Discuss that idea

Reflect on that idea

And Act on that idea

It may be one of the best decisions you ever make.

Your Turn Challenge Day 1 – Help! I’m having a post university identity crisis.

I have decided to participate in the YourTurn Challenge proposed by Seth Godin and Winne Kao. This challenge comprises of writing a blog every day for seven days and the following is my first article.

Day 1 – Help! I’m having a post-university identity crisis!

On August 8th 2014, I walked out of the door of the Academy of Contemporary Music and embarked on the first steps of my life where I would be no longer in full-time education.

In all honesty, I embraced the situation rather erratically, I fled off to France for a getaway weekend with friends of a friend, converted to vegetarianism, bought about a dozen new shirts and took midnight walks along the countryside of my hometown in Wales, looking up to the stars with some hope that they would provide an answer to my elusive question…what next?

The feeling of disorientation brought upon oneself after having going through the continuous process of being graded is inevitable. One of my favourite film directors Guillermo Del Toro says in his book that the toughest time in a man’s life is in his twenties because you are fiercely screaming who you are, but you have only half a notion of who you are. I can identify entirely with that. The future can be as terrifying as much as it is exciting, and what is to be experienced in success or failure remains uncertain.

What doesn’t add any assurance to the matter is that the current stream of British government in office could not give a flying saucepan about younger people. The hike in tuition fees and cutting housing benefit for under 25’s is stark evidence of that.

So we have a choice. Either we choose not to have a choice and submit to the rat race in cold comfort scarily akin to Noam Chomsky’s prediction, or we can choose that it be for us to look upon ourselves to gain a stronger sense of conviction of what we have to offer to this world and advise each other. After searching the Internet, I am pleased to say the latter is happening from young writers in good strength, and now I feel it is my turn to partake.

So here are three things that I eventually learnt and have helped me embrace 2015 with an open mind and I hope that it can be of more help to others.

  1. When it comes to learning, you have just started

I’ve discovered that at whatever age you are it’s irrelevant to the fact that you never cease to learn new things. So I’ve spent a lot of time searching and exploring, listening and reading. The power of the latter is undervalued to a certain extent. I have read arguably as much in the last six months than I have in my entire life. Reading forces the mind into thinking for itself and I have truly felt the benefits of reading anything; from Biographies of my inspirations, Tolstoy or Chekov, Plato or Aristotle to the poetry of Rilke and Keats. All of it has allowed me to continue to gain in wisdom in some form or another.

  1. Our generation has the time

For the generation above, I think it was more expected of people to go straight into full time work and live independently. For us, the scenario is different, it isn’t at all accessible for many of us to afford housing of our own for the time being and therefore it is acceptable for a fair amount of us to reside with parents to figure things out slowly but surely.

We can make mistakes; we can try our hand at different career paths how to live our lives following our passions. Whilst the central powers aren’t necessarily opening as many doors for younger people to work up a career ladder as previously, the internet has offered us a universal ability to create our own doors and establish our own ideas and make something happen.

  1. Enjoy the present moment

It’s very easy to forget this when you are young, have ambitions and the future is out there to attain; but the key to being able to truly enjoy it all is by fully embracing the now. Enjoying the present moment.

Whilst I can still walk among the stars for solace and serenity, one of Shakespeare’s quotes comes to mind. It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.

Why are you doing the Your Turn challenge?

Just over a year ago, one of my lecturers, who is a blogger himself recommended that I should start tempting my hand at writing after observing my tendencies to be a deep thinker (a more apt description would be over-thinker). It was great advice and I have seen how liberating an experience it has been for him and have been somewhat conscious of how writing could hold the same virtues for me.

Since graduating, I have published a handful of articles, but in no manner, have I really dedicated to making a committed effort for it due to a number of reasons excuses including the crisis mentioned this article and tackling a host of a new exciting music projects. After seeing this challenge, I feel the time has come to get me into real momentum so that I can blog on a regular basis.