Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: The fractions of a cent

On the Spinoff this week, Gareth Shute has a fascinating analysis of which New Zealand artists get the most monthly streams on the biggest of the streaming platforms, Spotify – both within New Zealand and worldwide.

You can have a look for yourself, but the results are quite telling as to what kind of music we really listen to at home – Six60, Fat Freddy's Drop, Katchafire, Shapeshifter, Sons of Zion, Stan Walker and the Black Seeds are all in the Top 10 – and what the world tunes into.

Lorde, unsurprisingly, tops both tables, followed some way back by Crowded House, but the next three on the world chart – Savage, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and the Naked and Famous – aren't even in the Top 20 at home.

Gareth hasn't ventured on what those numbers might be worth in real money, but Digital Music News's What Streaming Music Services Pay offers a rough guide. Their table shows Spotify paying $0.00397 per stream, indicating that Lorde's $12.2 million monthly streams earn her nearly $50,000 a month. Feel free to do the calculations on some of the others yourself.

But do note that the artists generally don't keep most of their earnings and that these numbers don't allow for any special deals that the "Big Three" music companies may have with Spotify or, as far as I can tell, publishing royalties (which writers do largely keep, but where are not nearly as good on streaming as on radio play). DMN gets its figures from a large indie label, and the majors' deals are still largely a black box. And, of course, Spotify has the most market share (48%) but its payment rate is half that of the next-biggest service, Apple Music.

Nonetheless, these numbers do indicate that artists who can break through on the streaming services have a shot at a sustainable living, even when they may not have a brand new album out. Savage is the prime example of that. And breaking through in the modern world often means licensing a song to an ad or a movie, which in turn attracts its own revenue.

It's complicated, but this is how music looks now. But if you like an artist who hasn't cracked streaming, they're not getting more than a tiny fraction of your monthly subscription, even if they're all you listen to. If you want to help, buying their stuff – especially at gigs or on Bandcamp – is still the best way.

(Speaking of which, Sandy Mill's single 'Let It Go', with remixes, is now up on Bandcamp for just a dollar.)


The Auckland City Limits timetable is out. Of note: Grace Jones plays fairly early (7.45pm) and clashes almost entirely with Justice. Oh well, you can't have everything and when you are getting is Grace Jones and Beck, well, that's a lot.

If you're not going to ACL, or you're still up for it afterwards, Pitch Black are playing at Neck of the Woods.

In other live news, Anthonie Tonnon is playing some shows in April with a full band, for the first time in a while. I'm interested to see that his two Auckland shows are at Lot 23 in Eden Terrace – I suspect we may see a few more gigs there, given the looming situation with music venues. Tickets can be had here.

Chris Schulz has a nice King's Arms farewell story in the Herald, including my friends Phil and Renee talking about their memorable wedding at the KA.

Note that there's one last big lash for the venue's last day on earth next Wednesday, with 95bFM broadcasting from 7am, Voom, King Kapisi, Queen Neptune and Wax Chattels playing from 7pm and DJs all day.

Meanwhile, a send-off of a different kind for Golden Dawn. The Tavern of Power Project, conceived by The Noisefloor production studio, is in the process of shooting and recording every act to play the GD in 2018. They explain it thus:

The project is intended as both an archive and a celebration; of the venue’s diversity, inclusivity and above all the exceptional music that graced it’s tiny stage.

There will be a vast pool of all types footage filmed over the 3 months; from the base crew of camera people and guest shooters who have a long association with the venue and the performers. It is firmly impressed upon all camera people that they are to maintain a low key presence.. not be in the face of patrons or performers and to not interfere with the special Golden Dawn vibe. 

And the first of the videos has just been posted:


I caught the interview with Ehren "Bear Witness" Thomas of Canadian indigenous group A Tribe Called Red on RNZ's Music 101 on Saturday and what I heard excited me so much that I got myself tickets for their March 24 show as part of the Auckland Arts Festival.

They mix traditional pow wow music with various modern electronic dance genres and while their work is quite varied, this one put me in mind of gqom music from Durban in the way it employs voices as rhythmic elements. Check out the interview for other examples of their music.



Not getting to Splore this weekend? You can still grab this fresh hour-long mix from Copenhagen's finest,  Courtesy:

And a straight-up free download of a edit of an old disco number by the Canadian-Jamaican singer The Mighty Pope. No, I'd never heard of him before either, but this is great!

And that's me. Off to Splore in the morning ...

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