How Some Artists Still Make Money Via Album Sales

How Some Artists Still Make Money Via Album Sales

With the rise of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music over the past few years, there has been a correlative decline in album sales. Without as many sales, and only a small paycheck from streaming services, it is increasingly difficult for musicians to make a living on creating and distributing music alone. However, there are artists who still make decent revenue from physical album sales despite streaming services’ popularity. To find out more on how they do this, we invite you to read this article.

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Before streaming, people had about four options for accessing music: the radio, mixtapes created by friends, YouTube (once the internet arrived), or buying a physical CD and LP at their local record store or electronics’ sections at Walmart and Target. No matter the artist, most CDs and LPs would usually be around the same price, a decent $15 to $20 apiece. For a number of musicians, album sales alone offered a sustainable living. However, platforms like Spotify and Apple Music now give listeners the option to listen to almost any song and own almost any album for free (or a small monthly subscription that costs less than buying one album) at the touch of a finger. With music so readily accessible now, there’s lower demand for consumers to buy physical albums. And with these streaming platforms paying the artist a measly $0.00437 per listen on average, it’s nearly impossible for musicians in 2020 to make enough revenue simply via streaming and dwindling album sales.

The music business has nonetheless adapted, with labels and artists emphasizing non-album revenue. Whereas the album was the center of attention before, it’s now viewed mostly as a catalyst to drive fans to see the musicians in concert or buy their merchandise. Especially with the concurrent rise in social media, the business focus is more on the cultivation of the artist as a brand, and on pushing consumers to pay for that brand rather than for the music. Of course, a number of popular artists still make a decent revenue from physical album sales because of their dedicated fan base. Taylor Swift is a prominent example, as her recent album “folklore” and its eight different deluxe editions were promptly bought by her die-hard “Swifties.” But for most artists, it’s been more lucrative to push people to purchase the albums via bundles with a T-Shirt or a concert ticket.

Streaming’s critics have long sung their bitter anthem about how the decline in album sales means that people don’t value music like they used to, as they technically don’t have to pay for access to it anymore. But music executives have realized how selling albums via focusing on an artist’s brand can itself be an extremely profitable blueprint. And although some people aren’t willing to pay anything for the music they consume, there are others who are willing to pay much more than what an artist would usually demand. Consequently, two new business models centered on album sales have arisen.

The first model is simply to cut supply and raise the album’s price. For example, the late rapper Nipsey Hussle had 1000 copies made of his 2013 mixtape “Crenshaw” and sold them at $100 apiece, even when the mixtape itself was free to listen to online. He sold them all out. He did it again with his next release, offering 100 copies for $1000, and sold them out again. This shows how ownership of a physical album now becomes an idealized token of one’s dedication to an artist; the music on the album itself is just a bonus. The second model is the “pay-what-you-wish” route for album sales. Radiohead was one of the first bands to do this through their release of “In Rainbows” in 2007. While some people didn’t pay a cent, three million people still paid for the album. Many independent artists are familiar with this model because of the online record place Bandcamp, as it encourages most artists to use this model when uploading their music on the website. According to Bandcamp’s chief operating officer, 80,000 albums are sold on the website per day, with an average of $9 per album. Some folks even pay $100 for an album, so it’s easy to see how lucrative album sales can be with this model.

Although it’s true that albums are no longer collectively valued as worth the $15-$20 like before, this shouldn’t be automatically viewed as a collective devaluing of music. There have always been people who listened to music for free via Napster or by ripping it off YouTube, and there always will be. But many in the music business are confident that even a small number of extremely dedicated fans can outweigh those who don’t pay and sustain an artist’s album sales themselves.

For more information on these business models, visit the source article at The New York Times website.

Albums are still a crucial product in the music industry, and a great one is key to an artist’s prosperity in the music industry. Canyon Entertainment Group’s goal is to help you create the best music you can in an amazing environment with a team committed to your success every step of the way, from development and production to promotion and distribution. For more information, please visit or contact us at info(at)

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