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Most musicians lose money when they release new music, worsened by ‘TikTokification’ of the industry

A new Spotify update further rewards the creation of promotional videos, resulting in additional costs to artists who are already struggling financially

Photo by Mic Johnson LP via Flickr

Three-quarters of musicians who spend money on promoting their releases don’t make their money back.

This was discovered by studio chain Pirate, following a survey involving over 1,000 musicians from the UK and the US about their promotional habits. It found that 91% of musicians promoted their releases independently, primarily through social media (the most popular platform being Instagram) and that 75% of respondents had lost money doing so.

The news comes as Spotify, the largest global streaming service, is set to become the latest platform to reward video content. Mashable reported in March that Spotify will soon be morphing into a “TikTok-esque experience”, arranged as a vertical feed dominated by creator-made videos.

This shift in format is likely to create additional costs for artists looking to promote their music, even as Pirate’s research shows that the majority are already losing money in the process.

Infographic by Katie Cutforth

A frustrating experience

Michael McGovern, an independent musician from Glasgow, said he was “disheartened and discouraged” to hear the survey’s findings.

“I’ll keep making music because I love it, and live for it.

“However, more and more artists are going to be squeezed out and forced to choose another career if this continues,” he said.

McGovern added that he found the experience of self-promotion through social media “frustrating”.

“As a musician, you want to build a genuine connection with your fans,” he explained, adding that using social media felt somewhat impersonal.

“Someone has to reach into their pocket, take out their phone, unlock it, go to Instagram and open the app before they see the thing you have posted.”

“If they see it all. It’s just too many stages of detachment and it doesn’t feel like art anymore,” he added.

Glasgow-based musician Michael McGovern.

Photo from Instagram @michaelmcgovernn

‘Favouring big artists’

McGovern also expressed his concern about the new Spotify update, and whether its new “video-first” format, would affect smaller artists.

“It all seems like another scheme to push out smaller artists and favour the big ones,” said McGovern. “It’s synonymous with the music industry as a whole today. I hope I’m wrong.”

Dan Davis, Head Of Community at PIRATE, echoed these concerns, noting that with social media, it was both harder and easier for artists to carry out their own promotions.

“Platforms reward a constant stream of content which takes a lot of work. The payoff is that you can build your own audience rather than just trying to break through gatekeepers,” Davis explained.

“Making music in the social media age means constantly jumping on new promotional trends. However, making content is rarely free and new revenue sources for artists aren’t emerging at the same rate as new trends,” he said.


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