Aloe Blacc examines ‘Wake Me Up’ revenue; challenges streaming services and demands licensing reform for songwriters
On one end of the streaming services spectrum, where SoundCloud has finally regained its footing with a newly inked deal with Warner Music Group, another streaming grievance has surfaced. Aloe Blacc, a name made familiar to the electronic realm thanks to Avicii, is now piping up in defense of songwriters and the widespread lack of recognition – specifically, financially – him and his peers receive. Contrasting his own experience with intellectual copyright against likeminded creatives like fashion designers and tech companies, the singer explains that the rights to claim are vastly different and rather unfair for fellow songwriters.
“By law, we have to let any business use our songs that asks, so long as they agree to pay a rate that, more often than not, was not set in a free market. We don’t have a choice. As such, we have no power to protect the value of the music we create. The abhorrently low rates songwriters are paid by streaming services—enabled by outdated federal regulations—are yet another indication our work is being devalued in today’s marketplace.“
Referencing Taylor Swift’s recent and controversial decision to withdraw her entire catalogue from Spotify, he digs further by shedding light on his own work and experience with “Wake Me Up.” A song that was hailed by Spotify as the ‘most streamed song‘ of all time as well as a standout electronic smash hit that was largely accredited to both Aloe’s powerful vocals and songwriting contributions, “Wake Me Up’s” revenue falls hopelessly short of what you’d expect. He explains, utilizing the song’s impressive stats and achievements thus far:
“Avicii’s release “Wake Me Up!” that I co-wrote and sing, for example, was the most streamed song in Spotify history and the 13th most played song on Pandora since its release in 2013, with more than 168 million streams in the US. And yet, that yielded only $12,359 in Pandora domestic royalties— which were then split among three songwriters and our publishers. In return for co-writing a major hit song, I’ve earned less than $4,000 domestically from the largest digital music service.”
The true paradox, as Aloe continues on, is the increase in accessibility that streaming services like Pandora and Spotify have offered to newfound fans and listeners around the world. The pool has opened up drastically for artists and songs, and in turn, the demand has reflected so, often going on to help encourage artists like Avicii himself to tour, play, and sell out venues in areas once considered distant and untouchable – but in the meanwhile, songwriters like Aloe remain meagerly compensated.
The outdated music licensing framework that entraps songwriters in the financial bind has yet to be updated since 2001, a time when the iPod had yet to even hit stores commercially. In turn, streaming services continue to fight the uphill battle of maintaining financial revenue and the status quo and sometimes are even actively fighting against reform for the system. While policy change may be either far, or as he hopes, close in the future, Aloe encourages supporters to buy physical albums and urge streaming services to “uphold the value of songwriting, [because] if songwriters cannot afford to make music, who will?”