As any creative knows, getting paid for your work, particularly when you first start out, is a major challenge. Is Deezer’s UCPS system the way forward?
By now, everyone is familiar with streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. Most people would also be familiar with the infamous low payouts that these offer musicians who actually generate streams on their platform. The issue is that using them is a necessary evil as the fact remains that in this day and age, there is no better direct bridge to audiences.
There are well over 200 million monthly users of music streaming sites in the US alone, while in Germany, around 7 out of 10 internet users (69%) use some form of music streaming service. With such a large audience, there is no underestimating what a valuable tool streaming is for artists looking to get their name and their work out here.
Currently, Spotify and Apple Music are the market leaders in this field, but there are plenty of smaller services, one of which is the French-firm, Deezer, who seem to be taking steps towards a better way to pay artists.
Where does Deezer fit in?
While Deezer currently ranks in the lower bracket of the pay per stream amounts with $0.0064 per stream – trailing Napster (0.019 PS) Jay-Z’s Tidal ($0.01284 ps), and Apple Music ($0.00783 ps) and, Google Play Music ($0.00676 per stream – they still best one of the market leaders, Spotify ($0.00437 per stream) and other multi-faceted organisations like YouTube and Amazon.
On paper, these figures tell one story, but they can be misleading. For example, Napster may be the highest paying but they are currently losing around $7 per user with their business model, thus it is likely unsustainable and has a small share of the market of 1.75%. While in the case of Tidal, they own a market percentage of just 0.01% higher and so you do not get the same audience. As such, at these services, the marginal increase in revenue per stream may not materialise at the same rate you would get elsewhere.
However, all of this is arbitrary in the grand scheme of things as to make even minimum wage, you would need millions of listens; something that artists just getting their first leg up in the industry, simply do not have the resources to muster up. This is something that Deezer is now attempting to pursue and allow bands to be paid directly for the plays they do get.
Deezer’s UCPS System
In the case of Deezer’s UCPS System (User Centric Payment System), the aim is to ensure that funding is facilitated more directly to the artists you are listening to. In the traditional model, more plays would equal more money for the artist, but Deezer’s system aims to better connect user’s subscriptions and their favourite artists.
The current situation is that in the example of 100 total play between two artists, if one artist has 90 plays, they receive 90% of the revenue. While the other artist with 10 plays would receive 10% of the revenue. This is even after the streaming service takes their cut. And so, for smaller artists, they see hardly anything from the plays that they have accumulated. In the case of Deezer’s proposed UCPS system, this wouldn’t be how it works.
Instead, if you have paid for a subscription and you listen to an artist, irrespective of the number of times any other users have listened to them, a percentage of your subscription will be given solely to them. Thus, you are directly funding your favourite artists, as opposed to having the money you have invested in the service being distributed to the wills of the masses. As such, it will mean that artists, even if they don’t get 1 million plays, will still get paid fairly for the plays they did generate from a smaller audience.
This means that while in general, Deezer may not pay as much are other streaming platforms the money will go directly to the musicians that you listen to. With their tagline for the product quite literally being “the money you pay only goes to the artists you love and listen to”.
Will it Work?
Well, the service is currently still under development and there is not a whole lot of information about more practical specifics of the service. However, it is certainly a hot take on what music streaming services can do to make payment more evenly dispersed. A big plus is that they already have endorsements from numerous record labels and bodies, such as The International Artist Organisation (IAO), so there are seeds of potential.
This said, they are still dwarfed by the might of Spotify and Apple Music so this development will be a mere drop in the streaming ocean for artists. Unless Deezer can obtain a larger following, which is currently just 14 million monthly subscribers, or artists can convince their fans to follow them solely via Deezer, then this will do little to solve the dilemma for artists who must choose between being paid fairly or obtaining a larger reach. Then, even if they do, they are still going to need a whole lot of plays to be sustained even by this system. The concept is great but Deezer might not be the right vessel for mass change.