Is Deezer Music Player a Scam

Last year was a kind of turning point for the German music market: in 2018, for the first time, more money was generated in Germany through digital music formats than through physical sound carriers. According to information from the Bundesverband Musikindustrie e.V., the industry turnover totaled 1.582 billion euros. Streaming had the largest share of this: 79.5 billion streams were counted for 2018 alone; the pure streaming share of total sales was 46.4 percent. For comparison: the sale of all types of physical sound carriers made up only 43.3 percent of total sales.

Streaming services must therefore now be assigned an extraordinary importance for the industry. They also contributed to ending the age of illegal downloads through file sharing and the like. But how is the remuneration for musicians actually made in streaming? And what do you get in the end for your music?

Currently, the major providers all work according to the same distribution principle: They distribute the money to artists based on their market share. In other words: the artists with the highest market share get the most money. So it can be that as a subscriber to a streaming service you only hear obscure post-punk bands, for example, but in the end something of your own contribution ends up with an extremely successful cloud rapper that you have never listened to. The streaming service retains a previously agreed amount.

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In conclusion, this means that your own listening behavior does not always have a direct influence on whether some of your money ends up with your favorite artists. On the contrary: In the current system, payments are based on the total market share, which means that well-known artists or popular genres are given preference over smaller acts or more experimental genres.

The French streaming service Deezer is actively trying to counteract this and therefore announced last month that it had developed a user-based billing system called UCPS (short for User-Centric Payment System). With UCPS, revenue should only go to the respective acts that the users have actually listened to. Deezer would like to create fairness through the system and support a musical variety of local and international artists and genres fairly. The initiative is accompanied by the hashtag #MakeStreamingFair.

A new model is to counteract unfair payment and bots

UCPS is also intended to advance the fight against streaming fraud. Since the user-based billing model is supposed to be a well-developed system, Deezer wants to counteract the influence of manipulated accounts, commonly known as "bots". The behavior of so-called “bots” is usually reflected in the disproportionately frequent playback of certain tracks, which in the long term can significantly distort the overall market share balance. However, if the payouts are calculated on the user-based billing system, i.e. on the behavior of the individual users, streaming fraud could be further reduced, as the bot activities would only distribute the income from these special bot accounts. Fraud could thus be made more easily visible.

Even before the introduction of the UCPS, Deezer issues its users an additional receipt to the actual invoice every month, which lists which artists the user would have supported with his listening behavior if the user-based system had already been billed.

In fact, UCPS will not be introduced until the first half of 2020 - and for the time being only in Deezer's home country France. Germany is to follow shortly thereafter.

How streaming services calculate the revenues of the artists with different tariffs per played song is up to them. The revenue is calculated per streamed song, the amount of the revenue may vary depending on the country. How much each individual provider pays per song played is therefore not always fully understandable and depends heavily on the country in which the streaming was carried out and, above all, what rights the artist has to his own music. Who is the rights holder to the song depends on how the label, artist, songwriter or producer has allocated the rights in advance.

How much the respective streaming services pay per song cannot be precisely determined from a number. Streaming services often pay an amount that is within a certain range. One website that has been making the revenues that streaming services pay to artists in the USA clearly public for several years is the “DigitalMusicNews” platform. In an updated version of their list entitled “What Streaming Music Services Pay” for 2019, the website comes to the conclusion, as in previous years, that Napster pays its artists best of all services, with an average of 0.019 US cents each streamed song. Behind this is Jay-Z's streaming service TIDAL with 0.0125 US cents per stream, followed by Apple Music (0.00735 US cents per stream), Google Play Music (0.00676 US cents / stream) and Deezer ( 0.00640 US cents per stream). Only after that comes Spotify, which pays 0.00437 US cents per stream, but is still ahead of Amazon, Pandora Premium and YouTube, which is far behind at 0.00069 US cents / stream. Incidentally, “DigitalMusicNews” calculates the sums based on information received from real artists, among other things.

How little do independent musicians earn from streams?

The fact that, in view of these sometimes very low pro-stream revenues, you need a lot of played songs to cover your living costs is a particular threat to independent musicians, whose music is often only heard by a small following. This is one of the reasons why there are quite a few musicians in the industry who are open critics of the streaming system. One of the loudest is Portishead founder Geoff Barrow, who noted in a tweet that has now been deleted that he received only £ 1,700 for his music despite 34 million streams on Apple Music, YouTube and Spotify.

Even after that, Barrow led a public debate on Spotify on Twitter - and spoke openly about what people earn with their music on the platform. This discourse, which makes the bare numbers for the music fan public, is important in any case and is probably one of the reasons why individual streaming services are increasing their tariffs or - see Deezer - even aiming for a complete system change.

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One wonders now: is a paid model like the one Deezer is trying to introduce really more lucrative for smaller acts? Since UCPS will not be introduced in Germany until 2020 at the earliest, one can only speculate about the possible effects. But the fact that people are even thinking about how to make the streaming system more attractive for smaller and niche artists can already count as progress.

The streaming service Deezer currently has 14 million active users, including seven million subscribers (as of January 2019). The core markets for Deezer are Germany, France and Brazil. For comparison: Spotify has 232 million users, including 108 million subscribers in 79 countries (as of June 30, 2019).