Friday, February 19, 2016

Album Review: Down Foggy Mountain by The Hillbilly Goats

The internet has changed the music world in a lot of ways. One area that is drawing more and more attention is the streaming music services. As we've heard from artists like Taylor Swift the streaming music services provide very little money for the vast majority of artists. Let's look at the numbers. Spotify says they pay a range per play for artist between $0.006 to $0.0084 (you can read the details of how they actually get to the numbers that artist get paid here). Anyhow what it comes down to is essentially a per click payout on average of around $0.0072. So if you are an artist and you accumulate 100,000 listens on Spotify in a given month you are getting a check for around $720. That's a lot of listens and not much money for the artist. Now if the artist owns the rights to their music then they will make more because the real payment goes to the owner of the music who then pays the artist based on their agreed contract. So for an artist who owns their music rights maybe they'll make a few thousand in a month where they get 100,000 plays. As Spotify makes more money, gets more subscribers, the payouts will increase. According to Spotify's own calculations if they double their number of subscribers their payout amounts would go up by about 6x. So that $720 would become $4,320, a big improvement.

Still we are talking about an artist who is averaging 100,000 listens a month, that's a big number. One thing I liked about rdio is they used to actually show you the numbers for how many plays an artist was getting. Artists like The Hillbilly Goats are getting at most in the low thousands a month so we are talking at most a few dollars a month from a service like Spotify. So you might wonder well why would an artist like The Hillbilly Goats even put their music on Spotify. Well there is another value here. How does an Australian bluegrass band get a following in the United States and around the world. That's right through those few thousand streams a month on Spotify. Those streams mean that they can reach a broader audience and so make money when they tour. Except for major artists musicians have always struggled to make a living off of music sales no matter what the platform, but at least through something like Spotify a band like The Hillbilly Goats can reach a larger audience and thus build a fan base and make money the way bands have always made real money through performing.

Ok this gets us around to the actual album review. This is a husband, wife team out of Australia who have come to performing in their mid 30's. Oddly they have picked Appalachian mountain music as the roots of their sound. They blend in other types of folk music from other parts of the world, and an odd punk feel to their music that makes you realize maybe bluegrass performers are at heart punk musicians.  Fast, hook heavy, and short songs, that's the heart of punk and also the heart of bluegrass.

This is a fun album and can easily be put on as house cleaning music.  I'll probably play this one this weekend.  Following the Rhapsody rating method I give it 2 out of 5 stars for Not Bad.


  1. This all makes such good sense. Thanks for putting it together. Terrific, terrific idea to use this review as the opportunity to discuss the streaming compensation.

  2. Here is an interesting piece written a few years ago about how the different services pay artists. It should be noted that Napster was bought by Rhapsody and Zune was shut down as a music service replaced by Groove.