When a London computer scientist called Tim created the world wide web 25 years ago, he could hardly have envisaged what effect it would have on music.

Although the days of listening to records in shops are far from over, the majority now consume their music electronically, swapping CDs and vinyl for MP3s and FLAC files, recorded radio shows for tinny YouTube recordings.

It’s an understatement to say the Internet has changed the way we consume music. Streaming music is big business now. A study published this year by the Intellectual Property Office indicated that 15.6 million UK internet users accessed music online, with 12 million users streaming music. With Apple, Amazon, Google, Spotify and Jay-Z’s Tidal all in on the act, among many others, there’s plenty of choice of which streaming service to give your bandwidth to.

Streaming music has its benefits. It’s great for getting recommendations, seeing what others are listening to, and making your music accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. And it’s popular. Over 11 million people have signed up to trial Apple Music since its launch on 30 June and there are over 75 million active Spotify users.

With so many people subscribing, you would think musicians would benefit financially. Data journalist David McCandless, through his Information Is Beautiful website, recently conducted research to show how many streams an artist would need to earn the US monthly minimum wage of $1,260 (£807). Figures vary across platforms, but an unsigned artist would need around 180,000 streams on Spotify per month, compared to 1,117,021 for a signed artist.

Statistics aren’t the only evidence to back up the real effect this has on artists. Local musician Nat Johnson makes her music available on Spotify, but she doesn’t reap the benefits.

“As a consumer, it’s amazing. You can listen to pretty much whatever you want, whenever you want. But I would feel a lot better about listening this way if I knew that artists weren’t getting screwed by it.

“The royalty rates are insulting. When my statement comes through I wonder why they bother. It’s always less than 1% of the total. I’ve yet to make back even one month’s worth of what I give to Spotify. That makes me resent paying for their service. They’re making money from my music.”

What can be done to improve the relationship between artists?

“Streaming services need to start respecting artists, and realise that if they don’t offer a better deal, new artists won’t be able to afford to make music that’s good enough quality to stream in the first place. Music itself will suffer.”

It’s not just Nat who disapproves of streaming services’ tactics. Thom Yorke recently referred to Spotify as “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”, and Taylor Swift slated Apple Music for not paying royalties to artists during their three-month trial period, causing the tech giants to reverse their decision and cough up.

Streaming doesn’t pay artists well – that much has been established – but what would happen if your music wasn’t available on streaming services? Nat believes it may alienate you from audiences.

“There’s a fear that if you’re not putting your music on Spotify, that you’re invisible to new audiences. If you don’t put your music out there, someone will just do it on your behalf. If people want something these days, they’ll get it.”

According to Spotify, $65 more is spent on music by their premium subscribers each year, compared to the average US listener, a statistic that is questionable at best. Despite all these arguments for and against, one thing is clear. Streaming is great for the consumer, but for artists to feel like releasing their material to streaming services is worth it, a lot more needs to be done.

Does that mean an artist-led platform or a combination of an artist and corporate platform? Trying to fairly address royalty rates for artists is certainly acknowledged by many music fans, but would they be willing to pay more for a service that treats smaller artists better, or do the majority just want a cheaper service with as wide a selection of music as possible?

Do you get the feeling the artists are swimming upstream?

The topic of streaming will be explored at If It’s Played, It’s Paid, part of SensoriaPro, featuring Crispin Hunt (Longpigs), journalist Rhian Jones and Daniel Jones (PRS for Music), on Friday 2 October.

Brady Frost