This paper examines the sustainability of the recorded music industry from the perspective of music performers. Music streaming platforms, or digital music service providers (DMSPs), have changed the recorded music industry paradigm since the middle of the 2010s. Business models for performers have evolved from royalty agreements based on sales to more complex remuneration systems based on revenues from a combination of (ad-based) free and paid subscriptions. Previous research has mainly focused on the examination of the business models of streaming services from the point of view of the innovation players (digital platforms) and/or the traditional dominant intermediaries (record labels and publishers). However, not all innovation-driven transformations are sustainable. In this paper, we argue that the sustainability of the main business models in the music industry demands the consideration of the performers’ perspective. We combine a qualitative approach with primary and secondary data sources to investigate the sustainability of existing trends of business models and business practices for different categories of performers, including both monetary values and a description of how revenues are shared. We conclude that DMSPs foster an asymmetric value chain in which the creative players barely capture value while technology-based innovations increase the capability of DMSPs to generate and capture value. Finally, we outline some alternative business models looking for the long-term sustainability of the digital music marketplace.
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