Humbolt, a new ‘ethical’ streaming music service promising greater revenue for artists and focusing on indie content, has launched recently in the hopes to provide a streaming business model with higher returns for artists than other sreaming services. For example, industry titan Spotify pays artists roughly $0.00437 per stream, while the lion’s share of revenue goes to major labels, tech companies, and radio stations.
Humbolt, launched on iOS and Android, costs $2.99/month and allows users to subscribe to individual artists, create playlists, and preview tracks ad-free. Humbolt currently promises deals with over 2 dozen labels, including Bloodshot Records and Omnian Music Group.
The exclusive indiependent focus of their catalog may have drawbacks for some consumers, however, explicitly omitting music from Sony, Universal, or Warner Music Group. Additionally, while the affordable price and targeted catalogs are key draws, the company has yet to establish a strong reputation or make clear how it intends sustainable profitability. Indeed, the service markets itself as relatively unconcerned with high levels of profit:
‘We will not be rich off Humbolt, unlike others, we give too much money back to our partners. We hope to make meaningful livings doing what we love while supporting an industry we value so much.’
The high rate of return for indie artists and their often lower public profile may make a strong and sustainable launch more difficult for a company trying to build a reputation. Simultaneously, with the music industry generating $43 billion in sales last year with only 12% going to artists, many artists have clamored for a different and more equitable model. If it succeeds in getting off the ground, perhaps a streaming model like this what artists are looking for.