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Giving musicians a revenue boost in the age of streaming media

From Napster to Pandora to Spotify and even Amazon, streaming music services give listeners access to music from all over the world. But they can hurt musicians struggling to put pennies in their pockets and force them to find new ways to make money.

"It's hard to be an artist in the age of that stuff. You know, the money we make is slim to nil," Milo Greene band member Graham Fink said in an interview with CNBC at the Culture Collide music festival in San Francisco.

"Music, recorded music, has never been something artists made a lot of money with. From traditional records, to CDs to record deals, it was pennies. It's always been that way," said Alan Miller, founder of Collide, which organizes the Culture Collide festivals.

Musicians and industry experts say artists have long been relying largely on concert ticket sales, T-shirts and the like to make money.

"Touring is a big deal … if [fans] come to a show and then buy a T-shirt or buy a CD, that's a huge win for us," said Robbie Arnett, another singer and songwriter with Milo Greene, which performed at Culture Collide.

Milo Greene’s Robbie Arnett jams out at the Swedish American Music Hall at the Collide Music Festival in San Francisco.
Jeniece Pettitt | CNBC
Milo Greene’s Robbie Arnett jams out at the Swedish American Music Hall at the Collide Music Festival in San Francisco.

But more recently, bands have found new ways to make money, according to Miller. Name brands such as American Express, Red Bull and Converse have partnered with musicians in advertising, noted trade magazine Advertising Age.

And streaming services have actually offered musicians help with revenue generation. Spotify and Pandora, for instance, offer musicians data on their listeners' habits, album by album and song by song, helping them understand which songs resonate with fans, Fink noted. "So it's always nice as an artist to be informed about what your fan base is connecting with," he said.

Miller said all streaming services should be providing listener data to musicians for marketing purposes, but that's just the first step.

"I think the bigger challenge is going to be how an artist uses that information. So is that information easily digestible or easy to access and easy to execute on? Or is it just a big spreadsheet that they're not really going to know what to do with?" Miller said.