Since Apple Music is soon to be launched, discussion concerning the effect of music streaming on fans, the industry and musicians themselves has all gone a bit mad. Sure, it was already a huge topic before, but as it’s inevitable when Apple is involved, the hype around the topic has reached another level. All this seems to underline the conviction that streaming can convert people, who’ve been so used to sailing the high seas of torrents, into royalty generators for artists. Or, more accurately, the major labels.

The received wisdom from the music business has been that streaming is the answer to perpetually declining record sales, largely attributed to illegal downloads. The assumption being that it’s more realistic to expect people to pay at least £10 a month for most unlimited music streaming services, rather than to fork out nearly the same amount for records individually. This saving is obviously appealing to listeners, who are also being presented with other options such as using Couponbox, who have discount vouchers for the Google Play streaming service. Yet even as a more limited free user on Spotify for example, money is still generated through ads.

It’s no wonder then, that streaming has become so massive; Spotify alone has 75 million users worldwide, 20 million of which are paid subscribers. With Apple soon to be driving even more listeners to streaming, the potential effect of these services on tackling illegal downloading is huge.

We’re certainly seeing signs of this, with just 4% of Norwegians under 30 downloading illegally in 2014, compared to 20% in 2009 for example. But is it necessarily a good thing for the overall health and sustainability of music?

It’s true that piracy has greatly damaged record sales, and that streaming can help ‘monetise’ users. But the thing is, it’s no big secret that artists themselves aren’t exactly rolling in royalties from streaming. In fact, many major labels own a considerable slice of streaming services and thus enjoy the lion’s share proportion of streaming revenue.

This is nothing new of course. Contention over the fairness of contracts with major record labels was always been a thorny issue, so the problem isn’t necessarily with streaming per se. Nevertheless, the point is that these issues over who benefits financially from streaming, highlights that within the context of record labels at least, streaming services may not be the ideal solution to illegal downloading that they’re cracked up to be. While labels profit from turning illegal downloaders to ad-supported streaming, and listeners gain from the convenience of streaming, the benefit to the artists is often only a paltry 10% of the approximately $0.0084 per stream. .

That’s not to say that streaming doesn’t have its place, but merely that alternatives are also needed for a sustainable post-pirate climate. Luckily, there are already such alternatives in place like Bandcamp, who have provided a platform for pay-what-you want downloads as well as streaming for several years already. More recently, even BitTorrent has launched Bundles, allowing artists greater control to release music directly to fans on their own terms, as was the case with last September’s ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ by Thom Yorke. Both providers take only a very modest cut, yet still offer listeners a viable route away from illegal downloading.

So, in the midst of the noise surrounding streaming at the moment, it’s worth bearing in mind that tackling illegal downloading doesn’t need to come at the expense of the artists. If more artists can harness these existing methods to engage their audiences directly and effectively, many more people can benefit from anti-piracy efforts than is currently the situation.