Capital idea: The music industry’s revenue model is a tough nut to crack—but one Reno benefactor is inching toward a solution

As music fans posted their end-of-2023 Spotify wrap-ups on social media, some local musicians were reminding us about their love-hate relationship with the platform. 

Liam Kyle Cahill—a Fernley-based folk-rock singer with a longstanding Reno following—had a few good things to say. “Streaming music is infinitely more convenient (than purchasing physical media) for most people”—himself included, he said. “People don’t have to use up storage on their phone for storing MP3s like we all did 10 or 15 years ago.”  

Liam Kyle Cahill Photo/Kris Vagner

Wider distribution is now possible for musicians without major labels behind them, too. But the platform has a major drawback: It pays artists a mere $0.003 to $0.005 per stream. That’s just fine for Drake, Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny, Spotify’s top grossing artists of 2023, with billions of plays per track. For Cahill, who has two albums and several EPs on Spotify and a few other platforms, royalties from streaming work out to around $50 to $100 per year. 

According to Sound Campaign, a global music promotion organization, “in order for you to receive a decent wage from streaming on Spotify, your songs will need to have over 300,000 streams per month.” And Spotify announced in November that it would eliminate royalties entirely for the tens of millions of tracks in its library that have been streamed fewer than 1,000 times annually. 

Other aspects of the industry don’t pencil out for musicians, either. Costs like travel, recording, sound equipment, marketing, order fulfillment and—in Cahill’s case—hiring backup musicians for recording sessions add up. Given slim margins on album sales and live shows for all but a small percentage of top-grossing artists, it’s easy to see why Cahill decided, after three years of touring and recording full-time, that he was happier with a day job. He’s a hydrogeologist by training and currently works as an inspector on construction sites. He still plays concerts and records albums, and his heart is still in it, but not for the bread and butter.  

“It has to be about your love for music and wanting to put a piece of yourself out into the world so that people can see you for who you are,” he said. 

Fans across the globe 

Whitney Myer, a Reno pop-soul artist whose career took off after a 2012 performance on NBC’s The Voice, was surprised when she gained a strong Spotify fan base in Malaysia. She hadn’t done any marketing there; she figures it was a result of her music having been played on television shows like Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance

Whitney Myer Photo/courtesy of Whitney Myer

But even with a track that has more than 225,000 plays—2019’s “Click Ya Heelz”—Myer’s Spotify revenue is supplemental at best.  

“I probably made like 250 bucks off that song,” she said. “That doesn’t even cover studio time, let alone time spent on the craft.” 

Myer worked full-time in music for 15 years, seven of them in Los Angeles.  

“The grind, especially the faster-paced one in L.A., is really hard on your heart,” she said. “I started to feel like I was getting separated from my joy of doing music, and that was too scary of a thing for me. I would rather not have to rely on it as my sole source of income and still be able to have reverence and joy in it.”  

She still performs and records, and she’s also now a real estate agent. 

Cahill and Myer have both made some degree of peace with how hard it can be to sustain a living wage on music alone. “It does not mean a musician isn’t good enough,” said Myer. “I think it’s a combination of perseverance, ego, luck, networking and timing.” 

Said Cahill: “I would think it would be impossible for anyone to come along and just remedy all of the inequities and problems of the music industry. That’s never gonna happen.” 

‘Patronage is our only hope’ 

One local benefactor is trying to be part of a solution. 

Ford Goodman is a retired tech executive who spent most of his career in the San Francisco Bay Area, lived in Sonoma for a few years, and moved to Reno in 2021. As a music fan, he’s partial to Americana, but anything with great lyrics and musicianship is likely to grab his heart. 

“For 40 years, I’ve known that if you hear a great artist in a small venue, it’s life-changing,” Goodman said. “It’s food for the soul. It’s wonderful. And it doesn’t matter what the genre is.” 

Goodman and his wife, Lynn, have hosted house concerts wherever they’ve lived. About 10 years ago, Sean McConnell, a singer-songwriter now residing in Nashville, was surprised the Goodmans weren’t taking half the door when he played a show at their house. The Goodmans, in turn, were shocked to learn how little one of their favorite musicians—one with 14 albums and Spotify plays in the millions—was accustomed to making. 

Up until then, the Goodmans had paid musicians with whatever donations their house concert attendees had thought to pitch in. McConnell’s story gave them a different idea. 

“Patronage is our only hope,” said Goodman.  

He began offering musicians double what they were used to making in a night. “Instead of gaining donations to defray the cost, we would pay the band, and then we’d tell everybody how hard it is to be a national, touring, critically acclaimed musician,” he said. 

I think you can also make the claim that businesspeople have taken every advantage over artists from the beginning of whenever there was an arts business.

Ford Goodman, Co-founder, FOr the song

When the Goodmans moved to Reno in 2021, they brought the patronage model with them. They now own a home in ArrowCreek, the south Reno gated community and country club. They launched an organization called For the Song, whose mission is to attempt to make touring more lucrative for artists. 

For the Song hosts private concerts at ArrowCreek, open to residents and guests only, and still guarantees musicians an upfront rate of approximately double their usual. Goodman also tries to schedule a public show for each artist. When Grammy-nominated Americana artist John Fullbright came to town last summer, he played at ArrowCreek and at the Nevada Museum of Art. When Whitney Myer and Nashville indie-folk singer Addison Agen play at ArrowCreek in February, they’re also slated to play the at Brewery Arts Center in Carson City. 

“Hey, I’m a capitalist,” said Goodman. “I’m a tech executive. And you can make the claim that there’s an oversupply of artists. … But I think you can also make the claim that businesspeople have taken every advantage over artists from the beginning of whenever there was an arts business. 

“I don’t want a penny. I just want them to have a show that makes them some money and builds them some audience. And that’s new. They don’t hear that very often.” 

Learn more about For the Song, visit 

Liam Kyle Cahill is scheduled to play a show with Reno folk singer-songwriter Kasey Christensen at Sierra Hot Springs in Sierraville, Calif., on Saturday, Feb. 24. Follow him on Spotify and @liamkylecahill on Instagram, and visit for more information.  

Whitney Myer is scheduled to play a show with Addison Agen on Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Brewery Arts Center, 449 W. King St., in Carson City. She’ll also play with Reno R&B/hip-hop/soul/jazz collective Cruz Control at the Terrace Lounge at the Peppermill, 2707 S. Virginia St., in Reno, at 7 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 25-27; and at 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 17 at Rum Sugar Lime, 1039 S. Virginia St., in Reno. Follow her on Spotify and @whitneymyer on Instagram.