After having conversations with filmmakers that have their films on Netflix, which I always thought would be a great thing for the filmmaker, I found that it’s a trade-off, not a money-maker. By having his/her movie on Netflix, the filmmaker gains exposure but almost no money. Most of the money goes to the distributor that the filmmaker signed with. The hope is that by being on Netflix they’ll get greater exposure and people will be more willing to pay them to make their next movie, not that they’ll receive anything substantial from Netflix. The alternative is doing all the distribution and sales of their film themselves, which gives them more money per sale/viewing of their film but very little exposure and is an incredible amount of legwork.
I’m assuming Pandora/Spotify/etc is the same for musicians: greater exposure in the hopes that people will buy their music and/or see them live, which will be reflected in their label giving them more money to record the next one, but that will net them very little direct money. So while Netflix is sustainable, it doesn’t solve the problem of the artist getting a fair cut of anything. The whole digital system is fucked up, as this article so eloquently describes.