Platforms: A Stream Pays Artists a Third of a Penny

The charts below represent information gleaned from 2.4 million streams across 29 different platforms from 40 artists/groups. For more on the background and data set, go here.

What’s immediately clear is that Spotify dominates the field, capturing 71% of the streaming activity in the data set, almost 7x as much as the second-place platform, Apple Music.

What’s also clear is that earning meaningful income from these platforms requires an incredible amount of streams. The average per-stream royalty earned in this data set was $0.0032, with royalties varying substantially between platforms. Spotify pays artists $0.0027 per stream.

Imagine a fan falling in love with a new song by their favorite artist, so much so that they listen to it five times a day for 31 days, totaling 155 streams. Among the eight most popular streaming platforms, the most an artist will earn from 155 streams is $1.04. On Spotify, that artist will earn 42 cents.

So what do I do with this?

If you regularly stream music and want your favorite artist to keep producing, make sure to buy something from them! MP3s from Bandcamp or the iTunes store, vinyl, t-shirts, tickets, whatever. The vast majority of artists will never recoup the cost of making an album from streaming royalties alone.

If you’re an artist, do what you can to let your fans know that streaming your music doesn’t offer meaningful support and make it easy for them to buy something from you. It’s true that Spotify’s discovery playlists offer a big boost for a tiny number of artists (the most streamed artist in the data set got 60% of their streams from algorithmic Spotify playlists) but, if you’re not one the lucky few, consider linking to platforms that pay you more when promoting your releases. A stream on Apple or YouTube Music will net you twice as much.