Music Industry

If you pay for a streaming service and download songs for offline listening, how does that work when it comes to royalty payouts?

One of the best things about paying for Spotify, Apple Music, or any of the other streaming music services is that you can download tracks for offline listening. I’ve spend many an hour over the Pacific on airplanes listening to tracks without having to burn up an inflight internet connection.

I really didn’t think much about how artists are compensated for this until I got an email from Graham. He wrote:

I haven’t been able to find out if artists get paid when I download a track or an album. Do they get paid each time I listen to a downloaded track when I’m offline?

A great question. We always hear about artist payouts when we stream something. But if we subscribe (which allows us to have tracks resident on our devices), how does payment work?

I had no idea, so I contacted Jeff Price who is an expert in this area. He writes:

“It’s a great simple question with a loooooong complicated answer.

“First, what country is this play taking place in? Next, is Graham asking about the royalty for the sound recording or the composition? Also, is he asking about (1) A “signed” artists that performs their own song; (2) a “signed artist that performs someone else’s song; (3) a DIY artist that performs their own song: or (4) a DIY artist that performs someone else’s song?

“Each different permutation of the above will have a different answer.

“It also depends on what Graham means by ‘download.’ Did he buy it at iTunes (or another download store) OR does he mean he’s playing it via Spotify/Apple Music/etc when not connected to the internet? (That’s called a ‘conditional download,’ by the way.)

“If it’s a download from an online store (i.e. iTunes), then it’s only a one-time payment. If it’s from a streaming service, then yes.”

There’s more–MUCH more–that Jeff provides in his “Definitive Guide to Spotify Royalties.” Download it here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38321 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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