It would be great if Spotify paid artists more, but…well, it’s complicated.

[This was my weekly column for – AC]

The future of music is streaming. It’s just too convenient for fans and too profitable for record labels to ever think of it going away.

The ability to frictionlessly access millions of songs from the whole of human history — the fabled “celestial jukebox” predicted years ago — has been a reality for a generation. And with labels deriving over 65 per cent of their revenues from streams, they love it.

Just last week, Sony had to boost its annual music revenue forecast by $500 million because so many people are streaming music during the pandemic. Universal, the biggest of the three majors, is earning around $20 million a day from streaming. Add in Warner and you have the majors raking in more than $1 million per hour. (All dollars U.S.)

The problem, however, is that little of this is trickling down to the artist. And with touring completely cut off by the pandemic, creators need all the revenue they can find. Unfortunately, little of it coming from streaming.

This is why there’s a new petition in the U.S. called Justice at Spotify, which is seeking to boost the minimum payout per stream to at least one cent. That represents a significant increase from the current rate, which averages to around $0.004 per listen — that’s 0.4 cents or four-tenths of a penny. At this rate, a musician would need around 250 streams to earn just a dollar, or about 650,000 streams a month to make the equivalent of $15 an hour. An increase to one cent per stream would — well, do the math.

Keep reading.

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.

One thought on “It would be great if Spotify paid artists more, but…well, it’s complicated.

  • November 2, 2020 at 11:29 am

    I’ve been “frictionlessly accessing millions” of songs for years on the pirate bay. For bands I really like, I actually buy their releases on vinyl or even CD from time to time. Knowing that if I stream a song an artist may get fractions of a fraction of a fraction of a cent, I don’t really feel bad. How many streams would equal my physical purchase?

    I understand that I am an outlier and streaming is beneficial in some ways. But also, when you have access to everything at any given time, it cheapens the experience.

    Streaming is just another bill and most of that money is going to shareholders and not artists.

    Buy music is you really like a band.


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