A music artist says Apple Music pays her 4 times what Spotify does per stream, and it shows how wildly royalty payments can vary between services
- Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services drive tons of revenue in the music industry, but they don't pay musicians the same rate per stream for royalties. In fact, there can be vast differences between them.
- Zoë Keating, an independent cellist, publishes yearly breakdowns of her royalty earnings from various streaming services to encourage change in the payment system, which she doesn't believe is fair to some artists.
- Apple Music paid Keating far more per stream in 2019 than Spotify. But she was streamed most often on Spotify.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Spotify and Apple Music are the two dominant players in the music-streaming market and they might seem the same to many consumers, with similar features and pricing.But because of the system by which artists are paid, they can vary wildly in the royalty rates they pay out.
And although Keating earns more per month from Spotify than Apple Music (because she is streamed most often there), she earns four times more per stream from Apple Music.From January to September last year, Keating earned $0.012 per stream from Apple Music, and about $0.003 per stream from Spotify after distributor fees. (Those rates vary.)
Why are the rates so different? The answer lies in the payment system favored by almost every service, which can leave some artists like Keating feeling shortchanged.
Keating earned the most per stream from iHeartRadio in 2019, but was streamed significantly more on SpotifyKeating publishes her yearly streaming earnings in an effort to spark conversation about music royalties and help other artists better understand their finances."I wanted people to see the difference between all of the services," Keating said. "Down at the lower levels, no one knows what everyone else makes and no one knows what services pay. How can you make decisions if you don't know what the numbers are?"
IHeartRadio had the highest pay-per-stream rate for Keating in 2019, at $0.017 per stream, although out of 14 streaming services, Keating was streamed the least on iHeartRadio.
Apple Music, Tidal, and Amazon Music also paid Keating more per stream compared to other services, but she was streamed most often on Spotify and Pandora.Even though she earned four times more per stream from Apple Music than Spotify, she earned more overall from Spotify because her music was streamed most on that platform. In total, she earned $6,800 from Spotify and $5,800 from Apple Music.
How streaming services determine royalty pay for each artist
Streaming services cut massive checks to hitmakers like Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, Post Malone, and other frequent chart-toppers each month, but some smaller artists like Keating feel the payment system isn't fair to them.
Most streaming services pay artists using a system known as pro rata, in which all the money generated from listeners each month is totaled up, then divided proportionally by listening time in order to determine how much each artist on the service should be paid."If you're a popular artist, you're likely going to get more streams just by virtue of the fact that you're popular," said George Howard, a professor of music business at the Berklee College of Music.
"One way to think about it is to think about divvying up a pie," Galbraith says in the video. "For instance, if there are a million eligible streams in a month, and you have 100,000 streams in that month, then your stream share is 10% of the revenue pool, or pie."In other words, if Billie Eilish accounts for 10% of all streams this month, then Eilish gets 10% of the money users paid to Spotify, regardless of which users actually streamed her songs.
But some in the industry prefer a different type of payment system.One alternative is a user-centric system, which means that if one user pays $9.99 a month for Spotify Premium but only listens to independent cellist Zoë Keating, that user's $9.99 would be paid exclusively to Keating."These companies are taking power away from listeners, because listeners don't have any say where their money goes," Keating told Business Insider. "If you only listen to me, I should get all the percentage of the money you spend on music."
Keating shared exactly how much she earned each month from all the major streaming services in 2019, her average pay per stream, and more with Business Insider Prime:
- 'Democracy has prevailed' says Joe Biden as he takes oath as the 46th President of the United States
- PM Modi congratulates Joe Biden, says he looks forward to strengthen India-US partnership
- Democracy has prevailed, says US President Joe Biden in his first speech. PTI ZH AKJ ZH ZH
- Joe Biden takes oath as 46th US President amidst unprecedented security. PTI ZH AKJ ZH ZH
- Kamala Devi Harris creates history as she takes oath as Vice President of USA