In the streaming era, music artists depend on services like Spotify and Apple Music to be paid for their music instead of relying on traditional CD sales or digital purchases of music.
Streaming services and musicians have been at odds multiple times – like the time Taylor Swift pulled her catalogue off Spotify in 2019 for the lack of power given to artists. “I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free,” she said back then
American hip-hop artist T-pain also shared the estimates on his Twitter account, lending the claims some amount of legitimacy. It shows how many streams of a single song are required on music streaming platforms for them to make $1.
How much do services pay artistes?
If the numbers are to be trusted, YouTube Music requires the most number of streams (1,250) to pay artist $1 while the age-old Napster requires the least number of plays (53).
The two most common music streaming services in the world are Spotify and Apple Music, and these require 315 and 128 streams of a single song respectively for each artist to make $1. Everybody’s back-up music service Amazon Music pays each artist $1 for every 249 streams.
Alternative services like Tidal Music, Deezer, and Pandora pay artists $1 for 78, 156, and 752 streams respectively.
The numbers reflect the anxiety many artists have shown over making money just through streams. In fact, most revenue for musicians comes through international tours, most of which are currently prohibited due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Numbers match those by Apple and Spotify
The Reddit analysis is close to estimates by Apple in April about how much it pays artists. In a letter to artists, Apple Music claimed that it pays a penny (1 cent) for each stream – meaning that to earn $1, each song must be streamed 100 times. The Reddit analysis puts the number at a close 128.
Even then, Apple Music pays it artists double of what Spotify does. It’s important to note here that Apple Music doesn’t offer a free service and relies on subscription charges to pay artists. Spotify, on the other hand, offers a free tier with ads and generates more streams.