Sick of Free? Spotify Pays 3 Times More on Premium Streams

Updated, 12:15 pm PCT: Spotify has contacted us to clarify that Adele’s ‘Rolling In the Deep’ has been available since release, something we did not mention.

Most Spotify users are free Spotify users, and that’s a serious drag on artist payouts. As part of a broader set of payout stats shared by UK-based artist distributor Ditto Music, it turns out that Spotify’s premium subscribers are worth triple the amount to artists and labels.  The only problem is that there’s no way to separate these groups, based on Spotify’s rules.

Indeed, that explains why it took 18 months (and 22 million albums sold) before Adele’s 21 landed on the service.  According to numerous reports, Adele was actually willing to license Spotify right off the bat – that is, if she could offer the album to premium subscribers only, a deal Spotify refused.

Now, we have an idea why Adele’s camp was so interested in a premium-only deal.  And, why Spotify simply didn’t want to open that Pandora’s box.  Here’s a breakdown of just how much more artists get from premium subscribers than free streamers.

18 Responses

  1. HansH

    Why Sick of Free? Chances of your songs being streamed for free are higher. The ratio Free – Premium is not that bad IMHO

    Also take in mind that this only applies to customers of Ditto Music. If you use CDbaby or Zimbalam you will get other results.

    Zimbalam i.e. pays the same rate for every stream regardless if the listeners uses Free, Unlimited or Premium

    What puzzles me are the mobile streams? Why just $0.0012 for a mobile stream? Mobile streams are generated by Premium subscribers as well! (Unless it’s the (US only) Free Spotify Radio)

    • Casey

      The mobile rate would be what is paid for radio streams for the free iphone app. A would imagine the actual paid premium mobile streams are included under premium rates.

      • HansH

        Check the source at:

        Is Music Your Hobby Or Your Profession?
        The rates are based on 2011 data. In 2011 there was no free radio streaming on mobile apps.

        • Casey

          That’s interesting. I don’t see how that can possibly be right unless they negotiated a really bad contract. I seem to remember finding once that Rhapsody had to pay more for mobile because of extra mechanical fees. I can’t see that Spotify would pay less than for even free streams. In fact that is less than Pandora pays for subscription streams. Maybe someone made a mistake somewhere and mobile royalties are supposed to be in addition to the royalties paid for premium plays? It is just strange….

          • HansH

            It sure is. I have contacted Dittomusic for an explanation. Hope they respond.

    • The Herald

      CDbaby and Zimbalam both take commission so yes, you will get lower results.

      It would be nice to read one digital article without you two ruining the discussion with advertising.

  2. Casey

    People sure love to criticize Spotify’s free service. But I am curious. How much does Myspace’s free-only service pay? Does it even pay for many of the tracks streamed? I know for a fact they do not have royalty agreements for everything on their service, unlike Spotify.

    • FarePlay

      Ah, the better than nothing argument, always so compelling.

      • Casey

        That’s not what I am referring to at all. The Spotify versus nothing debate can be argued all day, but at the end of the day if a person doesn’t like it they can pull their music. I would say most here do have control over if their music is on the service or now.

        • steveh

          So now you pivot to the “if you don’t like Spotify you can take your music off it” argument.

          Sounds like you’ve been studying “Spotify spin doctoring for dummies”. I hear that book is selling well…

          • Casey

            Wow. And people wonder why almost no one gives a damn about the music industry. Maybe it is the atitude? The old “I don’t like what you said, even though I usually only read part of it and often times don’t understand what I did read, so I am going to use some lame insult to show my immaturity.”

  3. better solution

    You don’t need Spotify. You can download the albums you want, for free.

  4. Safe music

    This is the original article, its quite an interesting breakdown of the services. Rdio and we7 have much higher payouts for artists. People dont report on the smaller sites as much

  5. darryl

    “Updated, 12:15 pm PCT: Spotify has contacted us to clarify that Adele’s ‘Rolling In the Deep’ has been available since release, something we did not mention.”

    ha! no PR battle is too small for spotify to fight, apparently.

    • AnAmusedGeek

      So does that mean someone caved on the ‘premium only’ aspect? if so – who? Adele’s camp or spotify ?

      Or was it never really an issue, and the album released with standard spotify terms ?