My Band Got 1.4 Million Streams. Here’s What We Got Paid…

Music Streaming: How Much are Artists Getting Paid (Monopoly Illustration)
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Music Streaming: How Much are Artists Getting Paid (Monopoly Illustration)
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Image by Thomas Galvez (CC by 2.0)

Songwriters have long complained about streaming rates on internet radio, with major publishers and even members of Congress getting involved.  But what about on-demand music streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, Google Play Music, Deezer, and Xbox Music?

Just this morning, DMN received this anonymous email from an ‘average american band’ that received more than 1.4 million streams last year.  It goes into heavy detail on a variety of streaming services, not to mention downloads (or, what’s left of them).

Streaming Royalty Email
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Hi Paul.

These are royalty statements from my band for 2015.  We released our first album in February and have been playing out pretty regularly since then.  I don’t want to the publicity so I’d like to remain anonymous.  Plus the rest of my band doesn’t […]
Our marketing plans have shifted since the release.   Early on we REALLY pushed iTunes on business cards at our shows with QR codes to our album on the iTunes Store.  We picked up some decent radio play regionally through mostly college stations and I think that really helped our streaming numbers. 

But as time went on, we started seeing our streaming base grow as we focused more on social media and internet marketing in general.  Now we HEAVILY promote our music on Microsoft Groove and Tidal.
But as you can see, downloads are dead.  Hell, we made more on Microsoft Groove in 4 months than we did in 11 months of iTunes downloads.  And as far as I can tell, we didn’t see ANY downloads form Google Play. 

The numbers we have all appear to be streams. 
Tidal pays really well…when they pay.  As you can see from the numbers below, it looks like they aren’t reporting all the plays we are getting.  I find it really hard to believe that we can get a few thousand plays one month and then under 40 for 3 months in a row and then all of a sudden shoot up to over 8,000. 

We didn’t’ change anything we were doing.  But I guess this is why they are being sued, right?



19 Responses

  1. What about other royalties?

    To see an accurate depiction of everything streaming platforms pay, this anonymous writer must also share an analysis of their PRO & publishing (ASCAP or BMI, etc) and Soundexchange, and mechanical royalty if they collect on those.

    Royalties might only be showing performance royalty.

    • dude

      those PRO royalties are little 1/20th of what they are getting from the streaming services. i don’t think it is a significant number worth reporting on.

  2. Alicia

    I’m really bothered by that Tidal figure. That makes no sense that this guy would get 11,000 plays in one month, and then three months later get 9 plays. Something is up with that. Can someone audit Tidal’s tracking process? Independent musicians don’t have the resources to do something like that, and I doubt that the major labels would want to unless they themselves thought that Tidal was withholding royalties. Is there some government group that people should complain to to initiate an audit?

    • GGG

      To me it looks like they ‘account’ streams oddly, and/or their system fucks up reporting. Certainly worth investigating for sure, but I feel like it’s a simple/stupid reason. Hence why two months get huge plays (8K and 11k) while the months preceding them are so slim.

      • Alicia

        But if they can’t figure out what month it is, then how can they figure the number of plays? That seems to me like it would be borderline illegal to report that sales happened in one month when they actually happened in another.

        • your_face

          And, frankly, if they can’t be bothered to report their streams in the correct months there’s no reason to believe they are even counting correctly.

          Based on the pattern only existing with Tidal it doesn’t seem to be the distributor’s fault.

        • GGG

          You’re right, it’s definitely not the most trustworthy system.

          It could be something like what Bandcamp does. If you’r not familiar, they take 15%, but the way they do their weird accounting is by basically give you 5-6 sales entirely, keeping track of how much you owe, then every 7th sale, taking as much as they need to cap off their 15% of that batch. Instead of taking 15% per transaction. It’s confusing and makes reading your sales statements annoying as fuck, but it’s still accurate.

          There could be something similar going on, so certain plays take longer to account for, which then cross in to another month.

          Though, having said all that, regardless of whether that’s right and they are financially totally on the up and up, it’s nice to see accurately play reports to see if you can match them with what sort of promo/shit you have going on.

    • Me

      This isn’t completely unheard of. I’ve seen statements from Orchard that have multiple months of one service (like Amazon, Spotify, etc.) after missing a previous period.

      • Alicia

        Right, but don’t the normally still break them up into the individual months for reporting even if they report several months at once? I use DistroKid, and that’s they way they’ve done it if they get multiple months at once. A few months ago they paid like two or three months worth of Google royalties all at once, but they still broke down what streams came from what month.

        • your_face

          Seconded, I’ve seen the same thing on DK. They’ll be lazy about invoicing but when everything shows up it is still marked correctly.

        • Me

          Yeah, Orchard has separate columns in their statements for “Statement Period” and “Activity Period.” It could be that this band’s statement has a similar breakdown, but they may not have noticed it and are just sharing statement summaries.

          • Alicia

            If that were the case, though, then wouldn’t it have appeared on other store’s stream counts? It’s not uncommon in the least for stores to pay multiple months at once. It seems odd that, if what you’re saying is true and this band is confusing “Statement Period” and “Activity Period”, then wouldn’t it be more than just Tidal?

          • Me

            No, it was probably just Tidal slow reporting to their distributor. Just because one service is late reporting, it doesn’t mean all are.

    • Roy P. Perez©

      Tidal was most likely rigging numbers to sell it off. They never had the subscriber base to command these numbers. It never really took off, so it makes sense that streams dropped dramatically after. No?

    • Name2

      Yes, Tidal is obviously stealing.

      Or, you know – one month they got buzz from a popular playlist curator or major-media or Web placement, and the next month… everybody moved on.

  3. freefinger

    Here isthe thing about musicians in this time. If you want royalty checks and live off of them…. Change your career, do something else.

    If you want to live off of music… Tour and tour hard. While this anonymous band are saying they can’t live off of these royalties, true.. They need to get the bigger picture where has 5 years ago their songs may have only played a few time off some local radio stations if the Director of programming actually liked them so they would get a quarter of the play they now get so getting only to be heard by a small portion of the population. Now they have the possibility of being heard by millions of people thus growing their fan base and increasing the chance of selling twice the amount of tour tickets and making them profit from their art.

    Also…. Couple of years ago Napster didn’t give them one penny for the play they got. So now they do have a small amout coming in.

    It’s a double edged sword for artists. On one hand you have a small base of fans but may make good money off of royalties, but then only being able to fill small venues in a year and getting smaller paychecks for these shows.. On the other hand you get small amounts from these services yet suddenly have the fan base to be able to fill major venues and make good money..

    Not an easy subject if you only see the negative side.

    I’ve seen an unknown band called Walk Off The Earth go from small town musicians to a world touring band because the 5 members decided to play a song on one guitar and post this on Youtube… So while they aren’t getting the “easy sit on my ass and wait for the money” royalties, they can now live off of the money from touring.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Glad you brought up Walk Off the Earth. Just so striking to me that even 10 years ago, those guys would have been a fun local group, most likely, with limited ability to take their ‘novelty’ wider. Now their incredibly creative approach is known worldwide… wow. Things like that make me think so differently when people bring up how much this industry is ‘in crisis’ or ‘screwed up’.

  4. Dissent Now!

    Oh yeah touring is great for the 1%… I prefer being lied to my face. Musicians have been devalued….you’re career is next!

  5. Music Specialist

    I am watching artist get upwards of 2.5 million streams per WEEK, so 1.4 million in a year is low to say the least. My immediate suggestion is to place your songs within many more streaming networks, mobile phone networks and to “of course” get off your ass and jam (LIVE). The idea that you can have a career the same way it has been done over the past 20 years have now changed. Embracing digital streaming, download, audio AND video while increasing the many avenues where you can be discovered and heard is critical. The system is not going to revert back and in fact it will only morph into something different within the next 5 years. Your career must do the same thing.