Indie Artist With 4.3 Million Spotify Plays Receives Check for $5,078

How much is Spotify paying these days?
  • Save

How much is Spotify paying these days?
  • Save
Image by Thomas Galvez (CC by 2.0)

If you’re trying to live off your Spotify spins, stop it right now.

Taylor Swift makes $400,000 off Spotify in a weekend.  But nearly everyone else making bubkes.  Which means if you’re hoping to making streaming your breadwinner, you’re probably snacking on crumbs.

Enter the latest independent artist to share a royalty statement with Digital Music News.  And, hopefully share some intel with the musician community in the process (Spotify doesn’t share per-stream data).

Here’s the top-level for ‘Artist X,’ an independent musician who controls all of his copyrights.  Basically, if you own all of your copyrights, you don’t have to share your royalties with a label, publisher, or co-writer.  Which means Artist X is getting 100% of the royalties after Spotify takes its (approximately) 30% cut (his distributor, Tunecore, takes an upfront fee).

Total spins: 4,294,962

Total Tunecore payout: $5,077.87

Here’s a quick screenshot of Artist X’s Tunecore summary page. The part on the left shows downloads.  The part on the right breaks down the total streams and amounts paid for those streams.

A few Apple Music, Deezer, and other streaming platform spins are mixed into this.  But its overwhelmingly Spotify.

Tunecore royalty statement
  • Save

So how does this compare?

This seems really low, but there’s the summary right in front of his face.  At this stage, Artist X thinks this might be a payout problem involving Tunecore, given some discrepancies with his Spotify Dashboard totals.  We’ll keep you updated on what he finds out (if anything).

Raise Your Hand If You Still Like Music Downloads

But it’s really hard to do an ‘apples to apples’ comparison, given that royalty rates change all the time.  Last year, we received a royalty statement from an unsigned artist that crossed 1 million streams.  But those royalties dated back to 2013, when payouts were reportedly much higher.

Hey, more data is better than less, so here’s what that artist reported to us:

Total number of streams: 1,023,501

Total revenue: $4,955.90

Specific time period accounted: 10/15/2013 – 2/15/2017

So, that’s about the same payment with roughly one-quarter the amount of streams.  Which means that either payouts are really plummeting, or Artist X isn’t seeing his full royalty check.

And for those that really want to dig in, here’s the complete royalty breakdown for February 2017.  We’ve removed identifying information.

39 Responses

  1. DMN Running out of Anti-Spotify Headlines

    “At this stage, Artist X thinks this might be a payout problem involving Tunecore, given some discrepancies with his Spotify Dashboard totals.”

  2. Jorge - Symphonic Distribution

    Wow, I sure hope that this is a bug of their systems or some other problem. We pulled a report from our system, one song made 3.6M plays on Spotify throughout all available territories and it generated 15k USD. So there’s definitely some sort of problem there. The other thing can be where the streams came from? Potentially if its a territory other than the US maybe the play rates may be lower but looking at the above, I see a lot of plays on the US side. Let’s hope for the best here.

    • Aliem

      Managing an indie artist through Symphonic and I can tell you that Q1 rates you just released are ridiculous. By previous estimates the Spotify payout should have been around $400 with 98% USA plays and streams at about 200,000. This payout was just about $175….

      • Anonymous

        You may be getting ripped off. While the avg spotify per play rate is dropping it seems, it is certainly not down to .001. Jorge’s post puts him right around the .004/stream rate which is what I’m still getting, too.

      • Jorge - Symphonic Distribution

        Just seeing this now. I’d love to look into your account more in detail here Aliem…. perhaps, if you have an issue, feel free to report it directly to me at and we can check out the originals and clarify any confusion.

  3. Anonymous

    Geez, that’s what YouTube pays (when YouTube pays at all, of course (which it doesn’t if your video/song is the slightest bit controversial)).

  4. musician

    streaming is the new scheme which sheists artists out of money. should put albums in download only services, such as itunes but not apple music. then the only way people can get the song is paying 99 cents.

  5. human

    why do you need to pay for a song when for 9.99 per month on various services, you can listen all day long every day to endless numbers of songs? well then dont put the song on the streaming service.

  6. PG

    The artist should ditch streaming and live off the $57 from downloads.

  7. stop smoking bad weed

    quite impossible he or she has so little downloads and so much streams, the scam is not spotify or tunecore, the scam is the artist here, probably bought that streamify crap thing lmao.. just fuck off already with this anti spotify propaganda

    Tunecore is legit as fuck, maybe not cheap but they are the best.

    • rome

      until they kick you claiming your streams are fraud cause your not jay z…i was told spotify reported me for streaming abuse yet i was able to put up the same album tunecore booted out with a new distributor and spotify accepted it AGAIN so how was i reported by them and they accepted to same album tunecore claimed they reported…….just be aware

  8. Just Another Voice

    It’s likely a Tunecore payment bug, but that this artist is distributed by Tunecore shines a light on something artists should keep in mind when selecting a distributor. Some distributors who don’t participate in the revenues generated by their distributed artists (by taking a percentage of revenues generated) aren’t incentivized to fight hard for the best possible rates from the services. Unless/until artists become much more aware about how digital royalties are actually generated at streaming services (and where value in these deals can be hidden) why would anyone expect for Tunecore to care (or their parent company Believe Digital care) about pushing for every possible penny at the negotiating table? Artists and the press are content to blame it on Spotify and meanwhile Tunecore is making their upfront delivery fee from hundreds of thousands of artists.

    It’s not revolutionary thinking: you get what you pay for in life.

    Tunecore – and some others but TC is by far the largest – only makes THEIR money when they agree to a license. So, while Tunecore is an easy and inexpensive solution to get to market the artist should be wondering who is really profiting and who is really the priority for the people agreeing to these license terms.

  9. DavidB

    On these figures, Spotify is paying out less than .2 of a US cent per stream. A couple of years ago they claimed in their ‘transparency’ statement that on average they paid out between .6 and .8 of a cent per stream. In their update of that statement last year they quietly dropped any reference to a figure (not so transparent now, hey.) So either their previous statement was BS, or their payments per stream really have plummeted, or there is some glitch in this particular set of figures. I notice that the pay-per-play on Apple Music is only slightly higher, which is surprising as Apple is paid-only, with no freeloaders to drag down the average.

  10. Red Buttons

    This article does not mention if the artist owned 100% of the master or if they own 100% of the publishing??
    If they own 100% of both then their gross should be at least 12K-15K and maybe higher.
    They also do not mention what the 4 million Spotify plays generated in performing rights royalties???

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Owns 100% of everything: publishing + recording

      • Chris

        So what is being represented here is 100% of publishing , since they should be collecting quite a bit more via sound exchange. Not exactly the ‘full picture’.

    • Andrew Robinson

      I’m glad someone caught this, because I was thinking the same thing. If they own 100% of the composition and 100% of the recording, not only would they be getting money from tune core but if they registered thier song through a PRO you’d also get performance royalties and further more if you register with Harry Fox you could get that mechanical license money as well. So theres also a possibility that Artist X doesnt know all the ways they can retrieve their royalties

  11. Steve McQueen

    Why are we continually picking at streaming when old radio still does not pay royalties against their respective ad revenue?

    • Paul Resnikoff


      *US* terrestrial radio doesn’t pay on *recordings* but does pay on publishing.

    • Jim


      Radio doesn’t pay mechanical royalties.

      Also, companies who buy ads on radio don’t have to pay any type of sales tax for the ad time they’re buying. Why is it that ads aren’t taxable, on radio, tv, magazines and newspapers?

  12. John Byers-Haynes

    This “indie artist” is using a payola service. 2,565,286 alleged streams in February and they can only sell 1 album and 12 tracks? And they sell the same amount in March when they allegedly have over a million streams? FAKE NEWS.

    • noobz

      not payola.. even worse. Bots services like streamify … Whack. All of these are freemium spins, look in april he has 30 streams lol. This guy is a joke and is crying he invested probably over 2k $ on fake streams and thought he’s gonna get a lot more

  13. Creator of the Audio Protection Device...

    What’s disgusting to me is the fact I’ve come up with a solution to music piracy…and am offering complete control over sales and distribution. So far, I’ve ran it past Universal, Sony, Warner, Big Machine, and Blackened Records…NONE of them have even bothered to take an interest. They apparently don’t care about their artists income. They cash in on licensing deals, and the artists get hosed. But, if the musicians don’t take an interest in a legitimate solution either, then perhaps my attempt is futile.

  14. Numbers don't lie

    This is a very easy thing to track unless this artist have landed a placement on a HUGE curated Spotify playlist he obviously bought streams in Feb-Mars 2017!

  15. Matt L

    The $$ pool is not growing, yet there are always more “fishes” (songs/artists) added-in, deluting the share (%) one can expect to get.
    The fundamental issue is what is being charged for content access. Streaming can work but not if everything is available for free, or at ridiculously low fees ($0.99 for unlimited acces for months). It is a dumbest economic model: paying structure vs. a free substitute. Scarcity drives value, so make people want music again, and stop giving it away while wondering why no one pays for it.

  16. Chris.

    For reference – I manage an artist who very recently clocked 1.6 Million Spotify streams…. For those ammount of plays the revenue generated was £5430.38 – Distibution company – Ditto.

  17. Wackojacko

    Well, i did the math with my average per stream income owning all the rights.

    Only minus i distribute for free so the distributor gets a piece of the pie also.
    But that’s oure own choice, you can also pay 10$ a track and get 100% of royalties.
    So 4,294,962 streams would roughly equal 17200,-$!

  18. some distribution guy

    I run a boutique distribution network myself. So I guess I can give you real facts and numbers on what Tunescore (and most other distribution companies) do.

    Live data from within our network show ‘Artist Y’ (I chose one with similar plays) has 3.843.351 plays on Spotify. Payout amount is 7.059,42€ = 8.386,76$ (that’s what we paid to ‘Artist Y’).

    Thats a 0.0028$/play rate.

    From this we calculate what Tunecore should be paying to ‘Artist X’:
    0.0028$ x 4.294.962 = 12.025$ (!!)

    Given that the numbers from my distribution network contain a distribution fee, Tunecore (who charge upfront fees) should be paying 100% royalties to ‘Artist X’, which makes about 13.350$

    So, Tunecore: where are the remaining 8.000$ you stole from your artist? Why do you charge your clients ‘upfront fees’ AND a 60% distribution fee on top, despite your advertisements and contracts saying something different? And that does not only count for Tunecore, the list of fraud in the distribution sector is endless.

    That’s the reason why we (a bunch of artists and labels together) created our own distribution system – this rip-off has to stop!

    • Anonymous

      calc error: it should be 0.00218$/play and a total of 10.402,00$ due from Tunecore to ‘Artist Y’ (my anger about this repeated theft carried me away and copy/pasted wrong numbers).

      So, Tunecore: 10.402,00$ due instead of 5.077,00$ = 50% distribution fee on top!!

  19. Hpscafe

    Well since he owns 100% of his copyright. It might actually be HARDER. For someone to get all their royalties doing it all by themselves. Most of his streams are foreign so if he hasn’t registered with other societies outside the US then that may be the reason for their royalties not being collected. Which is why it’s better to work with Publishing companies that are associated with other societies globally then doing all of it yourself. Especially if you’re mechanical royalties. Songtrust only takes 15% which isn’t a bad deal considering that major labels usually take 30-50%.

    • Andrew Robinson

      Ditto… if someone does it by themselves they would have to register under so many PROs which is what a publisher does. It’s easy to distribute your music to a site that’s going to put it through to all the streaming companies but if you dont claim the performance royalties, or mechanical royalties then you lose out on that money because tunexore won’t get that money for you. Tune core and distrokid are distributors more than anything. So spotify and these other streaming sites are making bank when you have tons of indy artist doing it on their own and dont register their songs through a PRO as well

  20. Anonymous

    I got paid 1333 for 500k stream plays but my music got taken down for some reason