What Streaming Music Services Pay (Updated for 2017)

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So, how much can you expect to get from Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming platforms?

Music streaming services have helped to spark a revival in the music industry.  This year alone, major labels have reported record-breaking revenue.

But how much are artists actually earning?

We’ve been compiling data on this for a few years.  But getting a comprehensive, overarching look is pretty difficult.  Now, Information is Beautiful has released a new infograph showing how much major streaming services actually pay.  It reflects their best efforts to amass per-stream data into one diagram.

Calculate Your Earnings from Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon, Google Play & More

Two years ago, the team at Information is Beautiful did the same analysis.  They analyzed what it would take for an artist to receive a monthly wage minimum of $1,260. For example, Google Play Music paid out $0.0073 per play; so artists would need 172,206 plays to earn the $1,260.

TIDAL, which paid out $0.007 per play, would require a similar amount.

Artists on YouTube have traditionally received lowest amount.  In 2015, the video platform paid $0.0003 per play.  To earn the minimum wage amount, musicians would need 4.2 million plays on the platform.

Now, Information is Beautiful has updated their list for 2017.

This year, they compared eight major music streaming services: Napster, YouTube, Pandora, Apple Music, TIDAL, Google Play, Deezer, and Spotify.  The team tracked the following information both for signed and unsigned artists:

  • Artist revenue per play.
  • Total users (millions) per platform.
  • Percentage of free users on the platform.
  • Plays needed to earn minimum monthly wage ($1,472).
  • Total annual loss reported by the streaming platform.
  • Annual loss per user.

It’s worth noting that this report doesn’t apply to major artists, as they receive an unreported cut based on their contracts.

And the king of streaming payouts is… Napster?

Napster topped this year’s list with the highest artist revenue paid out per play.  For a single stream, Napster paid out $0.0167 to unsigned artists.  Signed artists received $0.0190.

Compared to its competitors, however, the platform has the second-lowest amount of total users: 5 million.  So it can be difficult to scale that per-play number, but great if you assemble a core Napster following.

To earn minimum wage, an unsigned artist would need 90,000 plays on the platform.  Signed artists need just 80,000 plays.

But why does Napster have higher payouts?  The answer may be that the service doesn’t have a free tier.  In 2015, a Napster spokesperson told TechRadar that a freemium business model simply “isn’t sustainable.”

The company has reported losses, however.  Yet, its losses only amounted to $35 million, the third-lowest on the list.  With five million users on its platform, on average, each user costs Napster $7.78.

Second place in payouts: TIDAL

Despite Jay Z’s massive star power, users have yet to flock to the high-fidelity streaming service.  The company last reported around 4 million users, though it may have inflated its total subscription numbers. The Jay Z-owned streamer pays out $0.0110 per stream for unsigned artists.  An artist on the platform would need 130,000 plays to earn the monthly minimum wage amount.

Signed artists get $0.0125 per play.  They would need 120,000 plays to receive $1,472.

Based on Information is Beautiful’s calculations, only 28% of users on the platform pay for a subscription.  TIDAL last reported an annual loss of $28 million, the second lowest on the list.  Each user costs the company about $6.67.

Third place: Apple Music

In just two years, over 27 million people have subscribed to Apple Music.  It took Spotify nearly a decade to reach 50 million.  While Apple remains secretive about its losses, unsigned artists on the platform can expect to receive $0.0064 per play.  For an unsigned artist to earn $1,472, they’d need 230,000 plays.   Signed artists receive $0.0073 per stream.  They would only need 200,000 plays to earn the monthly minimum wage amount.

Apple didn’t share how much each user costs the company.

The former payout king falls to fourth place

In 2015, unsigned artists on Google Play Music would earn $0.0179 per play.  That number has since decreased to $0.0059.  Signed artists received a slight bump to $0.0068 per play.

Like Apple, Google won’t report on its annual music losses.  That includes how much each user costs the company.  Currently, the service has more than 5 million paid subscribers, and 5 million more on a free tier service (possibly on a trial subscription).

For an unsigned artist to earn minimum wage on the platform, they would need 250,000 plays.  Signed artists would need just 220,000 plays.

Say hello to Deezer

French-based music streaming service Deezer may not have a huge presence in the United States just yet.  However, it is available in over 180 countries.  It also has more than 40 million licensed tracks.

On average, the service pays out $0.0056 per stream for unsigned artists, slightly lower than Google Play Music.  Signed artists reported receiving $0.0064 per play.  It also has 16 million total users, 57% of whom are on a free-tier.  To earn $1,472, an unsigned artist would need 260,000 plays on the platform.  That number drops to 230,000 for signed artists.

Deezer also has the lowest annual loss on the list.  Each user costs Deezer just $1.69.

Et tu, Spotify?

Ahead of their long-awaited IPO, Spotify is currently embroiled in controversy. While the service has the highest number of paid subscriptions, artists often complain about low payouts.  According to Information is Beautiful, the Swedish streamer pays out $0.0038 per stream to unsigned artists.  That means for an artist to earn minimum wage, they would need 380,000 plays on the platform.  Signed artists need 340,000 plays at a per-stream rate of $0.0044.

Two years ago, the service paid out $0.007 per stream.  Unsigned artists would need 180,000 plays to earn $1,260.

The streaming platform has recently locked down long-term licensing deals with major labels.  It also has 140 million total users.  According to Information is Beautiful, 57% use its free-tier service.  The number doesn’t add up, as Spotify last reported over 50 million users.  Roughly 90 or so million use the service.

Losses at the company continue growing, however.  Information is Beautiful calculates an annual loss of $194 million, with each user costing the company $1.39.

DMN’s investigation calculates losses over $600 million.

Struggling Pandora lands in seventh place

Without presenting a clear financial plan, Pandora’s CEO promised investors that the company would turn a profit this year.

On the infograph, Pandora landed in second-to-last place with one of the worst artist payouts.  Per stream, Pandora pays $0.0011.  It also has the second-highest amount of total users, right behind Spotify.  However, an unsigned artist would need 1.2 million plays to earn minimum wage on the platform.  Signed artists would need 1.1 million plays at a per-stream rate of $0.0013.

In addition, the company’s losses also grew to $250 million. Each user costs Pandora Radio $3.20.

Don’t expect to earn money once again on: YouTube

Artists, major labels, and music organizations have long called out YouTube for its paltry royalty payments.  The Google-owned company has defended itself, stating that it has paid out over $1 billion.  The numbers speak for themselves, however.

Two years ago, YouTube paid unsigned artists $0.0018 per play on its video platform.  That number has dropped to $0.0006, the lowest on the list.  Don’t expect signed artists to catch a break.  They receive only $0.0007 per stream.

The platform has one billion users.  The team at Information is Beautiful calculates that only .1% have subscribed to YouTube Red.

For an artist to earn minimum wage on the platform, they would need 2.4 million plays.  While this number remains high, two years ago, unsigned artists would earn $1,260 only after just 70,000 plays.  Signed artists receive $1,472 after 2.1 million plays.

The Google-owned video platform reported a loss of $174 million.  With over 1 billion users, each costs YouTube just 17 cents.

Featured image by Information is Beautiful

[UPDATE] The numbers originally referenced in this piece were for signed artists, not unsigned artists.  The calculations have since been updated to reflect unsigned artists.

38 Responses

    • Chris

      When artist do you mean the performance artist. I have a small record label. So we collect on owning the masters, performance & if we wrote the music all severally. Is this just about the performance artist,

  1. Anonymous

    “Don’t expect to earn money once again on: YouTube”

    This is more true than ever:

    Over the past years, YouTube has removed monetization from all videos that might offend somebody — and that’s a lot of videos!

    So don’t use YouTube if your songs are left-wing, right-wing, feminist, non-feminist, gay, non-gay or have anything else to say about the world we live in today.

    • Anonymous

      Paul, if you see this, could you please delete the letter b from “bsomebody?” It’s part of a ‘bold’-tag that didn’t work for some reason…

    • Murray

      What if your “songs” are just good music ,without political platform ?

  2. Frustrated

    These sorts of articles really need to make it clear what income it includes – combined master income (i.e. label side AND/OR artist side) and whether or not the publishing income is included in the figures or not as well (and even that aspect needs to address whether or not the income presented includes publisher’s share AND/or writer’s share). Let’s always make sure it’s clear!

    • Shlomo

      Agreed. Really break down the royalties. Don’t just sensantionalize the article

    • Tiges


      This is supremely frustrating and is not helpful in educating an industry where it can be a little hard to get your head around how each of the different income streams work. Identifying the two sides of copyright and keeping terminology consistent is crucial.

  3. pjwassermann

    The part about YouTube doesn’t seem to be correct. In my experience 2.1 million YT plays would pay about 120$.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, that’s closer, people don’t watch ads anymore. Why would they…

      And Red never happened.

  4. human

    spotify use to have one of the highest per/stream rate now indies are suffering because spotify left from a per-stream rate of .023×1.43 per premium stream from Jan-Mar 2017 to currently april 2017 of .0034×1.3 per premium stream which is over kill if you ask me….that company needs to be Gutted #AngryAtSpotifyNewStreamingRate


      • WhoIsST

        I have a ton of data dating back a few years to current. I want this data to be used to help educate streaming musicians (myself included). I am currently exploring the idea to remove my music from all but a few of the higher paying platforms and concentrate my marketing to those.

  5. Josh

    These figures seem quite high. Looking at our clients’ most recent statements, our Spotify per stream rates seem to be averaging .002 per stream, NOT $0.0044 per stream.

  6. Greg

    Tidal is very underappreciated. Between the higher payouts to the artists, the highest quality music files, and competitive pricing, it deserves to be much bigger.

    • bb

      agreed i think every one just hates it cause if jay-z it is the same price as spotifty in some cases 9.99

  7. Wheeee

    Whole most of this data centers around on-demand spins, it’s important to note that most of Pandora’s spins are not on-demand.

  8. Anonymous

    When every company is taking a loss, there is still something wrong with the industry — specifically the revenues. Implicitly or explicitly, everyone is still competing with The Pirate Bay. If streamers raised their rates, they would lose their users. It’s not a “free market.” It’s sad that the government will get into your life in a million other ways, but won’t step in to protect musicians’ intellectual property. “SAD!”

    • Dude

      I interpreted annual loss as the amount that company paid to artists per year and not that they have a negative net profit per year. It is labelled poorly but it wouldn’t make sense for Spotify to be in business when they are going into debt by 194 million dollars a year.

  9. Maria Schneider

    Paul, Your math is off by 12 times on some of your calculations. You’re not comparing apples to apples… you start talking about yearly minimum wage and then move to monthly. If you’re talking about “yearly” minimum wage, it would take 1,080,000 plays on Napster, 1,440,000 on Tidal, and so on. And an artist would have to maintain those numbers of views year after year. Please, if you start talking about yearly minimum wage as you do with Napster, then calculate it correctly to for that, and do it for all of them… by the time you get to YouTube, you’d need 25,200,000 per year, every year. It’s absurd. I think you really need to re-post this article and clarify, as it is very misleading unless somebody takes time from their day to calculate this like I did.

    • Bob

      They labeled it as monthly minimum wage in the article, I dunno what you’re complaining about.


    that’s the average. Seen Tidal pay 0.06$ for some territories (probably HiFi sub), so people want your artists get paid, have a tidal hi fi.

  11. Ari Herstand

    What about Amazon?

    And I don’t think these include publishing royalties. It’s worth noting how much each service pays out for mechanicals.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      It’s worth noting how much each service pays out for mechanicals.

      That one’s easy: $0

  12. George Johnson

    Question, is this for 100% of the sound recording copyright…or the 45% that SoundExchange pays the “Artist”?

    Also, does this include the underlying work “music and lyrics” copyright? Thanks, GREAT chart.

    • Suits and Sounds

      Groove Music got some attention a while back for high stream rates. I would also like to see what it’s at now. Thank you!

  13. Anonymous

    Thank you very much for the information. I used it for an essay.

  14. TheDude

    q4-17 spotify was double what you show here for me. I’l check the others when I get a chance