Here’s an Artist Who Says He’s Making a Living Off of Spotify

A musician asked people on Twitter if anyone had actually earned money from Spotify.  The answers may surprise you.

Musicians, including Taylor Swift, have long slammed Spotify for its low royalty payments.  According to multiple studies, they may have a point.

Earlier this year, the RIAA claimed that the Swedish streaming music platform pays out about $7.50 for 1,000 plays.  The team at Information is Beautiful (IiB) found that unsigned artists would earn the monthly US minimum wage amount of $1,472 after 340,000 streams.  At $0.0038 per play, they would earn just $3.80 after 1,000 streams.

So, from an independent artist’s point of view, does Spotify really pay enough to make a living?  Yes, apparently.  Yes, it does.

Living off of Spotify.

With 2017 drawing to a close, Portishead band member Geoff Barrow posted an interesting question on Twitter.  Had any musician made at least £500 ($676) from Spotify?

Barrow’s idea was to start a Spotify lottery.  Each night, Portishead fans would choose a band.  Then, they, along with the band, would stream their music overnight to help them earn money.

Musicians and fans replied to the tweet, slamming the company for its horrendously low payouts and weak business model.  Some told Barrow that they struggled just to earn at least £8 ($11) from the service.  Another linked to a Digital Music News article showing that Spotify’s top executives earned 7-figure incomes.

Some artists, however, readily defended the company.  Songwriter duo Kayhan Golkar & Antrom Kury tweeted,

Spotify has… massively impacted our growth through discover weekly and release radar in markets we would never imagine being exposed to.  And we see direct engagement on social media with a lot of them.

While the band doesn’t have a direct line of communication with Spotify, the duo explained how they earned money.

We chose TuneCore as a distributor so we take 100% of the royalties though and we are not on a label so we see that money.  I agree the model could use higher payouts, but I remain optimistic for bands – especially avoiding s–t record deals.

EDM producer Birocratic agreed.  Currently based in New York City, he explained that he earns double his monthly rent in royalties from Spotify.

In addition, Car Seat Headrest founder Will Toledo said that he earns more than enough from the platform.  In fact, he can live off of it.

Since 2013 I’ve made almost $30k from Spotify streams of non-matador albums.  I use Distrokid.  I use Distrokid.  Income from those streams (again, not even counting my two most recent albums) would be enough to support me month to month.

He added that the service may help artists earn money from people who may not want to purchase music.

My take is that a lot of streams come from people who aren’t necessarily interested in paying for music on an individual level.  The idea is to get them interested enough that they do buy the album, but streams can make a difference in dealing with less committed listeners.

Not everyone agreed, however.  Outspoken Spotify critic Thom Yorke had previously called Spotify “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.”  He retweeted Barlow’s question to lambast the company.

Yorke clearly ignored the replies of Toledo, Golkar, Kury, and Birocratic.


Featured image by stux (CC0)

12 Responses

  1. oh good lawd... really?

    So a band who has made $30k over four years is defending the payments? Uhm, okey… That’s $7,500 a year, or $625 a month. That’s also 6.6m streams… soooo yeah… totally a great new model to support musicians… and BTW the only artists saying that they’re happy with the money are SOLO EDM/DJ artists… I don’t see any bands here bragging… splitting that $625 a month might wear then for a band of four…

    • Deron

      Agreed. BUT, there is some good info here, which is EDM is selling so… perhaps try a different niche & see how it works on Spotify? “Streaming” is much better for music fans then the creators & it looks like the successful artists are the ones who were early adopters to the platform. Your music can be on as many streaming & digital distribution platforms as possible, but still the question remains, how do you get found? Build your brand by selling directly from your website and cut out the middle-man, thus focusing on YOU rather then THEM. You’re the one who does all the work, so why the heck do we, as musicians always give away our stuff to third-parties & then expect results? It’s a business and they are interested in building their name, not yours & making money. (hence why the majors have a big stake invested in all streaming platforms.) How do you rise above the noise? You focus on YOU & start building your name.

      • Try Again Please

        Maybe not every artist wants to be a solo EDM Artist or DJ? How is that good for fans, culture or musicians?

    • NK

      I know … And anybody who claims to have survived for 4 years in New York City on just $30,000 has a trust fund, I guarantee it.

      • h st

        if he made 30k on Spotify alone he obviously made a similar amount from (combined) iTunes/Apple Music. Plus smaller but still significant from Google Music, Groove Music etc so it is a significant amount of money!

        • Paul Resnikoff

          Right, I think that’s the bigger point here. If you’ve somehow decided to only upload your music to Spotify, then of course you’d be limited to that royalty stream. But very few artists do that, in fact none that I know. Instead, they are uploading to other streaming platforms, plus iTunes, plus live performance, plus vinyl and other physical, etc.

          • Anand

            That is not how it works, royalties aren’t distributed equally like that. It is heavily weighted towards one service or another on royalty reports. Spotify and YouTube have the lionshare of marketshare. Period.

    • Joseph K

      Music journalists refuse to talk to artists and bands who are doing well from streaming royalties. That’s why you never see those stories. And what artist or band wants to talk about the money they earn if they’re doing well? You’d get nothing but shit from haters if you did that. It’s so much easier to find a shitty band that nobody knows, or who signed a terrible contract, and interview them. It’s so much easier to be negative. The two most popular haters of streaming are always Thom Radiohead and Cracker Van Lowery. Even then, you know Thom Yorke is making bank, so he’s a phony. David Lowery had to lie to make his story look bad. Talk about Fake News.

    • Anand

      Pre-Spotify I made that much just on a few iTunes sales here and there. The problem is you need a HUGE amount of dedicated fans willing to stream all the time to make just $625/month. That is not enough money.

  2. NK

    Here’s the real problem: Spotify doesn’t make any money for itself either, as a business. It’s not profitable. It has never turned a profit. Until it does turn a profit, how can anyone say with any certainty that it will be around even a few years from now, if things continue on in the same manner and they continue to lose money?

    What I see isn’t a controversy, it’s a few artists who make paltry sums or rely on Spotify as their only source of fans or attention or income acting like they’ve got Stockholm Syndrome. They’ve never experienced any other kind of music industry or economic model for the music industry and so they defend this unworkable one reflexively, afraid that they’ll bite the hand that feeds them what little crumbs they get to eat.

    • Sahil

      Well, the other problem is the Spotify / streaming culture in general. Nowadays, there is very little incentive to purchase music when you can listen to it for free on Spotify. The entire industry has shifted. It’s a streaming industry now, with remnants of people from the previous era who actually still purchase music. So the problem isn’t that artists are afraid to try other methods. The problem is that there are no other legitimate methods. The problem is that Spotify (and/or other streaming platforms, which, by the way, pay less) is where everyone is going to find music. There is no other “hand that feeds”. Streaming platforms have the monopoly and they know it, so they can pay out whatever they want now.