Musicians are signing a petition to ask Spotify to triple royalty payments made to artists.
The live music industry is at a standstill right now as many festivals and shows are canceled or postponed indefinitely. The result is that many musicians are left unable to perform and earn a living. With the cancellation of live appearances, the stark reality is that many musicians are losing their primary revenue stream.
A new online petition asks Spotify to triple royalty payments to artists permanently. It also seeks a $500,000 donation to the Sweet Relief COVID-19 fund.
Spotify says it understands the problematic position artists are in and is working with MusiCares. MusiCares is a charitable wing of the Recording Academy; the group seeded $2 million to a coronavirus relief fund last week. All major streaming services except Apple Music are currently on board with donation efforts and working with the organization.
“There’s no question this is a challenging time for our creator community, and we are working to assist them through MusiCares’ COVID-19 relief fund to provide much-needed assistance,” a Spotify spokesperson said in a statement.
Spotify says it has also made a portion of its ad inventory available for governments and charities. That would allow them to share safety information during the coronavirus pandemic.
These moves are laudable, but they still don’t pay artists a living wage for their digital streams.
Spotify is careful to obscure how much it actually pays artists per stream. Digital Music News calculates that the average song receives about $0.004 per stream. That means artists earn about $4 per 1,000 streams of their music, or $4,000 per million streams. Again, that’s a rough estimate, though some artists are making far below that. Suddenly, the ‘stream for exposure’ argument is falling depressingly flat.
It doesn’t help that Spotify is consistently petitioning labels to lower their royalty rates. In 2017, Spotify requested that labels reduce royalty payments to artists to make the company’s financials more palatable to Wall Street. In 2019, the company appealed against a 44% royalty rate increase by 2022 for songwriters and publishers.
On the other hand, Bandcamp, an indie-focused outfit, has waived its revenue share entirely for 24 hours. That event happened on March 20th and offered indie fans a way to support their favorite artists. 100% of physical and digital sales went to artists.