82% of Musicians Earn Less Than $270 a Year From Spotify and Other Streaming Music Platforms, Study Finds

music streaming earning
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music streaming earning
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Photo Credit: Roland Denes

British regulators are taking a serious look at the impact that music streaming is having on musicians. Their research is unearthing some depressing stats.

According to a survey of The Ivors Academy and the Musicians’ Union, both based in the UK, 82% of artists earned less than £200 (around $270) a year in 2019. That includes some artists who have wracked up millions of streams worldwide. The data reveals the appalling state of artist royalty payments from music streaming services like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music.

But this gets even worse. 92% of survey respondents said that less than 5% of their earnings came from music streaming in 2019. Around 43% of respondents said that insufficient income from music streaming forces them to hold down another job outside of the industry. The revelations come as the British government’s inquiry into music streaming business practices gets underway.

Graham Davies, CEO of The Ivors Academy, says the survey demonstrates the impact that services like Spotify have on artists. “This survey is further demonstration that the song and the songwriter are undervalued. Too much streaming money is going to the major labels; this is an outdated model and needs reform.”

The study also found that £1 billion ($1.35 billion) in revenue was generated from 114 billion music streaming plays in the UK during 2019. The government inquiry notes that artists and songwriters may see as little as 13% of the income generated from music streaming. The takeaway is pretty bleak: earning a living in the music industry is becoming impossible for many independent musicians.

In November, the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee in the UK began looking into the economics of music streaming. That includes a critical look at how much musicians are actually earning. The Committee is looking at the business models employed by companies like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Google.

“The Committee will also consider whether the government should be taking action to protect the industry from piracy in the wake of steps taken by the EU on copyright and intellectual property rights,” a UK Parliament statement says. The Committee hopes to address the following questions:

    • What are these platforms’ dominant business models?
    • Do new features associated with streaming, like algorithmic playlists, impact consumer habits and tastes?
    • What are the economic impact and long-term implications of music streaming on the music industry? (That includes artists, record labels, record shops – anyone who participates in the industry.)
    • How can the UK government protect the industry from increased piracy of music?
    • Do alternative business models exist? How can policy favor more equitable business models?

Those are some pretty interesting questions to which we already know the answers. Algorithmic content absolutely impacts user tastes and interaction with platforms like Spotify, for example. It’s why the front page is constantly changing throughout the day.

20 Responses

  1. Reality

    And what did 82% of artists earn from the radio stations that never played their music? – They’re now earning up to $270 more thanks to the streaming industry. You’re welcome.

    • Fiona Joy Hawkins

      You have a strange sense of reality. The bottom rung may be up $270 but the hard working middle of the field are getting ripped off.

  2. Tom Hendricks

    Penny per play,no on pet would give any artistic content anywhere online a penny per click. Don’t need any corporation taking most of the money.
    Part of the music revolution.

  3. Steve

    I make over £200,000 per year from Spotify, there is money to be made trust me…

    • DavidB

      OK, tell us a few details. Starting with number of streams, average payout per stream, whether you share the payout with anyone else (label, publishers, bandmates, etc). No need to identify yourself, just enough to show that you are not fantasising.

      • Steve

        All I make is background music, jazz, blues and easy listening aswell as white noise stuff, ie sounds of rivers and oceans. I have over 1500+ albums released through a few distributors. I don’t pay for any promo it’s all from good playlists and pure quantity of releases.. throw enough shit at the wall and some of it will stick..there’s no artistic integrity.
        Current Spotify payouts work out about 0.002 per stream but it fluctuates, usually around $2-2500 per million streams..I make about $20,000 per month (before tax obviously).

        • DavidB

          OK, I can see how that might work, though I’m baffled how anyone can make ‘over 1500+ albums’. Never mind artistic integrity, how do you find enough hours in the day? If you made one album a week, it would take you 30 years to generate that catalog.
          Also, no disrespect intended, there are rumors that Spotify encourage this kind of thing by special deals: Spotify gives the artist a lower-than-usual pay-per-stream (which fits your $0.002 description) in return for putting the stuff on playlists. The artist gets a bigger net payoff, and Spotify gets cheap filler material which dilutes the payout to everyone else. While this may work for the lucky few, it obviously wouldn’t work if everyone tried it.

    • Fiona Joy Hawkins

      I see lots of people with lots of plays that they have engineered. If your plays are natural and earned then congratulations, if not, then you are part of the problem.

  4. Re Al Itychecker

    This headline is clickbait. The stat is out of context.

    Most music sucks. Most musicians suck. Period.

  5. Roberto

    If the new music business is so wonderful then why have 60% of PRO musicians already quit the business? WOW, $270 a year is a lot of money to help feed your family, buy new recording equipment, make unique and amazing new music! And now 800 MILLION Hobbyist musicians are flooding the market with mostly dreadful music but the fans just don’t seem to notice! And the Record companies could care less about the music. MORE MONEY is what they want! Keep on marketing amateur musicians shouting over Drum Loops, promote this and the fans will buy it! Kinda like how the Kardashians became famous is how our new music business runs!!

  6. zack attack

    Most of any living is in live shows, album sale, and merch. Streaming ya get like 0.0008 cent. I made more playing live. Least $100 before covid. Covid is showing any cracks in every industry. Entertainment being the first to take a hit.

    Streaming if anything will buy you some Debbie pies. Two hundred seventy a year is literally a 18th century wage.

    Making a living you’d have to increase how many people want to see you live. Don’t need a stadium. A good 100 people a show with a $50 ticket you’d be doing good.

  7. Ruell Bankasingh

    This is definitely needed, the stream and radio industry needs to create structure for everyone to benefit. they both need to change. they have the potential to play the quality independent music everyday along with the hits, but they don’t. all the radio stations could play 50 independent artist everyday at a good time and continue to cycle and rotate all the independent artist. and that would help every independent artist. all they have to do is select independent artist that fit the level and play their songs. do campaigns that inspire society to participate in supporting them by listening to the radio stations more often, this would help the radio stations and the independent artist. we know the pay for the streams are not what it should be and we know, they need to set a minimum that is fair for all artist that no company is allow to go below, but at the same time, they need to structure campaigns to help them
    get businesses to use the advertising options available. basically create a win win circumstance for everyone. i’m sure the society would be happy to help the economy by participating, but they won’t when they know these companies are under paying the artist, are not supporting independent artist, and so these companies are setting themselves up for failure, along with the fact they need to eliminate immoral aspects of the content in society, it drives away 70% of the audience. a lot of people don’t want to listen to radio talking about things that are immoral, they won’t risk it, so they put their cd in that they know is clean. and no has time to wait for a show that is clean. so i see a lot of reasons companies need to change. eventually they are giving way for streaming to take over. soon they industry that involves schooling, advertising, and all the other aspects will be out for the count. Just stating a fact. the few that like the immoral aspect is not enough to keep the industry alive, why not do things that benefit all in people in society instead of just one set. i’ve seen events where they are dressed inappropriately and it was events where everyone could have went too and enjoy, but instead 70% of the people were offended and the show flopped.

  8. pashley

    Musicians at the mercy of distribution is an old song. Who made the quote that they would rather sell 20,000 albums out of the back of their pick-up truck than 2,000,000 albums over distribution. Its similar to 19th century gold miners being at the mercy of the local general store.

    That being said, the international reach of streaming services you would think would make revenue distribution of streaming services a good place for legislation.

  9. SF

    Streaming only serves the 3 major labels, which all have the infrastructure in place to stretch their revenue streams over the long haul of subscription fees. For indie labels that don’t have a self-sustaining revenue source or rely on short-term revenue or focus more on artist discovery, streaming is a nail in the coffin. They will be unable to sustain their business models and their catalogues will be sold off to larger labels. And all the perks that those smaller operations offered will also dissolve. This is what happens when you flood a market with content.

  10. Geoff

    There’s a massive problem the streaming subscription model has created no one is addressing. It has OBLITERATED the value of music in the market. People now think of music as virtually free. But it didn’t used to be that way. Say what you will about the “old” record industry, but they knew how to maintain the value of their product in the market. A new album cost maybe $15 and a single might cost $2-3, but people paid it without giving a second thought. Now for $10 you can rent all the music you want… which means that the value of any one song is a number that approaches ZERO.
    You can’t have an industry where the product’s value is nothing.

  11. Eddie

    When will the US step up and support musician and artist integrity for the modern era? If there were no music being created, there would be no streaming service platforms (to profit)…

  12. BAC

    Look at most of you dumb fucks commenting. None of you know shit about the music industry or how artists get paid. You know absolutely nothing of economics. You’re a bunch of Socialist douchenozzles who contribute nothing of value to society. All you do is whine and moan. You think the major labels are a conspiracy. I bet none of you could write a song that would get even 10,000 streams on Spotify in a year. You’d either be too fucking lazy to make it because you’re smoking weed from daddy’s money, or you’d resort to scams to promote it because you’re a fucking loser.