It’s Spotify Wrapped season, with fans across social media sharing the music they’ve enjoyed over the last 12 months. Weird Al used the opportunity to highlight just how little ‘smaller’ artists make on the platform with a bit of facetious humor. Watch below.
Weird Al posted a message to his fans, saying, “It’s my understanding that I had over 80 million streams on Spotify this year. So if I’m doing the match right that means I earned… $12.” Whomp whomp. Yankovic thanks his fans who helped him earn enough to “get a nice sandwich at a restaurant.”
While the math on his criticism isn’t right—the spirit of it is. Spotify recently announced a new policy on royalty payments, eliminating payouts for songs with fewer than 1,000 annual streams. Discussion around Spotify’s already low payout amounts has continued for years, with Digital Music News annually highlighting just how little Spotify pays artists.
Spotify typically pays between $0.003 and $0.005 per stream under its old structure, but that will change under its new royalty policy. Music artists with fewer than 1,000 streams in the past 12 months will be effectively locked out of Spotify’s royalty share.
Music streaming platforms have changed the landscape of the music industry drastically, from the way we consume music to the way artists’ write their songs. Weird Al’s math on 80 million streams would equal closer to $240,000 this year, if he were paid $0.003 for each of those streams.
That also assumes that Weird Al himself receives 100% of the royalty fee—which isn’t the case either. Yankovic is in the clear legally as parody is considered fair use, but he’s always gone out of his way to get the original writers’ permission. Al’s share of the songwriter credit and royalties tough to determine with so many parodies—making his royalty arrangements unique even in the realm of streaming.
Royalty shares per Weird Al song can vary, as detailed by Yankovic’s lawyer, Chuck Hurewitz in his 1991 law journal, “Stranger in Parodies: Weird Al and the Law of Musical Satire.”
“Weird Al’s substantial market success is responsible for the willingness of copyright owners to grant him permission to parody their music compositions, and has made it possible for Yankovic to bargain for a lucrative share in the copyright of the parody version of the song.”