Most streaming services are extremely vague about the streaming royalties they pay artists. And, even since Spotify released Loud & Clear, it's still a minefield to figure it all out. That's why we spent an entire week collecting data, creating infographics, finding out how artists get paid, how much they earn on each platform, and what affects those rates, so you can earn the most for your hard work, or learn how to support your favorite artists in a better way.
How Much Does Each Platform Pay Per Stream? (TL;DR)
Here's the complete quick list of each streaming services' payout per stream rate:
|Streaming Service||Payout Per Stream in 2022 ($)|
|Amazon Digital Services||0.00402|
|Others (Yandex, Peloton, iHeartRadio etc)||0.012663|
Every platform pays a slightly different rate per stream, but each works on the same basic principles to earn money. They offer paid, monthly subscriptions alongside offering companies advertising space for their products.
The money these platforms earn from these efforts gets paid directly to the rightsholders of the music, then to the artist. For each service this is different, and although you might think more revenue means more per stream that's simply not the case. And we were shocked to find that out too.
Remember that these are averages and the payout per stream can vary depending on a number of factors such as, location of stream, length of the stream, from a free or paid user, the deal your distributor/label has with the DSP, and more.
Spotify is the largest streaming service out of all of them and owns a whopping 48.3% of the market share, with a user base of over 180+ million free and paid users.
This would make you think they pay the most right? That's where you'd be wrong, and quite shocked.
Unfortunately, this is not the case, with Spotify ranking 6th highest in terms of payout per stream, offering an average payout of $0.0037/stream.
This makes earning a living wage from Spotify you would need over 400,000 monthly streams, with 1000 of those streams earning you anywhere between $2-4.
However, this stream number fluctuates massively, with some streams earning you a measly $0.001 and others earning a more plentiful $0.008. From our experience, we've never seen streams any higher than $0.008 on our payouts.
So, does this mean you'll earn less for your music on Spotify than you would on Apple Music or others? Not necessarily.
In fact, due to the largest market share and user base, you're much more likely to earn the bulk of your streaming revenue from Spotify, because of the sheer amount of people you can be exposed to. Furthermore, Spotify has more playlisting opportunities and better algorithms for music discovery, meaning you're much more likely to get thrown into someone's listening list than compared to other streaming platforms.
Spotify is expected to increase payouts per stream as time goes on, but from the data we collected during this writeup, it seems as Spotify's revenue goes up, the payout per stream has been steadily declining.
Apple Music is the 2nd biggest streaming service, with a market share of 24.9% and a user base of 88 million people. And, recently, Apple Music just released that it has started to pay artists $0.01/stream – offering a cent per stream model.
Interestingly, Apple Music is one of the fairest music streaming models, paying every artist the same average of $0.01/stream.
To top this off, Apple Music additionally doesn't use tactics such as, offering certain distributors or labels a better payout per stream rate, because they believe that every artist should earn and have the same earning opportunity, no matter their status.
This is something other streaming platforms take part in, and is why you will get a better payout per stream depending on the music distribution company you choose. Different distributors get different deals with DSPs (digital service providers) and it means they can pay out more royalties even depending on factors like the location of your audience.
It is said that Apple Music barely makes a profit due to this, and it's likely that they use it as a reason to become a part of the Apple ecosystem, considering their entire revenue isn't based on music streaming royalties alone, and most of the revenue comes from iPhones, Macs etc.
Tidal is another music streaming platform that offers a pretty decent payout per stream. They own 0.8% of the music streaming market share and have a very small subscriber count of less than 9 million.
However, Tidal pay the 2nd most per stream on paper at $0.013/stream.
This is because Tidal was a company that started due to the problems artists were having in the music industry with streaming and the unfair pay-per-stream model that left artists struggling to earn a living.
Therefore the way they share profits is much fairer than most of the other music streaming platforms.
One thing to note is that Tidal has been previously accused of underpaying artists 35%, and has had a recent legal battle with certain labels for underpaying artists. This puts a little scrutiny on the $0.013/stream payout and it could be a false average.
Napster was the reason music streaming came about. They initially started out as an illegal P2P download service, which allowed users to share files on the internet for free back in the late 90s. They were then forced to shut down in the 2000s, leading to other P2P services like Limewire being invented.
This P2P piracy wave of the first days of the internet acted as the rocket fuel the music industry needed to develop streaming services.
Napster interestingly pays the most per stream despite their grey past, offering $0.017/stream to artists.
However, Napster has a pretty small user base of 10 million+ subscribers, meaning that, as an artist, you won't earn the largest chunk of your money from Napster streams. This is simply due to the lack of users who have adopted the platform.
YouTube Music used to be Google Play Music. However, in 2017 Google Play Music was discontinued, and replaced by YouTube Music.
YouTube Music has 6.99% of the music streaming market share, but they pay one of the lowest per stream rates out of all the streaming platforms. On average, each stream from YouTube Music is worth $0.00069.
For instance, on YouTube, you would have to get 22+ million streams in a year to earn US minimum wage. Compare that to Spotify's 4 million streams, and you can see that YouTube Music's payout per stream is pretty low.
It's important to remember that this is a stream from the YouTube Music platform and not the YouTube video streaming service.
Amazon Unlimited Music owns 4.04% of the music streaming market share and pays a hefty amount considering their small share of the market. On Amazon, you can expect to get $0.01175/stream.
This means it would take a total of 2+ million plays in a year to earn US minimum wage using Amazon Unlimited Music, which seems much better than Spotify.
However, because of the smaller market share and lower amount of paying subscribers, your are much less likely to garner these kinds of streams using Amazon. Additionally, it's unlikely that Amazon earns profits from Amazon Unlimited alone because it's bundled with a Prime subscription.
It seems like Amazon Music is a bonus for having a Prime subscription and a reason to stay part of the Amazon ecosystem and buy more through their e-commerce service.
Deezer owns 2.6% of the music streaming market share and has a total of 7 million paid subscribers as of 2019. However, Deezer appears to pay more per stream to artists than Spotify does, coming in at $0.0064/stream.
Of course, it's difficult to compare this average to Spotify, because they have a much bigger user base, therefore making it harder to achieve a higher average payout per stream. But with Apple Music paying a cent per stream, it's hard to give Spotify the benefit of the doubt here.
Pandora was the first music streaming service created. It started out as a radio station, which you could use to find new artists and listen to unlimited music for a small monthly fee. In 2006 Spotify built on this system, quickly allowing it to outrank Pandora and take most of the market share.
Now, Pandora owns 3.03% of the market share and has a total of 6.328 million subscribers paying for the platform.
Pandora pays one of the lowest per stream of any platform (just above YouTube Music), which is a $0.00133/stream rate.
In 2015, Soundcloud came late to the music distribution game, launching a platform called Repost Network. Repost Network allows Soundcloud users to monetize their music on Apple Music, Spotify etc. and monetize their music on Soundcloud.
Repost Network takes a 15% commission for this, and also costs a monthly fee of $10 to use. This also comes with Soundcloud Pro, which comes with some extra benefits.
The average payout per stream for a Soundcloud play is $0.0033/stream.
In our experience, we've earned more from Soundcloud and repost network per stream than we have on Spotify or Apple Music. This is because Soundcloud reportedly gives 55% of every dollar directly to artists who upload music and are monetized.
How Many Streams Would It Take To Earn Minimum Wage On All Platforms? (US)
To earn minimum wage on Spotify you need 4.1 million yearly streams. To earn the same on Napster you only need 896.6k yearly streams. As you can see this number wildly differs between streaming services, so it entirely depends on which service you use and how many streams you get on each service.
We wanted to provide a little more clarity on it, so below we've left a table that covers how many streams you need on each platform to earn $15,080 (US minimum wage).
|Streaming Service||Amount of Streams Per Year|
|Amazon Music Unlimited||1.3M|
What Royalties Do Streaming Platforms Pay To Artists?
When releasing your music on Apple Music, Spotify, or any of the other platforms, you get paid a certain set of royalties for your streams.
This is important to know because most streaming platforms don't make you all the money you could be making. Granted… they make a huge chunk, but there are other big chunks that they don't collect.
Below we'll go over the royalty payments that are paid by the music streaming companies, so you can get a greater understanding of where your revenue is coming from.
If you have released your music with a distributor or a label, you will only be paid your Mechanical Royalties from Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming platforms.
There is a lot of misinformation online about being able to collect the performance royalties on Spotify too, but this is false. You need a 3rd party service, or a publishing royalty collection team to ensure that you are collecting all of your streaming revenue.
Some distribution platforms offer this, such as Ditto, TuneCore etc. You can also use services like Song Trust, or you can sign up for ASCAP, PRS, and other music publishing societies.
Performance royalties are the money you make when your song gets played in public. This could be in a shop, or on the radio. This is for both physical records and digital downloads. The way this works is shops, radios, and public places that play music, have to sign up to PROs (publishing royalty organisations). They declare the songs they are playing and royalties are earned from this.
As per the copyright act, 9.1 cents or 1.75 cents is paid per minute of playing a record either physically or digitally.
How Do I Collect My Other Royalty Payments?
To collect your performance royalties, you must be signed up to a PRO. Services like Song Trust can help collect all your royalties, while ASCAP, PRS, and BMI help to collect just your performance royalties.
Although you can earn money on your public performance royalties if a shop uses a streaming service, like Spotify, Spotify doesn't collect and pay them for you. You need to be signed up for a PRO such as ASCAP or PRS.
The royalties you collect from these services simply get pooled together and distributed among the signed-up members, so even though there is a yearly cost, it is worth signing up for them.
How Do Streaming Platforms Pay Artists?
Streaming services earn money through advertising fees and monthly subscription costs, they then pay the rightsholders of the music, and the rightsholders will distribute the money to the artist. Spotify and other streaming services do not pay artists directly.
Using Spotify as an example, they pay around 2/3rds of the money they earn to rightsholders and take a 1/3rd cut for providing the platform. Different streaming services will have different rates at which they pay the rightsholders.
The rate at which artists are paid also depends on a few different factors which we will cover under the next heading.
Not All Streams Were Created Equally
All streams are not the same (unless you're on Apple Music). Artists will earn different amounts for each stream based on a few things. If you look through your Distrokid or Ditto/distribution earnings portal you will notice this.
Streams are calculated using a few criteria, which are:
- Country of stream
- Length of stream
- Free or paid user
- Distributor's/label's deal with the DSP
For instance, a stream from a smaller economy will give you less money per stream. This is due to the fact that subscription prices are different around the world to cater to the budget of those people in the region.
To give an example of this, in India, a Spotify premium subscription costs $3.99/month, where a US-based subscription is $9.99/month.
This therefore means that, if your audience is located in India, you will earn less from your streams than you will if they were located say in the US, UK, or Australia – it is simply a money thing.
Additionally, the length of the stream is taken into account when calculating how much you have earned, on top of whether the stream has come from a free or paid user.
The amount you are paid is based on an algorithm that we have no data on, so it's impossible to know what constitutes a more expensive stream in terms of length and user status. We imagine it's something to do with the amount of ad time the free user listens to, or whether they convert on the ad they listened to.
Furthermore, it could be that free user streams are pooled together and you are paid a percentage of the amount of free/paid user streams you get.
The Importance of Your Distributor in Pay Out Per Stream
Another important thing to note is that distributors and labels are given different deals with DSP (digital service providers), and therefore a different rate per stream.
This is something you'll want to pay attention to because one distributor might earn you more in one country than another does. And, based on your audience, it might be better to choose Ditto over Tunecore, or even a free distribution service like RouteNote if they pay more in your region.
The only service that does not take part in this and has transparently released that they do not is Apple Music. They pay each artist a cent per stream regardless of the deal they have with the distributor or label.
To get more clarity on this, you can check out the research done over on Ari's Take. It's not confirmed data from streaming companies, but he has pooled together a community research project, which sheds more light on this.
Additionally, you'll want to check your contract with your label or music distributor and see if you can get a better rate. Most popular distribution platforms, like Distrokid, offer 0% commission and charge a yearly fee instead.
However, due to the deal they have, it could be better to going with a 15% commission distributor because they pay higher rates where your audience is located.
Either way, make sure you do the maths on this one because small percentages add up quickly.
Can You Earn A Living From Music Streaming Services Alone?
You can earn a full-time living from music streaming alone, but it is difficult to gain the monthly streams needed to do this. To earn minimum wage you would need to get 4.1 million streams a year on Spotify.
For many independent artists, it's much better to supplement your income with paid live shows, merch, sample packs, and other products you can sell.
Additionally starting a YouTube or blog where you share your music production tips will help bring in forms of passive income that will allow you more time to solely focus on making music.
A lot of independent musicians additionally use Band Camp and Patreon to further supplement their income. If you have a loyal following, you could exclusively release vinyl, cassette tapes, or unreleased content that super fans would enjoy and pay you for.
Relying on streaming alone is a bad idea. You'll have to constantly be releasing music, marketing it, and getting a hefty number of monthly plays.
It's better to supplement your streaming income with other ventures.
Streaming Royalty Calculator
If you're starting out on your music journey, it's extremely helpful to use a streaming calculator to roughly work out goals and see how much it would take you to reach the income needed to become a full-time musician.
That's why we spent hours designing this streaming royalty calculator. It has all the major streaming services and is consistently updated in line with the average rate per stream of each platform.
Remember that this is only a guide, and it's likely you may earn more or less than what it shows!
With over 8 years of hands-on experience in the music industry, Harry has run successful raves, played alongside industry heavyweights such as Max Chapman, DJ EZ, DJ Zinc and more (pictured below), had music played on national radio, DJ'd on live radio, produced until he hated every song, mixed until his ears bled, created sample packs from scratch using just a Zoom H1n and some sound design skills… and pretty much anything related to music production – he's done it, tested it, tried it.