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The Truth of Spotify Streams - How Much a Musician can Make

by Dana Andersen. Published Fri 15 May 2020 12:44

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With so many musicians currently struggling financially, due to not being able to perform live during lockdown, focus has fallen onto how to make money from music online, and how difficult it is.

The music industry has faced some huge changes in recent years, as technology becomes an integrated part of our daily lives, hard copy music sales have fallen drastically, and many musicians are having to look for new revenues to provide them with an income. Now that many musicians are facing mandatory lockdowns, heavily reducing the money earned from live performances, its perhaps more important than ever for music to be able to make money through streams.

Spotify has become many people’s go to music streaming service, leading to many musicians uploading their music, but how many times does a song have to be streamed for a musician to earn anything near a normal salary?

In the UK, if you worked 40 hours a week, every week of the year, at minimum wage for people aged 25 and over, you’d earn right around £17,000 in a year. Taking into account holidays, and any days off, lets round it down to £16,000 and say thats how much a single adult needs to earn in a year to survive.

Spotify currently pays out around £0.0035 per stream, meaning for a single adult to earn enough to survive in a year, they’d need just under 4,571,429 plays in a year. This is easily achieved by popular musicians signed to large labels, but for a smaller musician, not even necessarily someone starting out, just someone who is not hugely famous, can look to receive around 300,000 streams per year, leaving them with just £1,050 earned from their music.

It’d be fair to say that most musicians do not, and should not, expect to be able to comfortably live purely from stream revenue, but surely they should be receiving more income than this when someone has chosen to listen to their music? Especially considering approximately 124 million people are currently paying for the premium Spotify service.

There are streaming services that pay out better than Spotify, but due to the number of people using the services it becomes even more difficult to get streams. Apple Music for example, currently pay approximately £0.0060 per stream. From Apple Music you’d need 2,666,666,7 plays to earn £16,000, almost half the amount of streams needed from Spotify. Apple Music’s most recently released number stated that they had 60 million paid users, where as in the 2020 so far, Spotify have reached 130 million, over double.

Some artists with a large online following, will be able to do really well, but it becomes even more daunting when considering bands. For a band of four people to each earn £16,000 a year from streams, they’d need to amass a mammoth 18,285,716 stream each year.

It’s fair to say most musicians can’t expect Spotify streams to equate to financial gain, but theres a fair argument to be made that Spotify wouldn’t even be able to exist without the musicians that upload their music to be streamed, you’d expect them to be the ones seeing the most beneficial pay off.


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