Goodbye Ol’ Spotify

An article by David Brooks on July 8, 2014


I was right in the middle of a song that I wanted to hear when Hybrid (@hybridsound) tweeted this:

“Finished symphony, 55k plays this quarter on Spotify. Income received – $23.20 #dontspenditallatonce”

I was using Spotify, so I shut it down.

Let’s not be mistaken here. That’s not $23.20 a day, it’s not even $23.20 per month. That’s $23.20 for 4 months. 4 months!

If they had received the revenue from a million plays, that’s roughly $420 a quarter.

But let’s say that instead of streaming that song 55,000 times it was 55,000 legit downloads. We’ll go with the standard figure that Apple, for example, keeps 30% of the revenue. That’s $38,500 per quarter Hybrid would have brought in.

Now, obviously that doesn’t hold up. So let’s just assume that only 15% of those people were unique. So that’s 8,250 people who legally download their song. That comes out to $5,775 for 4 months or $1,443.75 per month. For one song.

How that scales over time is clearly a mystery. The number of unique people could be more like 1,000, and of that 1,000 30% may already own the song. (It’s a really good song.)

But it could be higher. Especially when a song is brand new, when it has social momentum and everyone is talking about it.

Again, we’re talking about one song here, not an album. And we’re not in an “album buying stage”, or whatever. People only seem to buy single songs these days.

At that kind of revenue, artists can’t afford to stay in music. I know one who is on the way out, not because they want to be, but because for them their wages have basically flatlined. How many more artists are we going to lose because they can’t eat? Certainly young bands will always pile into the van and tour, but once they’ve been around for awhile and have families, will we just expect them to become accountants or label owners?

I used to think that buying the song and then listening to it on Spotify was clever, because the artist got the $0.70 from the purchase and then whatever number of fractions of pennies I threw on the pile from casual listens on Spotify. But it’s clear that those fractions of pennies don’t add up to a livable wage. I’ll leave you with this thing that BT said in a stream of Tweets:

“I think streaming services in general are a more dishonest and detrimental tech to artists than torrenting.”

“Here’s why: for Spotify/Pandora good honest people pay a subscription fee that makes the creators rich. .00001% makes it to the artists”

“In a subscription service, people trying to do the right thing are instead of subsidizing great artists, making smart startup owners rich.”

“Worse still, lot of these companies are cutting shady equity side deals w/savvy label owners that make them, but not their artists money.”

“Bottom line is, making music is expensive. If you believe in what I do (and other artists you love), but their music, go to shows etc.”

“If you can’t afford too, I’d rather you torrent me and pay if it brings meaning to your life at a later time, than stream me.”

“This is important and happening right now. If you’re a musician, singer, producer, music student, check this out :

Edit: Ryan Byrd pointed out that the payout for a million plays might actually be as low as $167. Source

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About David Brooks

David Brooks is the owner of the small creative studio, Northward Compass, based out of Orlando, Florida. He writes electronic and ambient music as Light The Deep, and fantasy stories about a place called Elerien.

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