OMG, Shut Up About Streaming!

OMG, Shut Up About Streaming!

Call it a rant, call it another reality check… you (yes you) can’t post your music online and “sit back and watch the money come in.” Disclaimer: If you are Drake, I apologize… you go back to counting your digital wealth. For the rest of us… it’s not happening, not right now.

If you want to take your cues from the ultra-wealthy, uber-famous, billion-download-club music icons of today, why not go buy a $7 million yacht? a $25 million home? No, why not? Because most musicians are broke! Like it or not, we don’t play by the same rules.


Streaming Revenue

Have you ever thought about how the normal person uses a streaming service? The Wall Street Journal posted a article last week stating that the average person who pays a service like Spotify listens to music 27 hours a week. Free users listen about 24 hours a week. (, 2016)

For those of you who don’t like math, let me do some work for you. Through a number of readings lately, the consensus seems to be that we listen to about 15 songs an hour on these platforms.

27 hours x 15 songs = 405 songs a week. 

At Spotify’s last reported royalty rate of $0.0017 per stream, that’s $.06885 per week (or $35.80 for a year).

These numbers can get quite large with a little manipulation. In March 2016, Spotify reported 39 million paid users. Whoa! That’s a cool $1.4 billion in royalties from paid Spotify subscribers. If all the million plus musicians in the U.S. split that evenly, I’m sure we all could live off of it for a year. Wait… that’s only $1,400 a person.


Streaming Psychology

Seriously though, let’s dig into this a bit more. Though it varies by station, Top 40 radio sets approximately 2/3 of it’s time to the top 20 songs on the charts, and 97% of listening time to the top 40. It makes sense, and it always has made sense. Most people want to listen to what’s popular (That’s a deep thought if you really think about it… a chicken and egg situation)

Pandora, and every other company, wants to offer you music that you want to hear. If I set up a radio station called Garth Brooks radio, I’m going to hear Garth Brooks and many artists that sound similar. I bet you I’ve heard all of these artists before. If you listen to country music, I bet you have too. Now, If I pick a lesser known artist and created a radio station like Ty England radio, what will I hear? Well, occasionally I will hear Ty England. I will also hear Garth Brooks and almost everyone that was on Garth Brooks station that I already know. 

The moment you steer away from the one “unknown” artist, you will be fed music that probably have already heard. Do you hear the underlying problem?


Royalties Per Fan

Let’s go back to that those people who stream your music. 

Fan A listens to “You” radio station on Pandora radio. Let’s assume that 20% of the songs on this channel are actually you. (Important Fact: Pandora pays approximately the same as Spotify.)

27 hours per week x 15 songs = 405 songs per week = 81 songs that are yours
Earnings =  about $0.14 per week

Fan B listens to you on Spotify and listen to your entire album three times, and a couple of their favorite songs every day after that for a month. Then they go back to listening to Garth Brooks, or Drake, or some 90’s grunge rock that gets them back in touch with their teenage angst.

3 album streams (10 song album) + 90 song streams = 120 total streams
Earnings = about $0.21

Fan C is your mom. Mom listens all 27 hours to you and only you. Dad’s more of Fan B. 
27 hours per week x 15 songs = 405 songs per week
Earnings = about $0.69 per week


Why you Should be Steaming

How many friends do you have on social media? 10,000?
How many of those do you actually know (you know, in real life)? 1000?
How many of those will listen to you on streaming sites? Can I be optimistic here and say 200?

Let’s say you have 100 fan A’s, 100 fan B’s, and one mom.

Fan A = $0.14 per week x 100 = $14.00
Fan B = $0.21 total x 100 = $21.00
Fan C = $0.69 per week x 1 = $0.69

Year payout = $785…and that's if you are your own songwriter, your own performer, and your own publisher. 

Sweeeet. Let’s sit back and watch the money roll in.

But what about Ron Pope?

Let me quote directly from his blog: 

“Over the past twelve months, I’ve had 44,560,048 spins on Spotify… those streams generated $250,867.86… I’ve poured every cent of that money back into trying to share my music with new fans the world over.” Oh, so he kept no money. Zero is zero, no matter how you end up there.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a clip from Kelsey McKinney’s interview with Ne-Yo… a famous hit songwriter. “Right now, for example, 1 million streams of a song on Pandora only earns a songwriter $90 on average. And that then has to be split with publishers too. Even if you write a hit song that’s streamed millions of times, you’re still not going to earn enough to pay the rent from streaming. And that’s where the entire industry is moving.” (, 2015)

I’m not saying don’t stream your music. I’m saying, let’s keep our eyes open and on the prize: a successful long-term music career. There are better ways for the non A-list-superstar to make money right now. I’ll show you how to put food on the table, how to afford your own house, and maybe put a Mercedes in the driveway (even if it has to be a van). You want to line your pockets with fairy dust, I’m not the one you should be listening to. 

For more information on how to make a real living at music, read our blogs at


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