Another week, another flurry of complaints from artists and songwriters about the royalties they are getting from streams of their work. As ever, the complaints need to be taken seriously, but also dug into a little deeper to understand where the problems are in the flow of payments from digital services through to creators.
Take La Roux first, who tweeted out her displeasure at her latest royalty cheque. “. @Spotify thanks for the £100 for this quarter just gone, one more month and I might be able to afford your premium service. Lucky me!” she wrote.
But what’s puzzling here is that according to Spotify’s newly-public stats on La Roux’s profile, she has more than 811,000 monthly listeners on the service. Even if they only listened to one track each a month, at the claimed average-per-stream rate of $0.0072 per stream, that would be $17.5k of quarterly payouts to her label and publisher.
Second, consider the case of Kevin Kadish, who co-wrote ‘All About That Bass’ with Meghan Trainor. “For a song like ‘All About That Bass’ that I wrote, which had 178 million streams. I mean $5,679? That’s my share… How do you feed your family?” he said while testifying at a Congress roundtable discussion reported by The Tennessean.
Yet turning to Spotify again, ‘All About That Bass’ has been played more than 290m times on that service alone. If $0.0072 remains the average per-stream payout, that would mean $2.1m split between label and publishers (and if, say, the publishing share was 15%, that would be $313k split between publishers, Kadine and Trainor.)
The more you explore this, the more questions you have. Has Spotify’s average per-stream payout fallen, and if so, shouldn’t the company update its Spotify for Artists site accordingly?
What kind of streams was Kadish talking about: YouTube – where ‘All About That Bass’ has been streamed 1bn times just in its official-video version – would be a different kettle of fish, as would Pandora (where the track’s spins are unknown). What element of her music did La Roux’s £100 come from: songwriting only or performance too? And what kind of deals are both musicians on?
Understanding the flow of royalties from streaming service to creator has never been more important. Those creators speaking out about their income is vital, but it’s the spur for further analysis, not the end of the conversation.