Infographics site Information Is Beautiful has received a lot of attention in the past for its charts comparing royalty-payouts from music-streaming services.
They’ve always looked, yes, beautiful, but there have been questions about the figures behind them: for example, the difficulties of establishing ‘one’ figure for a service like Spotify with free and paid tiers, and artists operating through a host of different distributors and deals to get their music onto it.
The latest update to Information Is Beautiful’s ‘Money Too Tight To Mention?’ infographic is worth a look though, not least because it tries to solve the ‘host of distributors/deals’ issue by taking data purely from an unsigned artist’s perspective – there is a separate ‘signed artists’ chart still, accessed via a tab above the infographic.
Expect to see the average-payout-per-play figures quoted a lot in the coming months. Napster ($0.0167 per play) and Tidal ($0.0110) come out well; Apple Music ($0.0064), Google Play Music ($0.0059) and Deezer ($0.0056) are around the same mark; and Spotify comes out at $0.0038 per play – remember that for all these figures, it’s the artist payout only, not the songwriter.
Pandora weighs in at $0.0011 per play and YouTube at $0.0006 per play. Claims like the fact it would take 2.4m YouTube plays to earn a minimum wage of $1,472, while it would only take 380k on Spotify and 90k on Napster will be pored over.
But as usual, scale is important here too: Tidal may generate an average payout per stream nearly three times that of Spotify, but for an artist getting, say, 10 times more streams on the latter service, it’s generating them more money.
It’s fun and useful to see the rankings, but artists’ decisions over where to focus their attention will continue to be about more than an average per-stream rate.
YouTube, too, is a more nuanced platform than a single per-stream figure would indicate. Yes, it’s low, and that’s one of the reasons music-industry bodies and rightsholders are pressing for safe-harbour legislation to be modernised to deal with the ‘value gap’ issue.
But at an individual artist level, making more money on YouTube is not just about demanding it pays more. It can be about understanding how the service’s recommendation and advertising algorithms work; about releasing more videos than just ‘music videos’ – from secondary lyric-videos to vlogs and other kinds of content; and exploring ways to make longer videos that are more likely to have ads on, and thus increase the per-stream payout.
A different way of putting all this: making more money from Spotify or YouTube or other services isn’t just about demanding that they pay out more money – although the debates around those demands are important. It’s also about what can an artist or label do to drive more revenues from those various services.