Every year, artist-rights blog The Trichordist publishes an updated ‘streaming price bible’ comparing the per-stream payouts of the major music streaming services. The latest version, for 2019, was published overnight, and as ever is based on “a mid-sized indie label with an approximately 350+ album catalog now generating over 1.5b streams annually”.

Among its findings: Spotify’s per-stream rate has “stabilised” after declining for several years. The label whose data was used for the study earned an average of $0.00348 per Spotify stream in 2019, up from $0.00331 in 2018. These figures are an average across all Spotify streams, so bear in mind that streams from premium subscribers will have paid more, and those from free, ad-supported listeners will have paid less.

“In other words Spotify is paying out about $3,300 – $3,500 per million plays,” pointed out The Trichordist. Note, the $0.00348 per-stream rate recorded for 2019 is still some way down on the $0.00521 recorded by the same label back in 2014. Remember, while the per-stream rate may have declined (until last year) the actual royalties as a whole have increased, since Spotify’s growth has meant more streams – for comparison, this label’s catalogue was generating just 115m annual streams in 2016.

Apple Music does have a significantly higher per-stream rate than Spotify, according to this study: $0.00675. “Apple Music is again the best value per stream accounting for nearly 25% of all streaming revenue on only 6% of consumption. Spotify generates the most overall revenue of any streamer (no surprise) at 44% of all streaming revenue on 22% of consumption,” reported The Trichordist.

Both are over-indexing so much because of YouTube – or to be specific, YouTube Content ID matches – which for this label accounts for 51% of streams but only 6% of revenue, at a per-stream rate of $0.00022. In this sample (remember: for one specific label) ‘YouTube’ is generating a per-stream rate of $0.00154 – which we interpret as the rate for the label’s own music videos rather than Content ID matches – and ‘YouTube Red’ is generating $0.01009 per stream (i.e. from paying music subscribers).

You can see the full table of the top 30 DSPs over on The Trichordist. As ever, it’s really useful data to have out in the wild, especially when it can be cross-referenced with other sources – for example the stats released by independent artist Zoë Keating in January, which offered a snapshot of an individual musician’s digital income.

They’re not the whole story of streaming era royalties, and it can be frustrating when these per-stream rates are used by other people for bogus calculations. Just this week, Music Ally was sent a press release claiming that “Justin Bieber earned around £652,637 as a result of Spotify streaming” of his track ‘Yummy’ – a calculation seemingly based on multiplying the track’s stream-count by a $0.0032 per-stream rate, regardless of the (not public) terms of Bieber’s label deal.

Still, if you understand what The Trichordist’s and Keating’s numbers do and don’t represent – and in both cases, they make this very clear – they’re extremely helpful pieces of the overall picture of our industry’s evolving economy.

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