Updated: Sep 19
As an indie musician streaming royalties are a key revenue stream, so it's good to understand how much you can expect to get paid from each of the services your music appears on. In this article, we take a deep dive into streaming to compare and identify the best music streaming services.
The growth of music streaming services
Improved mobile penetration and network speed (4G and now 5G) have helped accelerate the adoption of music streaming as the predominant distribution and delivery channel. The latest figures suggest there are 616.2m people listening to music via streaming services globally.
Music streaming revenues have multiplied by more than 28 times in the last decade and in 2022 reached $17.5bn. Streaming revenues now account for over 67% of total global recorded music revenue.
But when you hear the alarming statistic that nearly 80% of the artists on Spotify have fewer than 50 monthly listeners, the question becomes where does the money go? For the most part, the artist is top-tier artists and major record labels.
Spotify reported 1060 artists earned more than $1m while 57,000 artists generated $10,000+ through Spotify royalties in 2022. Meanwhile, major record labels earned over $4bn in profit from Spotify in 2022.
In the charts below we take a detailed look at the key music streaming services comparing average payout per stream, global market share, catalogue size and user numbers.
How much do I earn from each music streaming service?
Read on if you want to know...
How much do I get paid by Spotify per stream?
How much do I get paid by Apple Music per stream?
How much do I get paid by Deezer per stream?
How much do I get paid by Amazon Music per stream?
How much do I get paid by Tidal per stream?
How much do I get paid by Napster per stream?
Best music streaming services compared
Best music streaming services by average payout per stream
Best music streaming music services by market share
Understanding the 3 types of streaming payouts
1. Mechanical royalties are paid to songwriters and their publishers (the owners of composition) whenever a user chooses to play a song.
2. Public Performance Royalties are paid to songwriters and their publishers for the right to publicly perform their music. Since none of the music is technically owned by the user, every stream is considered a public performance — even if it is enjoyed in the privacy of your home using headphones.
3. Recording Owners. The third, and most substantial part of the overall payout is owed to the owners of the copyright on the recording side through labels and distributors. If someone asks "how much does Spotify pay artists?", 99% of the time it will be the payout to recording owners that they're looking for. While the mechanical and public performance royalties are subject to local legislation and can differ from country to country, almost all of the streaming services use the same set of rules for calculating this last part of the payout.
Here comes the caveat
The way music streaming royalties are calculated is complicated and it's difficult to pinpoint an exact payout per stream rate. Market conditions and agreements with the major record labels affect the amount paid per stream. The money streaming services pay to musicians is often divided among a number of stakeholders including labels, distributors, publishers and of course the artists themselves. Therefore, the precise amount an artist or songwriter earns each stream can vary greatly depending on the details of their respective contracts, but the numbers provided above should provide a good guide.
Who are the best-paying music streaming services?
On paper, the best-paying music streaming services are Amazon Napster and Tidal. But you need to consider their market share, and customer base to really understand the true opportunity. After all, fewer listeners means a lower chance of listeners finding your music.
This is especially true of Amazon Music Unlimited, which is just one part of Amazon Music. In fact, the largest share of Amazon's subscribers use the Amazon Prime bundled streaming service. For Amazon Prime, the average payout rate was just 28% of the Amazon Unlimited payout ($0,0034). YouTube is similar with at least 3 different payout rates, most users being on the lower tier.
But however, bad you feel about your income from music streaming services, spare a thought for musicians in China or Russia who receive the lowest streaming payouts by some distance.