How much Spotify (and others) pay artists

Updated: 9/14/2017

Being new to the world of selling music online, I had questions about the process and being a technologically savvy individual, I turned to the internet to search for the answers to these questions.  Unfortunately, the internet was less helpful than I had hoped it would be, and my search results were mostly null.

Since first sharing this information, other sources have opened up and it’s easier to find music distributor pay-rate information. Hurray for transparency!

I had previously written about my experience with RouteNote and how long it took to release my first song to Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, etc.  I wanted to share my experience with other independent musicians releasing their own music for the first time.

Getting paid

Ah the sweet, sweet fruit of your labor of love.  Getting paid for a song that you wrote/played on/sang on/produced comes with a great feeling.  After all of the free streams on Soundcloud, all of the YouTube video plays, comes real validation.  Real people actually paid money for one of your songs!  Real people streamed your song!

Along with the feeling of validation, you get (eventually) reports on how many downloads you sold on each service and how many streams you got on each service.  And with that comes the answer to the question, “How much money do I make for each download sold?”

I use and because I didn’t initially want to pay to publish my songs I chose their free distribution plan.  This allows me to release my music at no cost to me in exchange for 15% of each sale going back to RouteNote.  All of my music so far has been released under this model.

How did I get this data?

I’ve decided to include some information gleaned from my latest RouteNote statement. I took an average of the pay rates of various distributors and averaged my income across a variety of territories. Some territories pay better than others, so I took an average to be fair to the various distributors.

How much does Amazon pay an artist?

Do Your Homework had 4 sales on for a total of $2.14 giving me a total of roughly $0.54 per download after giving RouteNote their 15 percent.  Had I gone with the premium plan I would have been able to keep an extra 8 cents per download.

Update: 9/14/2017

Amazon now has two music services that artists can be paid from in addition to the main Amazon storefront where customers can purchase mp3s. Updated figures are gross earnings, so they do not factor in RouteNote’s 15% take and apply to CD baby,

 Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime subscribers are given a selection of music to stream with their membership. It’s not as great of a selection, but it’s something. For artists, however, it has among the lowest pay rates of all services.

A recent report shows that I had 769 plays across all of my releases on Amazon Prime Music. The average pay per stream is $.003. Yeah, that’s about 1/3 of a cent.

Amazon Unlimited

Amazon makes up for Prime’s very low artist pay-rate with Music Unlimited. Across 1340 plays, I received $.012 average per song. This ranks one of the highest payouts for artists across all music distributors.

How much does iTunes pay an artist?

Another interesting lesson can be learned from my band’s album release and iTunes sales.  We sold 48 downloads, but they are listed as being from a single track.  This is false, we sold 8 copies of our album, not 48 downloads of an individual track.  I don’t know why it’s sorted like this in the report, but it’s annoying.

According to the report we made 28.56 for our 48 downloads, which comes out to 60 cents per track that we got to keep.  iTunes seems to pay better than Amazon here, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Do Your Homework is for sale on Amazon at $0.89 and at iTunes for $0.99.

How much does Spotify pay an artist?

In the streaming sector we can learn from our Spotify plays and pay that we get $0.003 per stream in the US, but almost $0.006 in Europe.  I speculate that international licensing costs more and therefore pays more, but it may have something to do with exchange rates.  I can’t say for sure why my plays on European Spotify paid more, but I would love to hear from someone who knows more about this than me.

How much does Rdio pay an artist?

Along with Spotify, my tracks also had a couple of plays on Rdio.  And once again, we have US plays, but this time we have some plays from Canadian Rdio.  And once again, we can see that international plays are “worth more” than domestic US plays.  Based on this Report US Rdio pays artists more than $0.004 per stream and more than $0.008 per stream in Canada.  Therefore, Rdio pays artists better than Spotify does and international plays pay better than domestic plays.  Interesting stuff.

Waiting for reports sucks!

I have been waiting since February for my sales information.  It’s mid-April.  How is it that in the 21st century, with databases running on redundant servers 24/7, that I can’t get real-time or at least next-day sales data.  Somehow, the music industry is behind its time and artists must wait for 45 days until the close of the month that the sales were conducted to receive sales reports.  A RouteNote representative explained to me that this is because they need to compile data from multiple digital distributers and then create their reports based on those reports.  But there is still no acceptable excuse for these servers to not be communicating with one another.  And to add even more confusion to the mix the “month” closes roughly 5 days before the end of the actual month.  Crazy music industry.

If I learn anything useful from my next sales report I will try to share, but hopefully this article is of some use to someone out there looking to learn what Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, etc. pay artists.


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