Streaming Services Don’t Pay Much for Music

Consider Pandora and Spotify, the streaming music services that are becoming ever more integrated into our daily listening habits. My BMI royalty check arrived recently, reporting songwriting earnings from the first quarter of 2012, and I was glad to see that our music is being listened to via these services. Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat”, for example, was played 7,800 times on Pandora that quarter, for which its three songwriters were paid a collective total of 21 cents, or seven cents each. Spotify pays better: For the 5,960 times “Tugboat” was played there, Galaxie 500’s songwriters went collectively into triple digits: $1.05 (35 cents each).

To put this into perspective: Since we own our own recordings, by my calculation it would take songwriting royalties for roughly 312,000 plays on Pandora to earn us the profit of one — one — LP sale. (On Spotify, one LP is equivalent to 47,680 plays.)

Damon Krukowski, a musician for the bands Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi wrote up a nice piece for Pitchfork about how music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify aren’t very good business models for musicians who license their music to these services because they don’t pay well — even if their songs are played millions of times. Krukowski does say the services are great products for music listeners (he pays $9.99 a month for Spotify).

In response to a post criticizing Krukowski’s piece telling him that he simply needs to go on tour to make money, Maura Johnston wrote up this great post explaining why touring is not the million dollar answer for musicians trying to make a living. The best ways to support your favorite artist is to obviously buy their music and merchandise directly from them and see them live when they’re in town, but unless you’re a band like Nickelback, there still isn’t a magic model to make even moderately successful bands a lot of money.

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