Streaming Royalties: What It Takes To Make A Living

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Back in January, Amelia Jones wrote an article on the Pirate Blog titled 'The Real Cost Of Streaming During Covid-19'. Artists during this time were more reliant than ever on meagre streaming royalties as a revenue source, but a certain lack of awareness prevailed about how little streaming actually contributes to the average artist’s livable wage.

With this in mind, we decided to investigate how many streams it would take for artists to earn as much as people in various traditional job roles, if they were to rely on streaming revenue alone.

Less Than One Million Streams

If your music is being streamed less than a million times per year, whether that’s on SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal, it’s virtually impossible to make a living from streaming alone.

The national living wage in the UK works out at about £17,300 per year before deductions. That’s the equivalent of about 1.7 million streams on Tidal, 4.1 million on Apple Music, 5 million on Spotify or around 15.5 million on SoundCloud.

One Million Streams

One million streams is a huge achievement by anyone’s standards, but on most platforms, artists who get one million streams per year still won’t be edging anywhere near the UK national living wage (£17,300 per year before deductions). Therefore, across all platforms, one million streams in a year equates to the earnings of a part-time job.

Here’s exactly what one million streams will get you:

  • £1,118 on SoundCloud
  • £3,440 on Spotify
  • £4,300 on Apple Music
  • £10,320 on Tidal

Five Million Streams

Five million streams in a year still won’t get you very far in terms of making a living on SoundCloud. On Spotify, you’d be a hundred quid or so short of minimum wage. On Apple Music, you'd be in a similar pay bracket to a bus driver (£20,317) or a baker (£22,192). On Tidal, you’d be earning about as much per year as a dentist (£51,595).

Here’s exactly what five million streams will get you:

  • £5,590 on SoundCloud
  • £17,200 on Spotify
  • £21,500 on Apple Music
  • £51,600 on Tidal

Ten Million Streams

Amazingly, even if you had ten million streams on SoundCloud in one year, you still wouldn’t enter the UK’s basic rate tax bracket (£12,570-£37,700). On Spotify, you'd be earning about as much as a nurse (£33,384), and on Apple Music, you’d still be earning less than the average head teacher (£51,000).

Here’s exactly what ten million streams will get you:

  • £11,180 on SoundCloud
  • £34,400 on Spotify
  • £43,000 on Apple Music
  • £103,200 on Tidal

It’s worth noting that artists don’t rely entirely on streaming revenue, the figures above simply show how they’d fare if they did. However, it’s also worth noting that not all artists are solo, so the figures above are often chopped into even smaller portions of what might help make up a livable wage.

With this in mind, if you want to better support the artists you love in the streaming age, we’d recommend thinking about where you’re streaming and whether you can actually buy some of your favourite tracks or albums, digitally or physically.

No one is going to stop streaming, but this sort of conscious consumerism helps to balance what’s best for the artist with what you can afford and what you're willing to spend.

You can read more about the effects of low royalties from streaming here.

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