Every year Spotify rolls out these personalized graphics both for artists and listeners. For listeners, it shows what you were listening to and how much time you spent time listening to it. For artists, it shows how many listeners you had and what songs they listened to the most.
I didn’t release any music in 2021. For some unknown reason I had a song from 2014 that picked up more streams than anything else in my catalog, and I think that’s mostly what these numbers reflect. But it’s still an interesting case study. I want to end this myth that there’s any money for artists in streaming music.
I looked up every monthly statement with payments I received from Spotify in 2021.
The total amount was $150.
Back in the day that would have been the equivalent of selling 15 CDs.
I’m trying to imagine telling my younger self that one year you’ll sell a total of 15 CDs to one person who’s gonna share those CDs with 23,200 people in 112 countries who will listen to those same 15 CDs 121,800 times for about 5400 hours over the course of a year.
And at the end of the year that person is gonna make you a graphic, with his name on it, and ask you to publicly celebrate the $150 you made.
Mind you this person who is loaning out the CDs he bought from you for $150 is making at least $2.5 million annually from the fees he charges just to this group of 23,200 people who listened to his copy of your music, because he charges them (and everyone else) a monthly fee to access his music library.
You can add zeros to all these numbers and see no one is making real money off of streaming other than the services we pay the monthly fees to.
If it was a million streams I might of made a thousand dollars in a year.
If you’ve got about 12 million streams in a year, that might earn you about $15,000 - equivalent to a full-time job that pays $7.25 an hour.
I’ve got a friend who’s able to live comfortably as a musician without touring, but to do that he’s got over one million people listening to him on Spotify every month, with a total of 56 million streams this year. In any other era that would make you a platinum artist, but he’s not even a household name. If my math is correct he might be making $70,000 a year from streaming.
If you’ve got to reach at least one million people every month just to live comfortably off streaming, I don’t understand how younger artists are supposed to break into the industry without some form of backing or independent wealth to begin with.
And if you are not able to tour as a musician, then chances are you really are releasing music and just getting enough to pay for the music itself. Meaning you’ve got to have a completely different gig to sustain your life.
One of the realest things I ever heard my big homie Jonathan Moore say (may he rest in peace), was “find and live life beyond hip-hop, and watch your life and time within hip-hop improve.”
I’m happy with where my music is because I gave up on it as a career a long time ago. Being able to make what I want to make, release whenever I want, and just only do the shows that I’m excited about is a liberating feeling. And oddly enough, my biggest successes in music (by any metric) only came after I gave up on the idea of being solely dependent on it to make a living.
I’m only scratching the surface here, but I wanted to end the myth about there being money in streams.
I do appreciate everyone who’s been rocking with my music, no matter what platform you choose! It’s the personal connections that mean more to me than these numbers would ever show though.
“i’m operating in a system i do not believe in
authoring some stories we could leave for our children”
PS: A lot of people are asking if there’s a better way to support artists. The ONLY platform in my opinion that values artists is Bandcamp. And a lot of people are asking about ways to support me personally. I appreciate it, but that’s not why I’m sharing this information. I’m good. And I’m good because I don’t expect to make anything from my music, and have had lots of time to figure out what else I can do. But this information needs to be out there for everyone who does want to be able to make a living doing music.