Can Artists Get Rich In A Streaming Music Industry?

By Jeff Price

Now that CD sales have gone the way of Zima, the entire old school industry sits and wrings it hands around how/if it will make money in the new digital industry.

In the meantime, with the removal of the old industry middlemen, the new industry—the artist as record label/songwriter/publisher and performer—is making more money now than at any point in history.

But is the more money being made enough to sustain the world of artists?

The truth is, the model is still being sorted out, but I remain optimistic.

Here’s one piece of evidence for discussion…

In a May 30th, 2012 press release issued by Cisco about how the Internet is going to be four times as large in four years, one little bullet point stood out to me (and thank you to Todd Beals for pointing it out).

It reads:

Globally, Online Music is expected to be the most highly penetrated residential Internet service ― in 2011 there were 1.1 billion users (63 percent of residential Internet users); in 2016 there are forecast to be 1.8 billion users (79 percent of residential Internet users).

I understand this to mean that in 2011, there were 1.1 billion people using music services via the Internet to listen to music at home.  (This number does NOT include those using peer-to-peer services: Cisco has a separate number for that.)

Let’s run a model based on these numbers and see what sort of revenue this could possibly generate:

1.8 billion residential users – let’s say each listens to an average of 10 songs a day.

That’s 18,000,000,000 (18 billion) song listens per day.

18,000,000,000 (18 billion) listens per DAY

x 365 days a year

= 6,570,000,000,000 (6.5 Trillion) listens per year

That’s a lot of listens – I suspect a lot more than there used to be but no one knows as we never tracked listens (beyond AM/FM radio) before.  With digital you can.

So who gets money from these listens?

If these listens happen via a non-interactive service (i.e. Pandora, FM radio simulcast, Sirius Satellite) there are two royalty payments owed:

1) Songwriters/publishers get paid from every stream for the right of Public Performance in the composition (the ©).

2) A separate payment is made to the master holders (the entity that controls the right to the recording) for the right to Public Performance in a sound recording(the (P). – see George Howard’s article “Taylor Swift’s Big Machine Gets Paid” for more info).

If the listens happen via an interactive service (i.e. Spotify, Rhapsody, Mog, MySpace Music) there are three royalty payments owed:

Songwriters/publishers get paid from every stream for:

1 A) The right of Public Performance

1 B) The right of Reproduction (aka Mechanical Royalties)

2) A separate payment is made to the master holders (the entity that controls the right to the recording)

If the listens happen via some other model (i.e. iTunes Match) there are three royalty payments owed:

Songwriters/publishers get paid from every access for:

1 A) The right of Public Performance

1 B) The right of Reproduction (aka Mechanical Royalties)

2) A separate payment is made to the master holders (the entity that controls the right to the recording)

If these listens happen via paid downloads, a one time payment is made (as opposed to the above models where the copyright holder gets paid each time a song is listened to).

In the US, there are two royalty payments owed for each download:

1) Songwriters/publishers get paid from every download for the right of Reproduction (aka Mechanical Royalties)

2) A separate payment is made to the master holders (the entity that controls the right to the recording)

On a download outside of the US, there are three royalty payments owed:

Songwriters/publishers get paid for every download for:

1 A) The right of Public Performance (aka Communication)

1 B) The right of Reproduction (aka Mechanical Royalties)

2) A separate payment is made to the master holders (the entity that controls the right to the recording)

So, copyright holders get paid from these Internet listens.  How much will be generated?

Many of these payments will be micro payments, three places to the right of the decimal point.

As an example, on interactive streams in the US, the total royalty all THREE (master, public performance and mechanical royalty) generate together is about $.008 for each stream.

Do the math assuming these are all interactive streams (which they currently are not):

6,570,000,000,000 (6.5 trillion listens)

x $.008 (eight tenths of one cent)

= $52,560,000,000 ($52.5 billion dollars)

As a perspective, the traditional CD music industry in its heyday (late 90’s) was about a $35,000,000,000 ($35 billion dollar) industry.

Now factor in that according to Cisco, these are just for “residential” listens.

Now add in listens from cars, smart phones, etc.

Now add in Business listens.

Now factor in if the rate goes up by 1/1000th of a penny (which it will at a minimum) or more.

Now remove the middlemen taking a percentage of the revenue when the music is listened to.

What excites me about this model/exercise is it’s being run at the infancy of this new industry.  Listens and the revenue from these listens are on the way up. In addition, less of the artists’ earnings are being taken by middlemen.

And the assumptions in here, although a bit stretched (i.e. all the streams are interactive) are based on some real numbers but also leave out other revenue from traditional income streams—master use/synch licensing, merch sales, gig income, sponsorships, ticket sales, etc.  Add those in as well.

Do I think the world will awash in rich artists?  Absolutely not. I think the same rules of the old will apply; just as there are only a handful of successful authors, poets and filmmakers at any given time, there will always only be a handful of successful musicians/songwriters at any given time.

But those that are successful will be financially well off. In addition, I truly believe there will be a wider range of artists that make some form of income of some significance.  It will no longer be a world with two classes of artists: artists either making nothing or millions.  There will be a full spectrum across the board with a few more at the top, a lot at the bottom and a new class in the middle.

And if these assumptions are correct, then the issue that we should be focusing on is the pipeline that assures that these artists have a simple and efficient way to get the money they earned; right now, aside from TuneCore’s distribution and Publishing Administration services, there is no other.

  • Mel Man

    I can dig dat…God Bless

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  • Mel Man

    I can dig dat…God Bless

  • yves villeneuve

    Not that I’m interested in providing my music to the streaming model, I have one question: What is the true average listens per person per day?

  • Chadwildclay

    Great article! I like the direction things are going. It makes me wish I was born in the 2010’s rather than the 1980’s.   Correction though ”
    x $.008 (eight one hundredth of a cent)” this is actually “eight tenths of one cent”.

  • Chadwildclay

    Great article! I like the direction things are going. It makes me wish I was born in the 2010’s rather than the 1980’s.   Correction though ”
    x $.008 (eight one hundredth of a cent)” this is actually “eight tenths of one cent”.

    • Jeff

      whoops!  thank you for the correction!

      jeff

      • Pjbolay18

         I appreciate I read and I’d like to join early. Thanks , Joseph

  • http://www.facebook.com/Point5communications Will Buckley

    Jeff, I co

  • http://www.facebook.com/Point5communications Will Buckley

    Jeff, I co

  • http://www.facebook.com/Point5communications Will Buckley

    Jeff, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Spotify and the cloud will destroy what’s left of the music business….
     

    I’ve seen the future of the iPod and its’ a smart phone connected to the cloud. Music everywhere all the time and you don’t have to buy a thing. You do realize that when fans can create playlists in the cloud and share them with their friends; the incentive to purchase music will drop, again, dramatically. Then you have Spotify’s licensing fees….. http://youtu.be/mv9tduLjm98

    • Anonymous

      @will

      if it destroys what the traditional system used to be – gate keepers making the decisions, artist transferring ownership of their copyrights to gain access, no transparency, no band royalties as they are always recouping, no control, less than 1/10,000,000 being let in, im for it
      jeff

      • http://www.facebook.com/Point5communications Will Buckley

        But Jeff that’s Tunecore’s business, providing artists access to streaming and download services and I have no problem with that.  And yes, one positive aspect is that it provides the “potential” for enough exposure to carve out a career.  But at what cost?  Illegal downloading and now Spotify and the cloud.

        For those who “make” it, making it may not be a sustainable business model and many will still need to keep their day jobs.  

        • Anonymous

          @Will

          I view TuneCore’s business to serve the artist. It must provide something of value and not think about itself as a gatekeeper.
          Artists pay a fee for the service – and that service must constantly evolve to stay of value
          Its up to the artist to decide if the service TuneCore provides is of value. If TuneCore is not providing the right service, it will not have customers.
          And now I am going to plagiarize myself from another response I gave:

          Lets look at the world of artists – before digital, less than 0.05% of them were let in. Therefore only an elite select few every made anything
          Previously, artists were not rolling money. Most were not allowed it into the system by the gatekeepers. Of those that were, on the major labels, over 98% of them failed. Yes, 98%
          Of the 2% that succeed (not very many!), less than a half percent of those ever got paid a band royalty ever.
          So what world existed that I seem to be missing that has artists making all this money?
          In the old system, they never made any to begin with.

          That changed in this new system – every month I seen thousands and thousands and thousands of artists making over $1,000 a month in music sales revenue from iTunes, Spotify etc
          Did Warner Bros send out checks for band royalties to ver 10,000 artists a month? We do.
          Artist are FINALLY making money – this is new money. money that never ever made it to them before, no matter how small it is

          How in the world is an artist making at least something, no matter how small, worse than 99% of the world’s unsigned artists making nothing and of the 1% signed, less than a half a percent of them making a single band royalty ever?

          Finally, as much as I hate to say it, being an artist does not entitle the artist to get money. They have to earn it. And not everyone can

          jeff

          • http://nestawynellis.com Nesta Wyn Ellis (Yzabel)

            Dear Jeff,
            You goddit! As in book publishing a few people selected the artists they wanted to publish: and most of the time they were wrong. So, I like the look of a system that enables the artist to get exposed to the market without going through the hands of these “publishers”.
            I’m going this route with my books and I’ll go this route with my music.
            Nothing’s perfect and maybe the fortunes will not be so huge but for the artist to have the audience is the main thing, even if the income is not billions. WE are entering the age of artistts democracy! Thanks to the digital revolution!

        • Anonymous

          @Will

          I view TuneCore’s business to serve the artist. It must provide something of value and not think about itself as a gatekeeper.
          Artists pay a fee for the service – and that service must constantly evolve to stay of value
          Its up to the artist to decide if the service TuneCore provides is of value. If TuneCore is not providing the right service, it will not have customers.
          And now I am going to plagiarize myself from another response I gave:

          Lets look at the world of artists – before digital, less than 0.05% of them were let in. Therefore only an elite select few every made anything
          Previously, artists were not rolling money. Most were not allowed it into the system by the gatekeepers. Of those that were, on the major labels, over 98% of them failed. Yes, 98%
          Of the 2% that succeed (not very many!), less than a half percent of those ever got paid a band royalty ever.
          So what world existed that I seem to be missing that has artists making all this money?
          In the old system, they never made any to begin with.

          That changed in this new system – every month I seen thousands and thousands and thousands of artists making over $1,000 a month in music sales revenue from iTunes, Spotify etc
          Did Warner Bros send out checks for band royalties to ver 10,000 artists a month? We do.
          Artist are FINALLY making money – this is new money. money that never ever made it to them before, no matter how small it is

          How in the world is an artist making at least something, no matter how small, worse than 99% of the world’s unsigned artists making nothing and of the 1% signed, less than a half a percent of them making a single band royalty ever?

          Finally, as much as I hate to say it, being an artist does not entitle the artist to get money. They have to earn it. And not everyone can

          jeff

  • Mark Greene

    Thats about right!

  • yves villeneuve

    You are comparing 2016 figures with late 1990 figures.
     
    Research has shown that 20% of illegal downloads would have been real purchases. In 2008, 95% of music downloads were illegal. If illegal downloading were significantly restricted, this represents a five-fold increase in legal sales. 
     
    In 2010, worldwide music sales were $16 Billion, therefore we could say the music ownership industry has a potential of $80 Billion per year.

    • yves villeneuve

      I am taking a step back from what I said.
       
      Digital music sales represent 25% of industry sales therefore five-fold of $4 billion equals $20 Billion + $12 Billion totalling $32 Billion per year.

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  • Robby

    It’s great that you post these articles to get people thinking but your point of view is overwhelmingly biased and your numbers are based on too many hypotheticals to have any real meaning. You can’t just assume the average number of listens per day is 10; maybe it’s more like 2 and that drops your potential streaming revenue to about $10.5 billion. And then to go and compare those hypothetical numbers against a real number ($35 billion) is down right misleading.

    Let’s say that my “2 plays per person” is right and then I guessed at another number, like how many artists are actually competing for those streams now that technology has made the barrier to entry so low (I’d say there’s at least 4x as many artists competeing for those streams as there were in the late 90’s) and then your ratio of streams available to the market goes way down.

    SO according to my calulation that leaves about $2.6 billion in possible revenue, when it used to be $35 billion in the 90’s.

    Now let’s get a stat that is actually relevant to most artists here at TuneCore and let’s factor in that TuneCore works with mostly indie artists and that 95% of streaming revenue goes to major labels artists, so that only leaves $130,000 million for the rest of us, in a best case scenario. Now we know that in reality on about 10% of streams get tracked and remember that most artists give away their music for free (because that’s the only way it will get heard), so now we’re down to your share of about $13 million from your $52.5 billion that you are dangling infront of these already starving artists.

    A bit more honesty and realistic statistics would go a long way to the credibility of your posts. Why don’t you post the actual streaming revenue from artists on TundeCore? Artists can’t wait for some hypothetical scenario; they need to start making money now.

    • Anonymous

      @Robby

      you hit the nail on the head, this article is for conversation.

      I might also point out that many of your numbers are hypothetical as well. For example, you assume the majority of streams go to major label signed artists with nothing to back that up.
      TuneCore Artists represent over 4% of all US digital music revenue. EMI is at 7.5% or so. As each month goes by the market share continues to shift from them. Give me another 12 months and TuneCore’s artists will be larger than EMI.
      Next, two plays a person? People leave the radio on and only listen to two songs?
      Disagree with you there big time

      Next, lets go back to the $35B in the 90’s. It wasnt the artists getting the money, it was the labels.
      And now lets look at the world of artists – before digital, less than 0.05% of them were let in. Therefore only an elite select few every made anything
      You ask:

  • Dreamfullofzen

    Have mixed feelings about this all… As someone who has made not even 200 dollars in 4 years from tunecore…well… I agree that the majority of income is still going to be for the mainstream folks… Guys like myself are basically not able to compete marketing wise… I work several jobs to get by, and ad such I find myself writing and producing less because of this… My latest album as sold 2 copies in 4 months…

  • Frankcronogue

    I’d like to know why I have not recieved monies since February this year? Also 11 streams of my song earned me 0.008. Should be rich in no time,eh!!

    • Anonymous

      @Frankcronogue

      Anything the stores report to us, you get – and you get all of it.

      If there are sales that occurred in months where you did not get your money please help us help you get it.
      If you can provide any receipts or anything that shows this is happening, we will go to battle with the stores for you!
      Just let Artist Support know about it.

      Jeff

      • Frankcronogue

        Hi Jeff. I just find it odd that there have been no sales in all this time,that’s all. How can I provide reciepts? My main revenue is through tunecore.

        • Frankcronogue

          I haven’t even the made the 49 dollars back that I paid Tunecore to start all this,since september 2011!!

          • Anonymous

            i hear that

            same with the gear and equipment i think you may have bought

            i wish i could tell you up front if your music will sell, I cant. Its what the labels did for the last 100 years; decide who got let in (and they were wrong 98% of the time)
            And I cant predict when your music will take off… now, next week, two years from now.
            These are decisions I feel better leaving in the hands of the artist – we are here to serve you if you feel we are a fit.
            And we will do what we say better than anyone else can

            that i can promise

            jeff

        • Anonymous

          Absolutely hit up your fans – find out if they can provide any info

          For example, if they bought your song(s) via download on iTunes, they get an email receipt
          we will hunt this down for you, promise. I just need some ammo to go to them with
          jeff

  • M D R 46

    What about YouTube.. Let’s say you hire someone to create a video for an original song that you wrote from head to toe..Then you accumulate 10,000 views or more.If you do not moneytize your channel, does YouTube still have to pay?

    • Anonymous

      If you become a partner of YouTube eligible to get paid from streams, and control all the rights from head to toe of the music as well as the video itself, it works out to about $2.30 per 1,000 clicks on the ad
      jeff

  • Dyey

    I know this out of topic but in this way, will the quality of the music become lower? I mean, no more orchestrated music, bands will have lesser number of members or personnel? And only the songwriter/publishers are getting the money.

    • Anonymous

      not so sure it will end up this way

      go back to the early to mid-60’s. A ton of great music was being written and recorded by thousands of inspired unsigned bands…
      jeff

      • markmeld

         You didn’t really answer the question. Yes, a ton of great music came out, but you are not going to get George Martin quality arrangement and production without some kind of financial support/risk taking. The new music business model will not facilitate bands that are just starting out to succeed even if they have great songs if the quality of their studios and arrangements are poor.

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  • Joneschris53

    how comeI’ve never seen a buck from all this?

    • Anonymous

      If your music is being streamed you are owed money

      If it streams via non interactive services like pandora, in the US, soundexchange, BMI and ASCAP have your money
      If you used TuneCore to distribute to interactive streaming services like Spotify, the money owed for use of the recording of the song is in your TuneCore account
      The money owed to you as the songwriter must be paid to you directly

      Thank You

      Jeff Price
      http://www.TuneCore.com

  • Bob

    Great article! This brings up a very important conversation that every artist, who is serious about what they do, needs to be involved in. I have observed the industry for about 35 years now and there is no doubt that the major labels and conventional distribution channels are losing the stranglehold they have enjoyed since the 60’s. The only problem is, there is no model to take their place right now. Technology moves to fast for anything to get embedded into a system. So what the artists have to do, the only thing an artist can do, is put out exceptional material, build a solid and expanding fan base and plan on making most of their money thru savvy marketing and live performances that brings fans to the venues. As a dj on a internet radio station (my show is based on independent and unsigned artists) I can track listeners in real time and can honestly say that nobody is making money from this stream source! And that’s true of any internet station. Even when internet radio becomes commonplace in the vehicles entertainment system, the amount of choices will be overwhelming, making it that much harder to “rise above the noise”. Gotta give a quick shout out to Tunecore for the thought provoking and well researched articles. Good job!  

  • http://www.VIPGQ.com/ Brian Shell

    Jeff… for those who complain about the flat rate you charge and supposedly not see much from royalties right now, the articles/blogs you and George share more than justify the yearly fee to distribute our music.  Just look at college tuition alone and how it’s going through the roof. 

    For less than $100 a year, you and George provide a music industry education that isn’t available anywhere else I know of… so major, major kudos.

    And for those who aren’t making much in royalties, like me, 1) I get my music released internationally via reputable sources like iTunes, Google Play, Amazon… 2) I receive and read your TuneCore blogs religously… 3) it helps make me a smarter artist/author/musician so I *can* know how better to succeed in the future.

    And oh yeah, sometimes, I do actually get paid – royalties – from you too!  BONUS!

    Wrap a price tag around all this in cost-benefit analysis?

    One simple thing…

    Priceless.

    Best regards,
    Brian Shell
    http://www.VIPGQ.com 

    • Anonymous

      i hope you dont mind if i print this out and tack it on my wall?

      thank you for the kind words and support!

      :)

      jeff

      • http://www.VIPGQ.com/ Brian Shell

        No problem Jeff… it’s truly an honor having you and George helping us all with the wisdom I hope will make us all better artists… but more than that… better people with better souls.

        Blessings,
        Brian

        • http://www.VIPGQ.com/ Brian Shell

          One more thing I thought I’d add Jeff… and that is that in any legal arena and in determining the price of a product, an entertainment attorney told me that there is a qualitative evaluation… as well as a quantitative one.  So while some may scoff at the yearly flat rate fee, they should also consider what kind of Quality comes with it… which *is* Priceless.

          It’s often a matter of “opportunity cost”…

          Just wanted to add that…

          Best,
          Brian

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  • http://twitter.com/jnoble100  Jason Noble

    Jeff, a thought provoking post.  I’d really like to reblog it on my own blog (http://snowballsinwinter.wordpress.com/) as it’s close to my heart and fits very well with a post I did recently.

    Some changing times ahead in how we consume and pay for content and we need to rethink business models very quickly!

    • Anonymous

      @Jason

      Thank you for taking the time to read it. I clicked over to your blog, really interesting articles. I suspect I will be visiting it regularly.
      Please do feel free to re-post, my only request is you provide a link back to the TuneCore blog.
      I also think you may find the iTunes Match earnings of interest – new money generated via Apple from a innovative new product that did not exist until last Oct, 2011 – http://blog.tunecore.com/2012/06/more-magic-money-from-itunes-match.html
      Jeff

  • Gerk235767

    You are taking those numbers out of your ***. Really. Get of the bong and back to real life. Dollar pie dreams. 

    • Anonymous

      @gerk235767

      you make a compelling argument. Can you provide some details to your comments
      I used the data from Spotify, Rhapsody, Mog, MySpace Music to get the rates
      Where did you get your data?

      Jeff

  • Anonymous

     Just a highlight here:

    “…Previously, artists were not rolling money. Most were not allowed it into the system by the gatekeepers. Of those that were, on the major labels, over 98% of them failed. Yes, 98%
    Of the 2% that succeed (not very many!), less than a half percent of those ever got paid a band royalty ever.
    How in the world is an artist making at least something, no matter how small, worse than 99% of the world’s unsigned artists making nothing and of the 1% signed, less than a half a percent of them making a single band royalty ever?
    Finally, as much as I hate to say it, being an artist does not entitle the artist to get money. They have to earn it. And not everyone can …”

    – – – –

    When I think about it … It is absolutely true.
    In this digital era, things are getting faster now. The old days are gone, you know, the mechanicle system of LP, CD distribution etc.

    It’s moving forwards and I love also George’s articles.
    It just makes things easier for us to understand the basics.

    If people don’t buy our music, Jeff says, we need to try to make use of
    the (latest) advantage (or method?) in 2012, the offers of these services.

    For example, an Apple Ping page or any other Social Networking could do even miracles when you have a good relationship with your fans. The interaction by saying: “Hi, there! Who of you, guys, want me to sing … to tour and who wants to come to concert?” An example how things can work out. Probably, a few out there would LOVE to hear more of your songs …

    If you don’t have enough money, just place one BIG board on your profile that says: “My New Single Is Coming Out, So Check It Out … 5 days left.

    The creativity of musician’s art.

    Also the Radio Play offer in our TuneCore account, for instance, is a way to get heard. Just to get some people around.
    We need to start somewhere. I don’t have marketing skills, but I do have lots of ideas!

    Thanks again for the interesting stuff!

    Ooops, by the way: I just checked out my mailbox and found this message of another
    one.
    Don’t worry, I choosed TuneCore’s Service from the very first start (and I like it a lot). So, I don’t need two distributions at the same time.

    Here’s a copy below:

    We do use at least 1600 pixel for cover, don’t we?
    Or is it going to change a bit according to this newsletter? Just a question.

    What is a bundle?

    Many thanks!

    – – –    

    C O P Y

    Dear – name removed -,
     
     
     
    iTunes has published new requirements for bundle covers:
     
    All future releases must have a minimum size of 1400×1400 pixels, recommended is a size of 2400×2400 pixels.
     
    Starting from August this year all bundles will be rejected if their cover does not meet this requirement.
     
    For all bundles releases before August a new cover is not needed.
     
        
     
    – Starting from today the cover for all new and unpublished bundles can have a size of up to 2400×2400 pixels.
     
    – The maximum file size of a cover is now 4 MB.
     
    – Starting from Wednesday 06/20/2012 only covers which have a size between 1400×1400 and 2400×2400 pixels can be uploaded
     
    – The other guidelines (72dpi, JPG, square) still apply
     
     
     
    If you currently have unreleased bundles we recommend changing the cover and to upload one with a bigger size.
     
    If this is impossible you should release the bundle as soon as possible for not to be at risk of denial due to a too small cover.
     
        
     
    Please note:
     
    The guidelines apply no matter if the bundle is going to be released on iTunes or not.
     
    We expect all other shops to release similar guidelines shortly.
     
     
     
     
     
    Best regards
     
    (name removed …)

  • Icecube

    streaming is mainly used to transfer data or stuff in a continuous ways. It provide better quality images and videos. Mostly user used this service for different purpose regarding live events, commercial and e-learning.

    Streaming

  • Viktor

    I really don’t think anyone is making bank off streaming services except the companies who own them. Take a look at the article here http://www.musiccontracts.co/blog/technology-in-the-music-industry/

    They need to all implement paid services that go directly to the artists somehow.

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