Earning a minimum wage from Spotify is a lot harder than you think

Streaming is raking in cash for the music industry. 

Spotify, for example, recently it had 124 million paying subscribers. And a last year found that three major music labels were making $19 million a day just from streaming services. Everyone in the industry seems to be making money. Everyone, that is, except for many artists and musicians.

If you’re an artist looking to earn a bare minimum living off of your music through streaming, you’re going to need millions upon millions of streams to do that, according to a new study from , a UK-based company that compares broadband internet services.

For the study, minimum wage in the United States was defined at the federal level, which is $7.25 an hour. That brings the annual minimum wage salary to $15,080.40 when based on a full time, 40-hour work week. Add to that the $0.00437 per stream (!) that Spotify, currently the largest streaming music service, pays and you’re looking at 3,450,892 streams needed to carve out a minimum wage. 

Some streaming services pay more per stream than Spotify. An artist would need just under 1.2 million streams on Tidal, which pays the most, to make minimum wage. On Apple Music, they’d need just over 2 million streams according to the study.

Other streaming services, however, pay a lot less. Artists would need 3.7 million streams on Amazon Music and a whopping 21.8 million streams on YouTube just to earn the federal minimum wage.

Researchers also looked at how many streams artists would need to make a living outside the U.S., too. For example, in the UK, an artist would need their music streamed on Spotify an additional 1.5 million times to earn minimum wage.

The study was conducted using pay-per-stream figures by artists from an earlier study. It also notes that payouts from streaming companies can vary based on geographic location as well as specific deals between streaming services, artists, and any involved labels.

Artists have been openly criticizing streaming music services’ pay model for years now. Musicians, like cellist Zoe Keating, have publicly their payouts in hopes of shining a spotlight on how little these massive companies pay artists on their platforms. 

Two years ago, the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board even that artists had to be paid more by these services for their songs, raising payouts by 43 percent to music publishers. The streaming services have been to overturn this. An unintended consequence of the new, more complex payout model even in Spotify requesting some artists pay the company back after claiming they actually overpaid them.

Low payouts for creators are nothing new in the online world. However, it seems to be especially egregious in the music streaming industry. It’s clear that, for most artists and musicians, making a full-time living just from streaming music on these services is out of reach and likely won’t change anytime soon.

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