UPDATED: My music service royalty rates over the last two years!

Want to see my actual royalty rates I earned across all music services over the last two years? OK… here you go!

UPDATE: Originally posted on March 8, 2017. I updated this post on September 8, 2017 to include newer data and better explanations of where the data is from.

Hold on! Why should you care about my personal data?

Good question. Every rate chart like this has a built-in bias, and mine is certainly no different. HOWEVER, here are some reasons why you might find this rate chart particularly interesting:

  • It’s from a single, established solo indie artist (me 🙂 ).
    • If you write and perform your own songs, and still own the rights for everything, these rates should be similar to what you would get. In other words, I imagine my rates will be a much better match for you than say the rates that a signed writer gets from his publisher for a song that he co-wrote that was performed by a popular group band.
  • It’s based on a lot of data, at least in indie-musician terms.
    • In fact, these rates are based on tens of millions of my individual sales data records and streams over the last two years.
    • Keep in mind, though, that some smaller services for some months might have very little data, which could naturally skew the data.
  • I created a pretty robust backend tracking and reporting system over the last decade that I used to calculate this data.
    • If you’re curious, you can learn more about my tech background and a bit about the tracking system on my bio page.

Also, keep in mind that I’m a US-based musician, which could possibly affect some of the rates compared to what you’d get if you are outside the US.

My music service royalty rates over the past two years!

These month-by-month royalty rates per unit sold or streamed are based on transactions that occurred during September 2015 to June 2017 that I’ve received to date. For example, if you see a rate of $0.0035 for a streaming service, that means that I got $3.50 per thousand plays on that service.

You can download the data using the “csv” link below (if you open it in Excel or in another spreadsheet software, make sure you show all four decimal places for the values). You can sort each column by clicking on the column header. Also, you can search the chart by using the search box just above the chart.

Assuming these rates would be roughly the same for you, here’s an example of the type of money you would get for some music services for say 5,000 streams (based on June 2016’s rates).

  • Groove Music = $184
  • TIDAL = $91
  • Google Play Music = $47
  • Apple Music = $35
  • Spotify = $22
  • Deezer = $18
  • Pandora = $9
  • YouTube = $2

And similarly, here is what you would earn for 5,000 streams on each service based on August 2016’s rates (just two months later!).

  • Groove Music = $102
  • TIDAL = $84
  • Apple Music = $36
  • Google Play Music = $32
  • Spotify = $19
  • Deezer = $15
  • Pandora = $9
  • YouTube = $2

You’ll notice that the rates vary A LOT month to month. There are lots of reasons for this, including when various organizations pay and the type of organization that pays. For example, one month I might get earnings based on plays of a sound recording on TIDAL, but the next month I might only get earnings for plays of the composition on TIDAL, which is at a much smaller rate than sound recording royalties! So, you have to be very careful when comparing numbers to know what exactly it is you are comparing.

Also, as you can see, there is a HUGE difference between the “top” services and the “bottom” services. So, if you “make it big,” make sure to do that on one of those top services! 🙂 Getting a million plays on YouTube is just going to net you $300… but getting a million plays on Groove Music might net you over $25,000!

There’s a reason these rates might differ from other rates you’ve seen.

Unlike other super-neat royalty rate charts I’ve seen online, this chart is special because it combines my income across all entities and organizations. That means it’s not just showing the money that say Spotify pays out for using a song. It’s much, much more than that. These rates are actual “in-my-bank” rates per sale or stream that are calculated after all of the different companies take their portions and fees. And these rates include much more than say what CD Baby pays me for my Spotify plays. The rates you’ll see below include things like:

  • Sound recording income from CD Baby (aka my record label income and income from my distribution service). Check out my high-level overview of how the music industry works for more info.
  • Composition performance royalties from BMI (aka my writers and publishers share).
  • Sound recording performance royalties from SoundExchange (aka my rights owners and featured artist share).
  • Mechanical royalties from Music Reports and Harry Fox Agency.
  • Ad revenue shares from AdRev for plays on YouTube (keep in mind that those plays on YouTube also generate other types of royalties, such as composition performance royalties!).
  • Worldwide, multi-tier blended rates. The rates aren’t just based on a certain country which might happen to pay more (or less), or based on a small group of premium-tier customers who happen to pay for their music service. The rates blend that all together and spit out a single number that’s easy to understand.

Why is this important to you? Because as a solo independent musician, these are the types of rates that you can expect to get as well… eventually.

You’ll notice that the rates can and do change, but at least you’ll be in the ballpark. What I mean by “eventually” is that you might have to wait a year or two for some of those royalties I mentioned above to finally come in. For example, you’ll notice that the most recent months in my chart are either missing or seem a bit off. That’s because I haven’t yet received all of my royalties for those months… in fact, I might not get some of them for another year from now.

Are you curious how I calculated all of this information? Read on!

Here’s how I calculated this information.

I regularly import my sales data from lots of sources into my custom backend system. But if you’ve ever tried to import data from lots of sources, you’ll find it’s not exactly straight-forward to label each sale and stream with the corresponding music service it belongs to.

My system automagically tags every single royalty line item it imports with the corresponding music service it belongs to, the tax entity who is paying me the royalty, as well as the licensing company I originally submitted my song to that ended up generating this royalty. For example, I might submit my song to CD Baby (“licensing company”), who then submits it to Spotify (“music service”), who then pays BMI (“tax entity”) my composition performance royalties, who then pays me. My system keeps track of all of this using several methods:

  • Considers the entity who created and gave me the royalty data and who they are reporting it for.
  • Considers the nature and type of royalty data (e.g. physical CD, download, interactive stream, radio play, song, album, sheet music, etc.).
  • Considers meta data and column/field names associated with the royalty data.

Once all of the data is tagged properly, doing the actual calculation is pretty simple: income from service / quantity from service. For example, $100 from an online store like Amazon.com for 20 physical CDs would return a per-unit royalty rate of $5. Another example: $3 for 3,000 streams on a streaming platform like Spotify would be a per-stream royalty rate of  $0.001. Simple.

Then I simply used my backend reporting tools to generate the data that I put in the chart below.

Dates really matter!

I used the “Order Date” I assigned to each record to calculate these values. Here’s what I mean. My system tracks three dates for every record:

  • Import Date = the date when I actually imported the record into my system. For example, on March 2, 2017 I import my February 2017 monthly statement from CD Baby.
  • Order Date = the date when the transaction occurred. For example, my February 2017 CD Baby statement shows a song was played on Spotify on November 15, 2016.
  • Tax Date = the date I should use for tax purposes. For example, a record might need to be included in my 2016 taxes if I was paid for it on December 1, 2016, even though I didn’t import it until early 2017, and even if the transaction it was referring to was from something that happened back in 2015.

When considering royalty rates, it is important to use the order date (aka transaction date) in order to get an accurate view. Reports based on other dates will skew the data because the royalty data you receive is batched or a music service suddenly pays out a ton of back-dated royalties.

Here are some noteworthy items.

  • Some recent data is missing or maybe a little different from previous months because I haven’t yet received the royalties for those months from all sources in order to calculate the royalty rate. Remember that some services may take years before you get all of your money because it has to travel all around the world through lots of different collection agencies.
  • Some services don’t have any data for some months. This could be because:
    • Maybe I didn’t have any sales or streams for that month.
    • Maybe I haven’t received that royalty data yet.
    • Maybe the music service wasn’t around then.
    • Maybe the music service went out of business.
    • Maybe I hadn’t signed up for the service yet.
    • Maybe I stopped using the service.
    • Maybe I didn’t have all the necessary info to calculate the royalty rate correctly (as is the case for Pandora before 2016).
  • I generally get the most money per unit sold from my website. This makes sense because my overhead for digital purchases (albums and sheet music) in particular is very low.
  • Some rates are a blend of individual song sales, album sales, sheet music sales, songbook sales, and other bundles, which means that they might be higher than you might expect if you’re in the “per-track” mindset.
  • If a service is not in the list, I’m pretty sure it means I either haven’t yet received money from them, I don’t use their service, or their royalties are somehow bundled with another service.

Here’s a bonus chart!

As a thank you for reading through this far, here is the same chart, but aggregating my data over all of September 2016 to September 2017. Keep in mind that these rates are per unit (aka sale or stream) and this doesn’t include some data during that time period, since it might be another year until I get it all.

Any questions?

This type of data is inherently complex. So, if you have any questions about what you see above, ask them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to try to answer them.

If this article was helpful, why not share it with your fellow musicians? 🙂 Thanks!

Comments 10

  1. Jesse Brown March 9, 2017
    • Isaac Shepard March 9, 2017
  2. Juan Maria Solare March 9, 2017
    • Isaac Shepard March 9, 2017
  3. lolz May 6, 2017
    • Isaac Shepard May 6, 2017
  4. Timo September 26, 2017
    • Isaac Shepard September 26, 2017
  5. chad HERRELLA October 5, 2017
    • Isaac Shepard October 6, 2017

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