If Only Artists and Managers Had Listened To Us : Spotify Per Stream Rates Keep Dropping

We hate to say we told ya so, but… Below is our post from September 2015. Two years ago we predicted the inevitable truth of the all you can eat Spotify subcription model. Like many of our predictions and proposals (example; windowing titles) we’ve had to wait for the industry to catch up to us. Today, two years later, Digital Music News confirms our prediction.

Read the report from Digital Music News by clicking the headline link here.

Exclusive Report: Spotify Artist Payments Are Declining In 2017, Data Shows | Digital Music News

Our original post from 2015 is below…


Spotify Per Play Rates Continue to Drop (.00408) … More Free Users = Less Money Per Stream #gettherateright

Down, down, down it goes, where it stops nobody knows… The monthly average rate per play on Spotify is currently .00408 for master rights holders.

PerStreamAvg_Jun11_July15

48 Months of Spotify Streaming Rates from Jun 2011 thru May 2015 on an indie label catalog of over 1,500 songs with over 10m plays.

Spotify rates per spin appear to have peaked and are now on a steady decline over time.

Per stream rates are dropping because the amount of revenue is not keeping pace with the  number of streams. There are several possible causes:

1) Advertising rates are falling as more “supply” (the number of streams) come on line and the market saturates.

2) The proportion of  lower paying “free streams”  is growing faster than the proportion of higher paying “paid streams.”

3) All of the above.

This confirms our long held suspicion that as a flat price “freemium” subscription service  scales the price per stream will drop.  As the service reaches “scale” the pool of streaming revenue becomes a fixed amount.  The pie can’t get any larger and adding more streams only cuts the pie into smaller pieces!

The data above is aggregated. In all cases the total amount of revenue is divided by the total number of the streams per service  (ex: $4,080 / 1,000,000 = .00408 per stream). Multiple tiers and pricing structures are all summed together and divided to create an averaged, single rate per play.

Streaming “Transparency” and the 70% Black Box Lie… The Solution Is #gettherateright

The argument goes something like this…

Streaming companies are paying 70% of their revenue but artists are not getting paid enough. This must be the result of record labels and rights holders not passing on the right amount to artists.

The first question is, how do we know that streaming services are actually, really paying 70% of their top line gross revenue to rights holders? We know what the revenue of a transaction is on iTunes, because it is factually transparent – it is the list price being charged. We all know this, and we can all verify this. A $9.99 album on iTunes pays out $7.00, or 70%. Same thing for a $.99 song that pays out $.70, that’s also 70% of revenue.

But when if comes to streaming services however we do not know what the revenue is that should be credited to artists and rights holders. This is what is actually of concern. There is a big black box at the top of the waterfall from which all other money flows downstream.

So if streaming services are paying 70% of revenue, what exactly is that revenue? Let us see it. So here we are with the issue of transparency. If we can’t actually see or know what that number is then yes, the low payouts are very much of concern and have very little to do with intermediaries.

We can disagree about how the 70% of revenue is passed onto artists from iTunes and other transactional sales. But one thing is clear, we all understand the transparent economics of how much money is generated on each transaction. This is not so with streaming. So without transparency at the top of the waterfall, everything that follows is suspect.

More importantly, and more to the point, if there are established retail and wholesale rates for each stream, the calculations become immediately transparent in the same way they are with Itunes. See, the issue here is not what is going on downstream, but rather what is happening at the top of the waterfall.

“WE HAVE A MONETIZATION PROBLEM”

The truth is by now (and everyone should be able to agree on this), we know that streaming creates too little revenue relative to the value of the product. In other words the product is being sold to the consumer for less than the cost that it takes to create and produce it, and still remain sustainable.

In simple terms this is expressed as selling a Porsche for one dollar. It doesn’t matter how many Porsche’s you sell for one dollar while paying out 70% of the revenue, there will never be enough money to actually pay for the cost producing the car. Porsche’s, like professional music are expensive to produce. Despite the advances in recording technology, it is he cost of human labor that is the most important in the value chain.

This is the economics of music streaming in a nutshell, but with one added twist. The Porsche may be sold for one dollar one month, and be sold for only eighty cents the next month, and maybe the month after that sold for a dollar and ten cents. This is because of the fixed (and unsustainable) revenue pool that is divided by the total number of plays.

The common sense solution would be to establish a fixed per stream rate at each platform. This is the most simple way to encourage transparency and fairness as the revenue generated per stream can be transparently and easily calculated from top line data – no more black box at the top of the waterfall. The funny thing is, the people shouting the loudest for transparency also seem to be the most opposed to the easiest solution. Why is that?

So, if we are to have conversations about transparency let’s at least be clear about what it is that we actually need to see.

 

Why .002 is Greater than .001 and Why 90 Days is Better than Forever…

There’s been a lot of talk and understandable dissent surrounding Apple’s free tier payment of the reported .002 per play during each consumers 90 day free trial period. We now live in a world of lessor evils.

Here are three things that we may want to keep in mind…

One:

Eliminating the Unlimited Free, Ad-Supported, On-Demand Access to Music is Job #1. Apple Music and Tidal are both positive steps in that direction.

Two:

.002 is DOUBLE .001 which is what Spotify is paying on it’s ad-supported free tier (see chart below). Yes, we’d love Apple to pay the full ride. Yes, Apple can afford to pay the full ride. Yes, we support any action that influences Apple to pay the full ride – but as a compromise we could be doing worse, and in fact we have been for over five years since the Spotify launch.

Three:

90 Days is Limited. Ad-Supported is forever. This is the big problem. Even if  Spotify was limiting their ad-supported free tier to 90 Days, Apple is still paying DOUBLE. But the real problem is that Spotify is FREE FOREVER. It’s time to keep the eye on the prize here.

Three Steps to a Sustainable Digital Music Ecosystem:

1) Eliminate the Unlimited Free, Ad-Supported, On-Demand Access to Music

2) Windowing

3) Tiered Pricing, based on Access and Consumer Value Proposition

That’s really it. It’s not really any harder than this and we can already see these models working for the Film and TV businesses.

 


 

Streaming Is the Future, Spotify Is Not. Let’s talk Solutions.

 

Why Spotify is not Netflix (But Maybe It Should Be)

 

Why Digital Exec’s ARPU is Bad Math and also Bad Philosophy for Artists.

Dead Kennedys’ East Bay Ray Explains How YouTube Is Stealing From Musicians | New York Observer

Taylor Swift recently brought these “robber baron” business tactics into the mainstream. When she removed her catalog from Spotify, they were trying to force a bad deal on her. Dead Kennedys had Spotify figured out early on, we pulled most but not all of our tracks off of Spotify back at the start of 2013. Musicians are not against streaming, but we are against “plantation/sharecropping” business practices. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Educate yourself about what’s really going on and the reality is shocking. Don’t buy the lies and memes, educate people, share this article, stand up. The Internet is not like the weather, it was created by humans and can be changed by humans. It’s not about regulating the Internet, it’s about regulating businesses. (They’ll try to confuse that, too.)

* BREAKING * Spotify Launches Secret ‘Information Tour’ to Convince Top Artists… | DMN

Breaking from Digital Music News:

Currently, we know of three confirmed dates in the US: October 6th (ie, today) at the Soho Club in New York, October 8th at City Winery in Nashville, and October 10th at a private residence in Los Angeles (complete details on these dates below).  The US-based sessions that we know about are being coordinated through the Music Managers’ Forum (MMF), with the Featured Artists’ Coalition (FAC) potentially bringing serious, high-wattage superstars to the table.

TO ATTEND PLEASE RSVP TO: fiona@thefac.org

READ THE FULL POST AT:
http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2014/10/06/spotify-launches-information-tour-convince-top-artists

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Five Important Questions For Spotify from Artists and Managers

A Tale of Two Pirates? Daniel Ek (uTorrent) and Kim Dotcom (Megaupload)


Music Streaming Math, Can It All Add Up?

@bettemidler : @Spotify and @Pandora have made it impossible for songwriters to earn a living: three months streaming on Pandora, 4,175,149 plays=$114.11.

The truth is self evident.

.
https://twitter.com/BetteMidler/status/452200886970769408

Streaming Price Index : Now with YouTube pay rates! #SXSW

Is this the future of music? We continue to look at artist revenue streams.

If you’re heading out to any panels at SXSW this week, you might want to keep this handy when you’re being told how much money you can make… And if the services at the top of the list like Nokia, Google Play and Xbox Music can pay more per play, why can’t the services at the bottom of the list like Spotify and YouTube?

We’ll give you a hint, the less streams/plays there are the more each play pays. The more plays there are the less each stream/play pays. Tell us again about how these services will scale. Looking at this data it seems pretty clear that the larger the service get’s, the less artists are paid per stream.

So do you think streaming royalty rates are really going to increase as these services “scale”? No, we didn’t either.

StreamingPriceIndexwYOUTUBE

* YouTube payment includes gross payable to single party uploader claiming 100% of rights including video, master and publishers. There should also be additional PRO money earned however we haven’t been able to get any reporting to date.Our YouTube pay rate calculations can be found here:What YouTube Really Pays… Makes Spotify Look Good!

Reality for Indie Artists : Zoë Keating’s Annual Music Sales & Streaming Data @SXSW #SXSW

Zoë Keating released her Annual Music Sales & Streaming Data Spreadsheet a little bit ago and we stayed out of the fray, although we did also publish an update of the Music Streaming Price Index for 2014 as well.

This quote from Zoë in a follow up post about her open and transparent sharing of information on Hypebot got our attention.

I want you to know that I don’t release these numbers as a marketing tool. I’ve always tabulated stuff as part of doing my annual accounting and last year I decided to make a portion of them public. Music commentators were saying, over and over, that artists are not making a living selling music, they make all their money touring, etcetera etcetera. I noted that in my case that wasn’t true and never had been. In the commentary I wasn’t seeing a lot of actual numbers from artists and thought I’d offer some details of how it all works for me: a non-labeled artist whose career has existed entirely in the internet-age.

It’s curious to us that someone would insinuate the motivation behind sharing information in an open, human and transparent way was an attempt at self serving marketing. Shame on those who have made such comments. Zoë should be celebrated for doing what the interweb companies claim to do, and ask others to do, but do not do themselves.

We also found the following statement to be true of our experience of the vast number of artists we hear from who report similar experiences with streaming services ranging from Spotify to YouTube. These services only financially serve the very large artists and the very large labels. In other words, Spotify, YouTube and the like have not empowered artists towards financial freedom and very well appear to be achieving the very opposite.

Meanwhile yes, the big money is to be made at the top of the tail…and therein lies the promise of commercial music streaming services. It will be financially valuable to those who make hits and those who aggregate legions of artists. For a single artist like me commercial streaming will never be more than promo. I accept that. But will keep talking about it until streaming companies do more to make that promo more useful (i.e data).

But there appears to be more to this story. In this recently posted video clip by “Unsound” documentary  filmmaker Mikeal Eldridge, Zoë reveals that she has dug a bit deeper into the realities of streaming economics noting that the more streams that are served, the less the artists makes per stream. Again, this is consistent with her observation that “the promise of commercial music streaming services… will be financially valuable to those who make hits and those who aggregate legions of artists.”

We’ve yet to see anyone propose how streaming can actually scale and be sustainable for artists. We love streaming services, what we don’t like are the economics.

92% of Zoë’s recording income is from transactional digital sales. If these streaming businesses are claiming to be the future, the question to ask is whose future?

Downloads Streams Total % Downloads
$75,341 $6,380 $81,721 92%

RELATED:

Music Streaming Math, Can It All Add Up?

Why Spotify is not Netflix (But Maybe It Should Be)

Musicians POV: Spotify Isn’t Good for You – Full Post

On Spotify (and Why I’m not a Conspiracy Theorist After All) | Tape Op

The real reason why the major labels love Spotify | Guardian UK

Swedish Artists Are Now Threatening Legal Action Over Streaming Royalties… | DMN

The origin of the outrage is telling: Sweden is widely regarded as a model country for streaming and access, thanks to massive adoption and recovering recording revenues. The threatened suits suggest that not everyone is celebrating or, more importantly, enjoying the early spoils.

Regardless of the locale, the issue comes ahead of very difficult juncture for Spotify. Mega-artists like Thom Yorke continue to raise uncomfortable questions about paltry payouts, but more perilous questions are dangling on the financial side. Recent financial figures show an unsustainable level of cash burn at Spotify, and potentially serious problems attracting more capital as a result. And after burning through hundreds of millions of dollars, Spotify is getting dangerously close to depleting its funding tranche.

READ THE FULL STORY AT DIGITAL MUSIC NEWS:
http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2013/10/25/swedishartists

Xbox Music : Microsoft to Pay The Most of Any Music Streaming Service?

This could get interesting. Digital Music News reports “The Xbox Music streaming service is venturing into iOS and Android platforms, as well as free internet streaming, with newly adorned with apps and features. The Web service will provide on-demand access to 30 million songs, with an ad-free subscription or ad-supported free use.”

What makes this even more interesting is that Microsoft appears to be paying more than any other streaming service that we know of  (we don’t know what Itunes Radio is paying yet).

Faza at The Cynical Musician wrote this:

A Quickie: XBox Music Royalties

Since this is streaming money, there’s not a lot of it, but the rate is absolutely astounding: the latest statement pegs a stream at 3.6 cents. Yep, you read that right: several cents a pop. Traditionally, I’ll do a quick stream-to-download calculation which works out at 18 XBox Music streams to one iTunes download (both numbers for songs to which we own the entirety of rights, making CD Baby the only middle-man – they take a commission of 9% I believe).

It’s a sign of the times when we get excited by a per stream rate of 3.6 cents…