Musicians Deserve Fair Pay


Photo by Patrik Michalicka on Unsplash

Megan Boyle

Spotify artists are severely underpaid for their music. The average streaming royalty is only about $0.0038 per stream. This means that artists need about 263 streams to make $1. This article will further explain this issue and what listeners can do to help.

For background, the Spotify problem is part of the broader context of record labels’ treatment of artists. Record labels have been known to have harsh conditions in their contracts that put artists in a bad spot. Things like the recoupment of costs and royalties commonly put artists in a place that makes it difficult for them to earn money. These large corporations often have full control over every aspect of the artist’s life. They plan their every move and use them just to make money. 

“When you sign a music deal, you sign away your rights…Artists have nothing except fame, touring, and merch,” said Kanye West.

Many artists have been outspoken about the controlling nature of record labels. People like Kanye believe that artists should have a say in their music and careers and not just be a label’s puppet. Record labels take away both the artist’s rights and their earnings. They only give the music artists about 10-15% of the total cut, keeping the rest for themselves. 

“What Spotify pays me is not even enough to pay the musicians playing with me or the people working on the discs. It’s not working. Something is going to have to give,” said a music artist named Beck.

Clearly, Spotify is not paying artists a fair amount of money. Even if someone gets over 1,000,000 streams on a song, Spotify pays out less than $4,000. To make matters worse, this money doesn’t even go to the artist. Out of all of the money Spotify gets, about 70% of it goes to the right holders. This includes labels, publishers, and distributors. To make it simple, the money goes to the record label, to the distributor, then lastly to the artist. This results in the artist getting little to no money for all of their hard work. 

Another reason why artists are getting underpaid is because of ads. Unless you pay $9.99 a month for Spotify premium, ads are played after about 10-15 minutes of listening to music. These ads usually last about 30 seconds and take away time from the audience being able to listen to music. This takes away from artists’ number of streams and makes it even harder for them to earn decent money. 

This struggle of earning money on Spotify has caused a lot of protesting by artists. In 2014, Taylor Swift removed her music from the platform because she thought that people involved in making songs were not getting properly compensated. 

She explained her reason for leaving Spotify by saying, “I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music,” she said. “And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”

Taylor’s fight against fair payment caused her to keep her music off of Spotify until June of 2017. She claimed that her return was to “thank her fans” for her album 1989 passing 10 million sales.

Although Spotify has not said much about its underpayment of music, its CEO Daniel Ek raised controversy when he replied to the backlash by saying, “Musicians should be recording and releasing music nonstop in order to make ends meet.” 

Ek is basically saying that musicians need to be trying a lot harder in order to make more money. He thinks that they should be constantly working just to make enough money to survive. This does not consider the large amounts of dedication and time artists are already putting in.  

Spotify definitely doesn’t seem to have any plans of raising the amount of money artists are being paid. However, there are other music streaming platforms that you can use who pay artists a more fair rate. Of the popular well-known platforms, Apple Music pays the most per stream. Artists need about 136 streams to earn $1 compared to Spotify’s 229 streams. While not as popular, the streaming platform that pays the most is called Napster. Artists only need 53 streams to make $1. But, they do have a fee of $9.99 a month to listen (the same price as Spotify premium). Sadly, Spotify is not alone in its low stream payments. Other popular streaming services like YouTube Music and Pandora pay artists less than half of the amount that Spotify does. 

If you want to help make sure artists are paid more adequately, you can stream their music on other platforms like Apple Music or Napster. You can also find ways to directly support artists like buying concert tickets and merchandise or even following them on social media.

Getting Spotify to change its system is a work in progress. However, I believe that if everyone keeps fighting for what is right, we will eventually see change.