Musicians earn less than 1 cent per stream – that has to change

If you are a music lover, you have likely used streaming services. Streaming music accounts for more than half of the UK’s music industry’s global revenue, grossing over £ 1 billion last year.

While the three big labels – Sony, Universal and Warner – are posting record profits, a survey by The Ivors Academy and Musicians’ Union found that eight in ten music professionals make less than £ 200 a year from streaming. According to one report, artists earn an average of just £ 0.009 per stream.

The UK government is currently conducting an investigation into music streaming to see how it can be made fairer and if there is any way musicians and songwriters can get a better cut. Artists who have given testimony include Ed O’Brien of Radiohead, Guy Garvey of Elbow and disco legend Nile Rodgers, while Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page also released a letter of support.

Singer-songwriter Nadine Shah also gave testimony during the investigation, saying that artists and songwriters are struggling to pay their rent. And the investigation found that Fiona Bevan, who wrote songs for One Direction and Lewis Capaldi, received just £ 100 in royalties for co-writing a track on Kylie Minogue’s number 1 album Disco.

But there might be a way to get the streaming up and running for musicians – if it were more like they were already making money having their songs played on the radio.

How did we get here?

The music industry has always made more money for record labels than for artists. And now that streaming is the main way many of us consume music, there is even less money left for musicians.

Streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify make money from subscription fees and advertising. They do business with record labels to get access to songs. Platforms hold around 30% of sales with streaming, 15% go to a so-called music publisher that represents songwriters, while the record label receives 55%. And the label then pays a percentage of that to the artists – after they’ve paid back the label’s investment in them.

But while artists get money when their songs are played on the radio, streaming doesn’t work the same way. This is because radio is considered a “passive” broadcast, meaning you don’t select the music. While streaming is viewed as broadcasting online, people choose songs and listen at will.

Woman holding phone looking at spotify