Not long ago, I wrote a personal account (in two parts) of what it meant to release a concept album as an indie artist in 2019. Specifically talking about the consequences of the music industry move to streaming, I wrote:
Something that truly bothered me was the fact that Spotify completed the commodification of music in a way that I couldn’t stand. Everyone kept repeating how good of a marketing tool for musicians it was. I could never see that. Spotify don’t tell you who your fans are, don’t allow fans to get in touch with you and surely isn’t interested in making indie music profitable.
It wasn’t the ridiculous trickle of pennies that the streaming services sent me over the following thirty-eight months, nor the fact that Bandcamp was indeed in a different league (I knew my followers, got messages, reviews, sold CDs and digital albums). It was the obnoxious feeling that corporate social media, and Spotify, weren’t a place where I wanted to be.
This morning I received an email from PRS For Music (UK), with the promising jolly subject: You’re being paid royalties today, followed by an announcement regarding how many millions or British Pounds are being paid out today globally (
161), and a request to check my statement for more information.
After logging in, I see an unexpected amount of online performances. Since I haven’t been playing live or anything, I’m surprised and a little confused. Downloaded the statement, I dig into the numbers, and discover that a single song from my After 1989 album in 2019 racked up 1,568,434 streams. A million and a half. Baffling. How could it be? I know I keep neglecting all the streaming stats because I don’t give a damn about it, but I’m sure I should have caught a whiff about it. I suppose it might have been included in some documentary that I don’t know anything about.
Down to the nitty-gritty
The biggest share of those million and a half streams comes from Alliance YouTube Limited Download / On Demand Streaming Service Video, divided by the following countries, ordered by number of streams:
- Germany (
- France (
- Netherlands (
- United Kingdom (
- Belgium (
- Sweden (
- Italy (
Besides YouTube, a further chunk — tallying
15,750 — is from Alliance TikTok Settlement 2014-2020 United Kingdom Limited Download / On Demand Streaming Service. I don’t even remember to have pushed my music onto TikTok (or whatever it was called before), so I checked with CDBaby, and yes, I did.
Checking out the dates in the report, I realise the time period is more than 3 years, from 1 July 2019 to 30 September 2022. The timeframe is a bit weird, since my album was released in November 2019, but I assume it’s all due to the fact that I’d been performing live with Callum Gardner around the UK before that (I got some pennies from it as well).
New car, caviar!
So how much did I get for more than a million and a half streams on YouTube? 46 GBP. That’s around $50, for comparison. I still don’t know where all those listens come from, because this is the streaming industry: a commodified bullshit that only care about corporate stakeholders.
Anyway, if you’re and independent artist wishing to publish your music online, feel free to go ahead with Spotify, YouTube Music et al. Maybe you’ll be lucky too, and be able to afford a pizza and a beer for two, 3 years later.