Business News Digital Top Stories

More indie artists reveal their streaming income

By | Published on Tuesday 25 February 2014


As the digital debate in the artist community continues, and following on from independent musician Ron Pope’s recent article on the payments he has received from Spotify – in which he noted the impact having his music on the streaming platform has had on his ticket sales in Norway and Sweden – two more artists have stepped up to talk about their respective digital income streams.

Noting recent(ish) criticism from some corners of the artist community of Spotify et al, Benn Jordan, who records as The Flashbulb, has come out with a positive view of the streaming service in a new blog post, stating that it now accounts for the majority of his income from recordings. But cellist Zoe Keating, who has published a spreadsheet showing her income across various digital services in 2013, found that download sales brought in almost twelve times more revenue than streaming overall.

Taking a quote on Spotify from Thom Yorke given in an interview with Mexican website Sopitas – “No artist needs it, we can do all that shit ourselves” – as his focal point, Jordan wrote: “Really Thom? You’ve created a legal, royalty-paying library of music that will allow me to literally listen to whatever artist I can think of, whenever and wherever I desire to? Because that’s the one thing we, the people, the pirates, the innovators, could not do in the last seven years when we had all the technology in our hands to do it”.

Moving onto numbers, though he didn’t actually divulge exactly what he’s earned from Spotify, he chose to focus on a period when he wasn’t promoting and album or touring, in order to cut out “notable additional variables” to any spikes in listening data. He explained: “I can tell you that Spotify has made me about 30% more than iTunes, Pandora, Amazon, Xbox Music, Google Play, eMusic, Rhapsody, Rdio, Deezer, MediaNet, Simky, Nokia, and Myspace Music combined in [between December 2012 and December 2013]. Even if you tack on my [publishing income] cheques from [collecting society] ASCAP to that long list, Spotify is still ahead”.

He added: “I can tell you that Spotify alone, for the last nine months or so, has paid for my rent in a two floor coach house with garage. But what is predictably notable, is that the numbers for Spotify are growing monthly, and have actually doubled from the first month to the last while sales on other platforms remained the same”. This has also, he said, allowed him to scale back his day job of composing music for TV and focus more on The Flashbulb.

Keating’s figures, meanwhile, showed a very different story. She focussed on 2013, much the same twelve month period as Jordan, when she was also not promoting a new solo album. However, she found that sales through iTunes, Bandcamp, Amazon and Amazon MP3 collectively brought in $75,000 for her last year, while streaming across a variety of services, including Spotify, Pandora and YouTube, were worth slightly over $6000.

Keating does note that only her early recordings, from 2005 and 2006, are currently available on Spotify, and that she’s probably not getting all the royalties she is actually due from third-party uploads of her music to YouTube. So the figures she shared aren’t the complete story, though they would suggest that for her, downloads sales are still key.

That said, Keating isn’t especially anti the Spotify business model, though has previously expressed concerns about how the streaming platforms deal with independent artists. Speaking at the Virgin Disruptors event last year, she said: “I don’t feel like streaming is the evil enemy. I think it’s a good positive thing to get music out there. All I’m asking is make a direct deal with me, let me choose my terms. Let me decide if windowing is good or bad, on my own terms. Work directly with me… The idea of how does a service like Spotify interact with a bazillion artists? That’s an administrative problem that technology could solve… And I’d like them to think more about are there any mutual services in the middle that can help the listeners connect with me to go to the concert”.

Read Jordan’s blog in full here, and take a look at Keating’s spreadsheet here.

Meanwhile, CMU has teamed up with artist and producer Dan Le Sac to survey the UK artist community on all things digital ahead of this year’s Great Escape. We’ll be speaking to artists on various digital matters over the next two months, and will present the findings during Global Digital Markets, a half-day convention strand taking place at TGE this year. To get into that – and the rest of the TGE convention and festival – at the special early bird rate of £145, you need to buy your delegates pass this week at this link.