Eight out of 10 musicians earn less than £200 a year from streaming, poll finds

7 December 2020, 14:18

Eight out of 10 musicians earn less than £200 a year from streaming, poll finds
Eight out of 10 musicians earn less than £200 a year from streaming, poll finds. Picture: Getty

By Rosie Pentreath

Artists who have been polled ahead of a Select Committee meeting on the economics of music streaming tell of low earnings, and a need to work outside music to make ends meet.

A poll by Musicians’ Union and The Ivors Academy has found that eight out of 10 musicians – or 82 percent – earn less than £200 a year from their music being streamed.

The poll, which asked writers, artists, musicians, songwriters and composers to reveal their income from streaming, comes ahead of the second meeting of Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee inquiry into the economics of streaming taking place this Tuesday 8 December.

As well as the large majority of respondents revealing they earn less than £200 a year, 92 percent indicated that streaming made up less than five percent of their yearly earnings.

Half (50 percent) said their income from recorded music had actually declined over the past 10 years, and 43 percent of respondents said that insufficient income from streaming had led to them seeking employment outside music.

Read more: Musicians hit out at meagre Spotify earnings as MPs launch inquiry >

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At the second meeting of the inquiry into streaming earnings, MPs will hear from songwriter and artist Nile Rodgers, and songwriter and Ivors Academy member, Fiona Bevan, among others.

After the first meeting, the chair of the Select Committee, Julian Knight MP, had raised concern that some people would be reluctant to speak to the inquiry, “because they fear action may be taken against them if they speak in public.”

“I have written songs that have been prominently playlisted on streaming platforms … These songs have garnered millions of streams but generated next to no income for me as songwriter,” one artist artist said in the poll.

“I appreciate that streaming is the future. But the earning potential [for creators] given the company value is not fair,” another commented.

Deputy general secretary Naomi Pohl said: “These statistics show that music streaming does not play its part in supporting the careers of the vast majority of creators and artists on whose work it relies.

“We have to make the economics of streaming fairer; improved deals for artists, a bigger share of revenue for songwriters and an income stream for the first time for non-featured musicians.”

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The poll findings come after global streaming service Spotify released its trends from 2020 and revealed the earnings of the most-played artists in the world. The Weeknd earned £5.7 million in royalties from 1.7 billion Spotify streams of his song ‘Blinding Lights’ since November 2019, while Tones & I was a close second in 2020 – but the biggest earner overall – with ‘Dance Monkey’ raising a cool £6.7 million after nearly two billion streams on Spotify since it was released in May 2019.

Read more: Spotify boss blames musicians for lack of earnings, says they should make more music >

Violinist Tasmin Little recently revealed that she earned £12.34 on Spotify for a five-to-six month period, and composer Stuart MacRae recently highlighted Spotify’s low pay for streams in a tweet that revealed that one of his own works played on repeat for two days would generate over 1,100 plays, which earns 87p – and, if the piece was played constantly, back-to-back, for a whole year he’d get just £172.64.

Graham Davies, CEO of The Ivors Academy, said: “This survey is further demonstration that the song and the songwriter are undervalued.

“Too much streaming money is going to the major labels, this is an outdated model and needs reform. We have the best songwriters in the world and they deserve more.”