Now, they want a piece of the paddle

December 12, 2023 4 min read

Now, they want a piece of the paddle

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for this blog called “Down That Stream Without A Paddle.”  It was a bit of a grim tale about how streaming is making it harder for musicians and songwriters to earn any decent amount of money from their work. Compared to radio and physical sales, the amounts the streamers (even the well-paying ones) are dishing out per spin almost seemed like a joke.

After writing that, I re-grasped the grim reality that I will probably never make any substantial money from streaming through the work I’ve put out in various projects. Don’t get me wrong, it would be nice, but rolling in the dough probably won’t happen.

I also wondered to myself when things were going to get worse. Turns out, I didn’t have to wait that long.

Sir, can I please have some?

You would be hard-pressed to argue that Spotify is not the most popular streaming service on the planet. It constantly finds itself at the top of lists of “best” streaming services and holds considerable market share amongst all platforms.

However, as mentioned in my previous article, Spotify is not at the top when it comes to paying Artists per stream, falling below Tidal, Apple Music and Amazon Music as far as amounts paid out to artists. 

On top of that, the new royalty structure is coming in 2024.

On November 21, 2023, Spotify announced on their blog three significant changes to their platform. The first one is cracking down on bot streams. The second is increasing the minimum playtime for noise tracks to be eligible for royalties. 

The third one is the real doozy. For any song to start collecting royalties, they must reach a minimum of 1000 streams per year. If they don’t, whatever revenue they generate gets redistributed to the larger pool that pays out artists who have thousands and thousands of streams.


Why the change?

In that blog post, Spotify justifies this particular move as moving funds to “eligible tracks” instead of making small payments:

It’s more impactful for these tens of millions of dollars annually to increase payments to those most dependent on streaming revenue — rather than being spread out in tiny payments that typically don’t even reach an artist (as they do not surpass distributors’ minimum payout thresholds). 99.5% of all streams are of tracks that have at least 1,000 annual streams, and each will earn more under this policy.

We also believe the policy will eliminate one strategy used to attempt to game the system or hide artificial streaming, as uploaders will no longer be able to generate pennies from an extremely high volume of tracks.

Here’s the issue

Based on statistics on the website iGroove, in 2022, only a few songs attained the magic number of 1,000 streams. In 2022, out of the 78.4 million songs on Spotify, 39.7 million clock in at 500 streams or less. Another 7.9 million manage to break 500 and make it to 1,000. That’s around 47.7 million songs. 

If this happened in 2022, 61% of all songs on Spotify would see no royalties going to the artist. More songs have been added to the service since then, though it’s likely that the numbers today would be comparable. 

Like it or not, this will hurt

For those of us who make music, starting is always challenging. Writing songs, getting them appropriately recorded, releasing them and doing all you can to get a bit of attention is hard work. No matter how small, it is encouraging when some money starts rolling in. 

At least someone was listening, and there was some compensation, even if it just was a few cents. 

Now, to get even your few cents, you must work harder to get your numbers up to meet some threshold on Spotify. Artists already sing for their supper. Now, two-thirds of them are being denied even the table scraps. 

All the responses I’ve read about this online have been negative. I hope the other services do not follow Spotify’s lead on this. Otherwise, what is left to encourage musicians and songwriters to make and release music when they won’t get the most basic reward for their work? 

If you’re going to leave, do it loudly

If you want to truly support artists (at the risk of sounding like a broken record), I’ve mentioned a few at the end of my previous piece, all of which are still good ways to get more money into their hands. 

For those who may decide to cancel their Spotify subscription for another service, to leave is one thing, but make sure they know why. If they ask for a reason, let them know that you disagree with their new business model for royalties and that you will be taking your money elsewhere. Maybe if they see enough of that, they’ll reconsider. 

One thousand streams on Spotify will come up to roughly $4 in royalties. It’s not much when you consider it against a CD sale from the side of the stage. As someone who has music on streaming services, I will say this…

It may only be $4, but it’s MY $4.

By Kevin Daoust -

Kevin Daoust is a guitarist, guitar educator and writer based in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. When not tracking guitars for artists around the world, or writing music-related articles around the internet, he can be seen on stage with Accordion-Funk legends Hey, Wow, the acoustic duo Chanté et Kev, as well as a hired gun guitarist around Quebec and Ontario. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Guitar Performance from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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