How Much Artists Earn Online [infographic]

August 20, 2013 |  by  |  Business, eCommerce, Music

Times are strange for being a musician. Then again, times are always strange for musicians. Record labels are disintegrating and more DIY independent projects and distributors are arising in an already very expensive business to be in. Being a musician myself, I know that this job isn’t exactly a recipe for big money earning; but, after reading this infographic, things seem even more positively frakked for artists.

Looking at the numbers, it seems to me that the system just doesn’t give respect to the value that the musicians and producers themselves have put into their products. Don’t get me wrong, I love streaming sites–honestly, they’re the future–but I feel like this is a bridge too far. If this system of retail is going to continue, Spotify, Napster, and iTunes better straighten themselves out if they want more artists selling their creations on their platform.

I was curious as to how Google Play factored into this scenario, and as far as this video is concerned, it seems to be a much more appealing business model for artists. But then again, I’m not sure if they’re just talking the talk.

What do you think? Is the streaming market just another brick in the wall of the record label legacy of sitting on top of the little guy? Or do you think this is an overreaction, and that something should be done on the artist’s part in order to make their ‘business’ more viable?


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  • Nihilist

    the sad thing is, ascap and bmi have no power to get these new online ripoffs to pay real royalties, since their rules go back to old radio days.

    • jesuschristcross

      well. that’s mostly cause there is no really a “normal” reporting that matches broadcaster’s.

  • Chris-Mouse

    I’d just like to point out that all of the streaming options amount to the equivalent of at most a couple of plays a week on a single major radio station. The radio station pays nothing to the performers for this, yet performers are only complaining about streaming services, not radio airplay. Why?

    • skirtsteak

      Radio does pay something. And radio play is considered advertising; exposing the song to many people who wouldn’t otherwise hear it. That’s quite different from one person streaming a specific song just for himself.

      • Ogre

        What about streaming services like Pandora? I’ve discovered some good stuff that way that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise.

        • sunoy14

          Radio would be a better option for exposure. When people listen to songs on sites like pandora or grooveshark, its the individual who listens to the song and they also have the option to not listen to it. Whereas, when people listen to a song on radio, they don’t have the option to choose. What is broadcasted on radio is fixed and there is better chances of exposure to a lot more people.
          Besides people may never find your song on streaming sites like pandora. Whereas, if your song is played on radio, everybody tuned onto that radio station will hear your song.

    • jesuschristcross

      homework: look up ASCAP.

      • sunoy14

        I left homework at school. Lol

  • Cad

    how much to you get from the radio? 0. be happy you get a piece of the streamers at all.

    • Mike V

      They don’t get paid to be on radio, radio is just free publicity.

      • Vince
      • Rohan Adarkar

        you’re totally incorrect here. airplay is a massive revenue stream.

        record sales as a percentage of all revenue is on the decline. the real money is in publishing, merchandise and touring. endorsement deals and ancillary avenues are also viable.

        i would almost say it’s worth giving your record away as your free publicity and focus on monetizing the rest.

        • sunoy14

          I agree. its better to give away some songs to gain publicity and then sell when you are established.

      • sunoy14

        Radio is not free. Radio stations pay large amounts for frequency and bandwith to be used for their radio. How do you expect them to offer their service to artists for free.
        There are some small scale radio stations that offer service for free but that’s because some person is running them for hobby and the cost is small for their small private radio station and is within their affordable budget.

    • jesuschristcross

      another one of those. are you all under 12?!
      look up ASCAP.

  • GrizzlyFish

    Way to post an outdated graph from Apr 2010…I’m sure those numbers have changed especially since spotify didn’t launch in the u.s. until a year after this graph was made…

  • Gary Deezy

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but its not just musicians. I used to be in the software biz, then the music biz, now the book publishing biz. Same deal hits all of us in the creativity fields: the top 5% make 95% of the money.

    If you’re in the music biz primarily for the money, you’re in the wrong career field.

    • David Budaghyan

      I totally agree with you.
      I think it has always been the case for any artist or musician. It is just that nowadays the industry has become too oversized for the market to handle it.
      The industry revenues suddenly got very high for some period. After that more and more people entered the industry which is forcing the prices to go down.

      • Chris

        “the industry has become too oversized for the market to handle it”

        What does that statement mean?!

        • David Budaghyan

          I mean the supply of the product(in this case music) is so big, that it drives the price down to zero and the majority of musicians are losing profits.

          • gregory gomes

            Yes, because it’s a competitive market. The music industry is an oligopoly, run by record labels and distributors who maintain that what’s “buzzin’ the attention”, gets even more face time- and thus increasing profits for those people involved in the sales.


      Is it true that touring and show money can feed a family of 5?

  • Not Brandon

    Cry me a river. How much per reader do bloggers get for their articles? Plumbers don’t complain about not getting paid each time somebody takes a dump in a toilet they installed. . .

    • At

      A plumber isn’t creating anything, they are being paid to install something. If that plumber created a toilet, I bet he’d want to be paid for each toilet sold, right? I think musicians need to have more control over how their ART is sold, they are the ones putting their blood, sweat and tears into it just to have some suit telling them what to do with it.

    • jesuschristcross

      deep thoughts. by a plumber.

  • Synpax

    This isn’t accurate at all.

    If self-pressing CDs is an option, then so is putting your stuff on Itunes/etc through one of the services that lets you keep 70% of the revenue.

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  • Nathanial Johansen

    Here’s the point, and the reason why I do not feel sorry for musicians, even though I am one myself. The primary reason why musicians were incredibly frightened by the invention and acclimation of iTunes (many years ago now) and these new digital formats, is because they could not longer sell a $15 album with 2 good songs and 10 pathetic songs hardly worth listening to. Now, people can pick and choose, as they should be able to do. Therefore, the solution is simple: if you want to be a successful musician or band, then be excellent at what you do. Make music that people can’t stop listening to. They’ll download your music, possibly even entire albums; they’ll stream your music; they will “word of mouth” your music like crazy; they will attend concerts; they will buy everything you put on the market if you make good music. You can’t make mediocre music and expect people to jump at the opportunity to spend hard earned money on it.

    • The Xcellence

      I agree. The only downside is that I feel bad for those artists who do put months and months of work into creating a collection of songs that create a great body of work but there are fans who wont hear the full project because they can pick and choose separate tracks from the project and may end up missing great songs.

      • sunoy14

        No. Its true that a lot of albums contain one or two good songs and the rest of them crap. This is not me saying. The entire world knows it and talks about it and complain and laugh about it. That’s the reason why lots of people, me included stopped buying an album of a single artist and instead started buying mixed albums like top charts, etc which are collection of songs of different artists. Ok. I agree that people will like or dislike a song depending on his individual taste but when the majority of the society says its bad, it has to be bad. When it comes to purchasing, everything depends on the consumer’s taste, not the businessmen’s taste.
        That’s not to say that all the albums are like that. There are a few good albums that contain mostly good songs and when people find such albums, they are happy to pay for it.

    • jesuschristcross

      your first problem is that you are a musician. the second one – as a musician – is that you are not really the authorita on what consists “pathetic songs hardly worth listening to”. i’m not going to look up your “excellent” body of art (i bet you are excellent in what you do and you totally make music that people can’t stop listening to) but i bet you and i have a very different definition of what are “pathetic songs hardly worth listening to”. people who work hard on their albums never think of it as one songs. hence “an album”. most of the time the songs on the album of really good musicians – even of it’s not a “concept” album – relate to each other. usually it’s pretty obvious. if you can hear it.

      i hope you get your “word of mouth”. like crazy.

  • Cheryl Palmer

    “If this system of retail is going to continue, Spotify, Napster, and
    iTunes better straighten themselves out if they want more artists
    selling their creations on their platform.”

    That’s funny, considering that streaming is pretty much their only option. This isn’t an ultimatum for streaming services, it should be a request, and considering they don’t actually turn a profit, it’s a bad one to make. Artists must renegotiate their contracts, perhaps not through record companies anymore (since there’s no point). Understanding how it works is generally a good idea before making demands that make no sense.

    Probably the most important thing that artists should remember is that without streaming services their music would just be pirated, leaving them with nothing. They owe a massive ‘thank you’ to Spotify, Napster, iTunes, Rdio, Deezer, Grooveshark, Torch music, and ever other streaming service that pays them out at all.

    • haydesigner

      “Probably the most important thing that artists should remember is that
      without streaming services their music would just be pirated, leaving
      them with nothing”

      That is a HUGE assumption, and very likely a wrong one.

      • Chad Burns

        How is she wrong? Pirating is essentially what crushed the record industry in the first place, which streaming essentially saved. Do you think without streaming people are going to go back to paying $15 for a CD? Or do you think they’ll go back to taking it for free?

        • jesuschristcross

          there are many reasons why she is wrong. and only one of them is the fact that she works for one of those services…

          without streaming service people are going back to pay whatever they have to if they want to get the recording. but that’s irrelevant since it isn’t happening.

          the problem with the commercial streaming services begun with itunes and selling songs not records. when you chop an album down to songs then you would only sell (hopefully) the “hit” and not the album. selling albums already wasn’t producing much for “the artist” anyway – you’d just get 0.07 “points” per album (or whatever “points” says on your contract). now you’d get a tiny fraction of that.

          there are a lot of other problems related to the how music is bought and sold via the awesome “streaming services” but not all of them are originated with those. and no, no musician owes a “massive thank you” to them like she states up here.

          if you would like to get some money being a musician – learn to play an instrument and play live as much as possible. that’s always been the real income for musicians. ask any successful band. the sadder option is to create a few hissing and clicking beats/sounds and put them on tumblr and a number of all those things enumerated up there and wait for the nickels to trickle in. and pursue a parallel career in bartending.

          it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll… and that was in the 70′s…

  • icandyart

    That’s why musicians tour. THAT’S WHERE THEY MAKE THE MONEY. Record labels make money on record sales. Musicians make money on playing live.

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  • michael bian

    well i like it keep it up.

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  • TouchwoodTV .

    Itunes pays me $6.90 net for an album that sells for $9.90 retail as as per your chart I would get paid 8480.10 for 1229 albums sold not 1160.00 as your chart suggested.
    My cost for posting on iTunes is $0.00 just the cost of the UPC code.

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      my music website is free, no commissions or fees

  • Mario Rodriguez

    That’s no moon, that’s a space station!

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    The music industry is saturated with less quality. The movie industry will always be quality. You can’t really earn a fixed salary is a musician. There’s too many ways to make and lose money in that industry, which is why nobody but the top 5% or 10% artists/producers/bands are actually eating from it.

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