Spotify has finally arrived in New Zealand. Years late, and bundled in with the Australian launch. So, I've finally been able to subscribe. Some New Zealand acts I've found waiting for me:
I already own albums from most of those artists on CD. More of them, I've listened to free streams (their sites, myspace, music blogs, that sort of thing) or, where not available, pirated their work to listen to it, before going down to The Warehouse to pick up albums at $25. Estimates of how much an artist gets from a CD album sale vary around $1 or $2, with the most saavy artist retaining maybe $9 or $10.
So, I wanted to see how Spotify stacks up against my current listening habits. This article from the ABC was interesting: Artist anger as Spotify launches in Australia. Here's the crucial maths from Nick O'Byrne, the general manager of the Australian independent record labels association: O'Byrne says Spotify's streaming makes artists about a third of a cent per stream
They might be being cagey about it but in the end we do know that it's less than a third of a cent and probably sometimes - depending on which labels you are and which artist and what deal you have done with them - it may be less than one tenth of a cent.
If you do the maths on it, if you see a single song on iTunes you might get paid about a dollar by the times iTunes has taken their cut and that goes to the label and then divided amongst the artist and the label themselves.
I've been tracking my listening for seven years now, using Last.fm. Over that time, I've accrued 60,000 listens, not counting the various mobile devices I've had that didn't support scrobbling. I'd say a conservative estimate is that I listen to about 222 tracks a week.
The top artists have had about 2000 listens from me. If I'd been listening to Radiohead this whole time, they'd have earned $9.33 from my streaming. SJD, about $5. Seems about equivalent to buying traditional CDs: that's about the amount of money they'd have received from an infinite number of listens from me had they been under traditional recording contracts and I was still trundling off to The Warehouse.
Of course, I've paid them both more in tickets and merchandise. That won't change. And they'll be receiving money from all my ongoing listens to Kid A and Southern Lights, albums that I bought years ago.
Even if you take quite a sceptical view of digital royalties, compared to commercial CDs, it only takes a bit of long term listening to make up the difference in royalties: if someone likes your music, I think it's quite normal for their number of plays of that artist to be in the thousands. So, quoting per-stream rates is necessarily misleading.
I think Spotify is about the status quo for artists (albeit a sucky status quo), and an absolute bargain for listeners. Highly recommended.