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How Much Each Distributor Pays For Spotify and Apple Music


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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.
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All streams are not treated equally.

How much Spotify and Apple Music pay for a stream varies on many factors.

There are around 800 different pay rates for each stream on Spotify. Some of the variables include:

  • Country/Territory of the listener
  • Subscription plan level (free, family, student, discount, premium)
  • Promotional stream
  • Distributor / label negotiated rate

We’re focusing on the last point here. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First let me break down the most obvious points:

Country/Territory of the Listener

Spotify and Apple Music pay more for a stream from a listener in the US than a stream from a listener in India. Why? Simply because the cost of a standard premium subscription in the US is about $10. In India it’s under $2.00. Not to mention the free, family and discount plans.

For the ad-supported free plan on Spotify (Apple Music only has a 3-month trial – without ads) advertisers pay more for US Spotify placement than they do for India Spotify placement, so the pay split (which has never been revealed) for ad-supported streams will also be much less.

Subscription Plan Level

Spotify and Apple also pay differently based on the listener’s plan. So Spotify (and Apple) will pay-out more for a stream from a listener on a $9.99/mo premium plan versus a listener on the free, ad-supported or family plans.

Worth noting that Apple Music pays a lot more than Spotify across the board because Apple Music does not offer a free, ad-supported streaming experience to users. Ad supported streams pay much less than subscription supported streams.

As of December 31st 2020, of Spotify’s 345 million monthly active users, only 155 million of them are subscribers.

Promotional Stream

This is a very new thing that Spotify is experimenting with. Spotify is offering labels and artists the ability to essentially advertise their songs on the platform as suggested songs to listeners (once they finish listening to their chosen song/album/playlist). Instead of paying a fee up front for advertising, you instead take a lower payout rate for the promoted streams. We don’t have any data on how this is working yet.

Distributor / Label Negotiated Rate

This is what we’re focusing on with this report. One of the biggest reasons that there isn’t a “Spotify pay rate” or an “Apple Music pay rate” is because each distributor negotiates a different pay rate with each DSP (Digital Service Provider – catchall for streaming services). Some indie distributors are part of the Merlin network – which essentially collectively bargains for a rate which will then be utilized for all distributors in that network.

Merlin publicly lists on their Press page that they represent “15% of the global market share” and Merlin’s members include: Amuse, CD Baby, AWAL, DistroKid, Symphonic, Vydia, Sub Pop, Ultra Records, Mad Decent, Secretly, along with “hundreds more” indie labels and distributors.

Supposedly every Merlin deal will result in the same pay-rate for each label and distributor.

But just being part of the Merlin network does not mean that the distributor has to opt-in for every deal. Which is why some distributors have higher pay rates than others who are also part of Merlin.

Worth noting, no distributor paid out more than $.004/per stream for Spotify US in 2020

Note that’s Spotify US – not Spotify across the board.

We didn’t calculate Spotify’s average per-stream rate across all territories (as many other reports do) because it would be heavily weighted on the location of the artists’ lister base. If an artist got included in a country-specific playlist, like “Top Brazil” and 90% of their streams came from Brazil, their numbers would look awfully different than someone whose streams come primarily from the US or India. Because streams are not evenly distributed amongst every territory, you have to split up calculations by country.

So, we did.

Other interesting take aways:

  • Spotify is paying a higher rate across the board for streams from Great Britain than the US (except Tunecore)
  • Tunecore pays the most for Spotify US ($.00397) and the least for Spotify Great Britain ($.00362)
  • DistroKid pays $.00444 for Spotify Great Britain and $.00338 for Spotify US
  • Even though AWAL takes 15% commission, they still pay the most for Spotify Great Britain ($.00469), but among the lowest for Apple Music US ($.00556).
  • Horus pays the most for Apple Music and Spotify Brazil as well as Apple Music US.
  • Apple Music Great Britain sits right around 1 cent per stream for most distributors
  • CD Baby changed their Spotify pay rate in mid 2020 (from a flat $.003/stream for US and India to what you see on the charts). More on what happened here.
  • Apple Music Brazil pays better than Spotify US

Below are crowd-sourced streaming reports direct from artists’ distributor backend.

We asked the Ari’s Take community to send us their csv reports for 2020. We crunched the numbers and broke out Spotify and Apple Music for 4 countries: US, Great Britain, India and Brazil.

The reason we chose these 4 countries is because the music industry is by and large driven by people in the US and Great Britain, but also these are two of the highest paying countries across the board. Brazil and India both contain “trigger cities” and also are some of the lowest paying countries.

When running your advertisements, it’s helpful to have a ballpark of what each territory will generate.

How we crunched the numbers was we combined all streams and payments per each platform and separated these by country. Now, some artists may inherently have more streams from premium accounts and some artists may have more streams from free accounts. So the more artist reports we get, the more accurate this report will be.

Worth noting that some distributors take a commission of royalties. The numbers below are what the artist receives. So a distributor may have negotiated a higher rate, but if they take a commission, the artist may in fact receive less money.

We also did not include reports from labels. There are far too many factors to keep the pay-rates clean. So we are only looking at independent artist reports which they got directly from the back-end of their distributor.

Also worth noting that Stem does now allow artists to download .csv reports. So there’s no way we can accurately compare them here.

If you want to know what each distributor’s commission (and fees) are, read our digital distribution comparison here. 

+Amuse vs. AWAL vs. CD Baby vs. DistroKid vs. Ditto Music vs. FreshTunes vs. Horus Music vs. LANDR vs. ONErpm vs. RouteNote vs. Songtradr vs. Soundrop vs. Stem vs. Symphonic Distribution vs. TuneCore vs. UnitedMasters – Who’s the best?

—> If you’d like us to run your reports (whether you’re with a distributor below or not) please submit them to us here. We’ll send you a personalized pay-rate report. 

If you do NOT see your distributor below, it is because we didn’t get enough reports to generate an accurate sampling (or they don’t allow .csv downloads). Please submit your reports to us here and we’ll try to get them added.

We need more reports! Even if you see your distributor below, to help make this date the most accurate it can be, we need a larger sample. Please help out the greater music community and submit your reports to us here. 

This is a work in progress and these graphs will be updated in real-time as we get more artist reports. 

To the distributors reading this, if you feel that the numbers below are different than what you see, feel free to put is in touch with your artists so we can take a look at their reports (we can’t just take the data you send us at your word – we don’t know what you’re doing to your numbers! 😛 )

(All rates are USD)

**Not much data yet for Spotify India. CD Baby recently changed their pay rate for Spotify India so we only have a couple months of data to work off of here (for now).

The number of India smartphone users is over 760 million (almost triple the US’s usage). Expect streaming growth to explode in India in 2021.

If you would like to see your distributor added or would like us to crunch YOUR numbers and let you know how you stack up, submit your reports here and we’ll get back to you.

These are some of the artists who helped us with this report (not all – many chose to remain anonymous). Some submitted their reports, some pointed us in a helpful direction.THANK YOU: 

Alecksyy, Blacknintendo, Caleb J. Murphy, Charlie Belle, Cheryl B. Engelhardt, Corey Lewin, EllaHarp, Emilie Lin, Found Gsound, The Free 4All, Gary Corben, Guillotine Sunbeam, Her Brothers, Ivan Angelè, Jeb Bush Orchestra, Jeremy Arndt, Jesse Rone Johnson, Justin Llamas, Language Lab, Lina, Major Moment, Marc S. Kruza, October Ember, Ordinary Elephant, Phavors, Reed Reimer, The Rooftop Heroes, Ryan ManchesterSteve Eulburg, Taigenz, Tommy Cullen, Vicki Morrison Goble, The Young Love Scene, 4onthefloor

About The Author

Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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