Maximizing Your Spotify Earnings: A How-To Guide

Spotify was founded in 2006 and has grown into the world’s largest streaming platform, capturing a market share of 31% vs. next best Apple Music and Amazon Music at 15% and 13%, respectively. 

It’s perhaps unsurprising that Spotify turns over a multi-billion dollar profit every year. 

Meanwhile, artists on Spotify are generally getting paid less than they once were. It’s estimated that most of Spotify’s top 0.8% of artists are still learning less than $50,000 a year

Spotify’s business model is reasonably simple on the face of it.

Spotify operates the streaming platform, makes revenue from ads and subscriptions, and then pays the music industry a portion based on their contribution to the platform, i.e., their plays. 

They typically pay out around 70 to 75% of their revenue, approximately $7 billion in 2021. $7 billion a year divided between every contributor to the platform quickly disappears, especially when superstars are hogging the vast majority of that cash. 

Over time, Spotify has been heavily criticized for not paying more per stream. For some artists, earnings from Spotify streams might make a decent side hustle; others just earn pocket money. 

Regardless of how fair or unfair Spotify is, artists must take every opportunity they can to platform their music, and once you scale up your Spotify earnings together with other streaming platforms and revenue channels, things start looking more hopeful!

So, let’s dive into it and look at how to make money on Spotify. 

Does it cost to put songs on Spotify?

This question touches on one of the most important aspects of making money from Spotify: distributors and record labels. 

Record labels assist artists with everything from recording and production to marketing music to distribution channels, including Spotify. 

Distributors are middlemen that take music from independent artists or record labels and distribute that music to streaming platforms. 

If an artist uses a record label, they are often classed as the ‘rights holder’, whereas if an artist uses a distributor, they’re usually classed as the ‘rights holder’. Spotify pays the rights holder, who then pays the artist. In other words, Spotify does not pay artists directly. 

Two of the biggest distributors for Spotify are Distrokid and Tunecore, whereas record labels take many forms ranging from giants like Sony Music to hundreds of thousands of indie labels. 

Of course, artists pay a fee for these services, enabling them to get their tunes onto Spotify. Smaller labels likely push music to streaming platforms through distributors, whereas larger labels have a direct relationship. 

Spotify launched a beta to allow the artist to directly upload their music to the platform without going through a third party, but it was closed in 2019 with Spotify announcing

“The most impactful way we can improve the experience of delivering music to Spotify for as many artists and labels as possible is to lean into the great work our distribution partners are already doing to serve the artist community.”

The costs of uploading to Spotify depend on the artist’s choices

If an artist chooses distribution services like Distrokid or Tunecore, they usually have to pay a yearly subscription of around $20. Some services charge per release; less for a single and more for an album. 

Some distribution services pay artists out on a percentage basis and don’t take upfront costs (e.g. Awal and Stem). Some distribution services take upfront costs and a percentage, like CDBaby

When record labels are involved, the process becomes a bit more complex, as the labels will have to distribute the money according to their own terms. This also ensures that others credited on the track are paid their share, e.g., if a track is a collaboration between two or more named artists. 

The basic process is:

  1. The artist sends or uploads their tunes to a distributor.
  2. The distributor pushes their music to Spotify and other platforms. 
  3. Once revenues are calculated, and payouts readied, Spotify pays out to distributors.
  4. The distributors or record labels then pay the artist 100% of the money received (e.g., in the case of a subscription distributor like Tunecore), or a percentage of the money received. 

To summarise, it will nearly always cost something to upload music to Spotify. However, the cost is often small or negligible if you pay a percentage per stream without upfront costs. 

Check out this YouTube video that shows the process of using Distrokid

What counts as a Spotify stream?

A play counts as a Spotify stream if someone listens to it for 30 seconds or more. 

This has been the case for a while, but that doesn’t mean it won’t change in the future. 

Does Spotify pay every artist the same? 

Spotify doesn’t pay each artist equally, and each stream is not worth the same as another. The value of each stream depends on factors such as:

  • The country where the stream originates 
  • The subscription type the streamer holds 

iGroove conducted a large analysis on how countries affect the pay per stream (PPS). The differences are stark. 

Turkey is at the bottom of the list with just $0.000594278777 (well below the $0.004 average) and South Korea is at the top of the list with $0.017860388129. More than four times the average.

So, one million streams from South Korea will net around $17,000, whereas the same number of streams from Turkey will net just $594. 

Even amongst English-speaking countries, the UK streams are worth double than streams in Canada. 

Spotify pays different amounts per country as their ad revenue and subscription prices vary. Lower ad revenue and lower subscriptions = lower payouts. 

How much does Spotify pay per 1000 streams?

Spotify payouts vary based on the country each stream originates and the kind of subscription (premium, free, family, student, etc.) the user has who is streaming the song. 

Currently, Spotify pays around $0.003 to $0.005 per stream. Other estimates suggest the range is more like $0.001 to $0.008. 

Based on $0.004/stream, every 250 streams will earn an artist around $1. One thousand streams will earn an artist approximately $4. 

There’s no doubt that $4/1000 streams amount to real money, and for some, it’s a pretty considerable sum. It’s easy for those living in richer countries to snub the rates Spotify and other platforms pay, but it’s important to see it in a global context. $4 isn’t an hour’s wage in America and most of Europe, but it’s a week’s wage in some parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. 

However, as mentioned, stream payouts depend on the origin country of the stream, which can substantially impact the total payout. If international artists get their music in front of listeners in the US, UK, Europe, Japan, etc, then payouts are higher. 

How much does Spotify pay per 10,000 streams?

If we use the rough average of $0.004 per stream, 10,000 streams will earn an artist around $40. 

How much does Spotify pay per 100,000 streams?

If we use the rough average of $0.004 per stream, 100,000 streams will earn an artist around $400. 

How many Spotify streams does it take to make $100?

Based on the average of $0.004/stream, to make $100, you’d need 250,000 streams. 

Of course, 250,000 is pretty substantial. However, it’s a more realistic target over a selection of many tunes. There’s no hiding the fact that 250,000 streams for $100 are steep, but again, it really depends on where you are in the world and where your listeners are. 

How much money is 1 billion streams on Spotify?

Using an average of $0.004/stream, 1 billion streams on Spotify will net the artist something like $4 million. 

There are only currently around 100 songs on Spotify with 1 billion streams or more, but this is obviously growing all the time. 

Which song is most played on Spotify?

As of mid-2022, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” is the most-streamed tune on Spotify, with around 3 billion streams.

With an average of $0.004/stream, that one track might have netted Ed Sheeran around $12 million from Spotify alone! 

However, much of this money would’ve been split between Ed Sheeran, his record label, collaborators, producers, session musicians, etc. He wouldn’t have received the full $12 million – far from it. Not bad going for one track, though!

You can find Spotify’s most-streamed playlist here.

The top 10 most-streamed on Spotify as of 2022 are: 

1. Ed Sheeran – Shape of You3114403414
2. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights2927423661
3. Tones And I – Dance Monkey2547072439
4. Post Malone, 21 Savage – rockstar2407257961
5. Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved2332564085
6. Drake – One Dance2294237954
7. Post Malone and Swae Lee – Sunflower2273119768
8. The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey – Closer2167273560
9. Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello – Señorita2121117516
10. Imagine Dragons – Believer2065934093

How much does Drake make from Spotify?

Drake is one of the top streamed artists on Spotify. He was the first artist to pass the 50 billion stream milestone. 

With 50 billion streams at an average of around $0.004/stream, Drake would’ve made approximately $200 million from Spotify. 

However, much of this would’ve been split between him and his record label, and there would’ve been plenty of agreements in place with collaborators, producers, session musicians, etc. Drake wouldn’t have received anything like the raw $200 million sum. 

Can you get paid to make Spotify playlists?

There’s another way to make money from Spotify without being an artist or producer of any kind, or even being in the music industry: playlists. 

You might’ve noticed that some Spotify playlists have thousands of followers. Users curate these playlists on the app. 

In short, Spotify will not pay any playlist maker for their playlists. This would be a legal nightmare – how would Spotify pay playlist makers without considering the interests of artists?

There’s currently no way to receive payment from Spotify for your playlists. But, there are other ways. Namely, there are two ways to get paid to make Spotify playlists: 

  1. Getting paid directly from artists for song placements.
  2. Get paid for considering placing a song on your playlist by reviewing song submissions through services like PlaylistPush and SubmitHub.

Option number 1 is pretty simple. Record labels and artists will likely start approaching you once you’ve built a strong playlist that generates lots of traffic and plays. They’ll earn more plays if you place their track on your playlist. You can charge them for that – but it’s against Spotify’s T&Cs. 

Option number 2 is similar in principle, but there’s a middle-man involved. Instead of artists approaching you directly, they go through PlaylistPush or SubmitHub. You then review their songs and consider them for a playlist feature. This isn’t against Spotify’s T&Cs, despite it being very similar to option 1. 

PlaylistPush and SubmitHub require you to have 1,000 real and genuinely engaged followers on your playlist. You then have to apply to them for approval. 

Once approved, artists can approach you through the platform and request you review their songs. You get paid per review, calculated based on your playlist follower count. You don’t have to feature an artist on your playlist to get paid. 

Track reviews net playlists around $1 to $12 per song. 

The challenges here are: 

  1. Building an attractive, high-traffic playlist and getting followers.
  2. Attracting people to your account for song reviews. 

For example, you might be able to build an excellent playlist of 70s music, but how will you be able to market features on that? Conversely, creating a playlist in an ultra-competitive space like pop or hip-hop will be difficult. 

Take a look at this YouTube video that compares SubmitHub and PlaylistPush

How many followers do you need on Spotify to make money? 

As a playlist curator, you can’t expect to monetize successfully without around 1000 followers. Obviously, the more, the better. Both PlaylistPush and SubmitHub currently require you to have 1,000 followers, and there are other conditions too.

Are PlaylistPush or SubmitHub worth it?

PlaylistPush and SubmitHub are excellent side hustles for a lot of people, and once you’re up and running, you don’t need to put much time in. 

Some people report earnings of $20,000 or more a month just from reviewing people’s tunes on these platforms. It’s not a passive income, as you’ll need to put some effort into reviewing the tunes and properly looking after your playlist. 

However, these sites do have their own specifications that you must adhere to. PlaylistPush’s specifications are as follows: 

  • Minimum 1000 followers for the playlist 
  • At least 30 active listeners per playlist 
  • Minimum of 1% active monthly listeners per playlist 
  • No fake followers, bots or otherwise 
  • No bot listening activity or otherwise fake or gamified plays/follows 
  • All followers must be 100% organic 
  • All listens must be 100% organic 

PlaylistPush doesn’t accept the following playlists: 

  • Movie or film & TV soundtracks
  • Playlists that alter titles regularly to attract followers 
  • Playlists that only cover a specific band or album 
  • Decade-themed playlists (e.g., 70s) 
  • Any playlist with “follow me” in the title 

Do Spotify curators get paid?

Playlist curators can get paid if they use some of the above strategies. Earnings can vary from a few dollars a month for a few minutes of work to $20,000 or more a year for a couple of hours a week. It’s all about creating playlists that gain huge volumes of organic followers and listens. 

How do you get followers on your Spotify playlist? 

Firstly, you’ll need to create the playlist itself. Many playlists are genre-specific, or have a vibe, e.g., “chill out” or “natural ambient,” etc. 

When you create your playlist, ensure the title and description are well-written and involve useful keywords that will help people find it. Add a selection of well-known and underground tunes to your playlist. 

Then, you’ll need to start sharing the playlist on social media, Reddit, etc. You can find dedicated Facebook groups for sharing playlists. 

Consider running some low-cost paid advertising on Instagram and Facebook. You can target people who’d be most likely to listen to your playlist. 

Can I get paid to listen to music on Spotify? 

It’d be great to get paid for listening to music on Spotify! However, this isn’t possible (and likely never will be!)

The only alternative is to become a curator, music reviewer, or critic. If you curate playlists on Spotify and review tracks through a service like PlaylistPush, you can monetize your music listening skills. 

Does Spotify pay for podcast streams?

Spotify pays podcasters via a subscription-based model, rather than by the stream. 

Spotify has invested in podcasting lately, and they now offer a paid subscription model that can be viewed here.

To get your podcast onto Spotify, you have to either add its RSS feed or claim it from Spotify

Paid subscriptions can be managed through the Anchor platform.

Monetizing podcasts on Spotify is still in its early days, but podcasters should keep their ears to the ground as to how this new industry develops. 

How can Spotify pay artists so little? 

It’s a difficult question to answer! Firstly, the value and fairness of Spotify’s payments are relative to where somebody lives. 

Western artists have a harder time making a living from streaming alone because the cost of living is higher, but isn’t that the same with everything?

Meanwhile, Spotify’s payments become more reasonable in other countries. But, if you’re pushing your music to listeners in countries with a low pay per stream, then you’ll earn less. 

For example, a stream in South Korea, the US, or the UK is worth more than a stream elsewhere. 

Moreover, much of Spotify’s payments are absorbed by the music industry. You can’t blame Spotify without blaming the music industry. 

In the end, streaming is just one of many tools musicians need to survive and make a living. 

Can you make a living solely on Spotify? Probably not. Does anyone expect that? Also, probably not.

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