Cellist’s latest publicly-shared numbers reveal 92% of her income still comes from sales rather than streams
Want to know how much a musician really makes from digital services like iTunes, Spotify and YouTube? Zoë Keating is one of the more reliable sources.
The cellist, who self-releases her music rather than work with a label, has made a habit of sharing details of how her earnings break down between different sources, for the benefit of her peers and the wider debate around digital music payouts.
Over the weekend, Keating published her latest set of figures as a public document on Google Drive, splitting her recorded-music earnings from 2013 into sales and streams. In short, 92% of her income last year came from sales – $75,341 – with a further $6,380 coming from streaming services.
Keating’s biggest source of income last year was Apple’s iTunes Store, where sales of 32,170 single tracks and 3,862 albums netted her just over $38,195.
Meanwhile, 185 tracks and 2,899 albums sold through her profile on direct-to-fan site Bandcamp earned a further $25,575, while a mixture of physical and MP3 sales on Amazon earned her a further $11,571.
403,035 Spotify streams earned Keating $1,764, while more than 1.9m views of videos on YouTube – mostly those uploaded by other people featuring her music – earned her $1,248. US personal radio service Pandora generated $3,258 of royalties – but from an undisclosed number of streams.
Keating also notched up 266,331 streams on SoundCloud and 222,226 streams on her Bandcamp site, neither of which generated royalties for her.
She tweeted a link out to the spreadsheet on Friday (21 February) without passing comment on any of the services listed. “2013 music sales & streaming numbers for a middle-aged mom in a non-album cycle,” she tweeted, while noting that Apple keeps 30% of iTunes sales, while Bandcamp takes a 10% cut of sales through its website.
Keating’s per-stream payout for Spotify was thus $0.0044 in 2013. The streaming service said in December 2013 that its average per-stream payout to music rightsholders is between $0.006 and $0.0084 – a figure that includes payouts to publishers as well as labels (or in Keating’s case, self-releasing artists).
Her Spotify payouts were still a long way ahead of YouTube’s $0.00064 per stream: a single Spotify stream was worth nearly seven YouTube streams in 2013. However, it would take 160 Spotify streams to generate the same income for Keating as a single track sale on iTunes.
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Keating has spoken publicly in the past of seeing streaming services as a positive tool for her music, while warning that the companies running them must work harder to help artists forge sustainable careers.
“I don’t feel like streaming is the evil enemy. I think it’s a good positive thing to get music out there,” she said during a music industry debate in October 2013, while calling for streaming services to do more for independent musicians. “All I’m asking is make a direct deal with me, let me choose my terms.”
In a previous Google Doc sharing details of her income between October 2011 and March 2012, Keating provided more detail on her views on streaming.
“The income of a non-mainstream artist like me is a patchwork quilt and streaming is currently one tiny square in that quilt. Streaming is not yet a replacement for digital sales, and to conflate the two is a mistake,” she wrote at the time.
“I do not see streaming as a threat to my income, just like I’ve never regarded file-sharing as a threat but as a convenient way to hear music. If people really like my music, I still believe they’ll support it somewhere, somehow. Casual listeners won’t, but they never did anyway.”
Keating has also been one of the most prominent musicians calling on streaming services to share more listening data with artists. “I wish I could make this demand: stream my music, but in exchange give me my listener data,” she wrote in 2012.
This constructive feedback played no small part in leading to Spotify’s announcement in December 2013 that it was making its analytics available to musicians through a partnership with digital music firm Next Big Sound.