Apple Music is one of the most popular music streaming services, with over 90 million subscribers as of 2022. For artists, Apple Music can be an important source of revenue in the age of declining physical music sales. But how much does Apple Music actually pay artists?
How does Apple Music pay artists?
Apple Music pays artists through a royalty system. Every time a song is streamed on Apple Music, the artist earns a royalty payment. These royalties are calculated based on Apple Music’s subscriber revenue and an artist’s share of total streams on the platform.
Specifically, Apple Music pays artists based on a “pro-rata” model. All of Apple Music’s subscription revenue for a given period is pooled together. This revenue pool is then divided up between all the artists streamed on Apple Music during that time, with each artist’s payment proportional to their share of total streams.
So an artist with 2% of total Apple Music streams in a month would receive roughly 2% of the revenue pool for that month. The actual per-stream rate depends on how much revenue there is in the pool and how many total streams took place.
What is Apple Music’s per-stream rate?
Apple Music has not publicly disclosed its exact per-stream royalty rate. However, analysts estimate that Apple Music pays artists between $0.003 and $0.008 per stream.
This estimate comes from reports on the overall music streaming market. Across major services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music, analysts believe the average per-stream rate falls between $0.003 and $0.008.
At $0.008 per stream, Apple Music would pay:
- $8 per 1,000 streams
- $800 per 100,000 streams
- $8,000 per 1,000,000 streams
However, the actual per-stream rate can vary over time based on factors like:
- The amount of revenue in Apple Music’s pool each month
- The total number of streams across Apple Music
- The artist’s share of streams
For example, if revenue increases but total streams stay flat, the per-stream rate may increase. But if streams increase faster than revenue, the per-stream rate could decrease.
How many streams does it take to earn minimum wage?
Based on Apple Music’s estimated per-stream rate, how many streams would it take for an artist to earn minimum wage ($7.25 per hour in the U.S.)?
If we assume the $0.008 per stream upper estimate is correct, an artist would need approximately:
- 182,500 streams per month to earn $1,000 for the month
- 730,000 streams per month to earn $4,000 for the month
- 1,462,500 streams per month to earn minimum wage at $7.25 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week
So it would take over 1.4 million streams just to earn minimum wage for a month. For context, up-and-coming artists or those with a small fan base likely don’t get anywhere near 1.4 million streams per month.
Big mainstream hits or very popular artists can get tens of millions of streams per month. But for most independent artists, earning substantial income directly from Apple Music streams alone can be difficult unless they achieve a high level of popularity.
Does Apple Music pay more per stream than Spotify?
There is debate around whether Apple Music or Spotify pays artists more per stream. Here’s a breakdown of what we know:
- Apple Music’s estimated per-stream rate of $0.003 to $0.008 is similar to Spotify’s reported $0.003 to $0.005 range.
- A 2021 Digital Music News report, based on confidential data, suggested Apple Music’s per-stream rates may be double Spotify’s.
- But other analysts rebut this claim, saying major services pay about the same.
- Spotify has a free tier driving down its average per stream rate, while Apple Music is subscription-only.
In summary, there is no consensus on whether Apple Music actually pays more than Spotify. Both services likely pay similarly, with the same range of $0.003 to $0.008 per stream.
Does Apple Music pay more than other streaming services?
Compared to newer services like Amazon Music and YouTube Music, Apple Music likely pays more per stream. That’s because:
- Amazon Music has tiers under $10/month that are ad-supported.
- YouTube Music offers a free ad-supported tier.
- These tiers likely reduce the services’ overall pool for paying artists.
Against Pandora and other internet radio services, Apple Music almost certainly pays more because:
- Pandora pays under statutory webcasting rates, well below $0.001 per stream.
- Apple Music pays based on voluntary label deals at higher royalty rates.
So while Apple Music matches competitors like Spotify, it likely beats out ad-supported and webcasting services.
Does Apple Music pay more for independent vs. major artists?
There is no evidence that Apple Music pays independent artists higher royalty rates compared to major label artists. Royalty payments are based purely on an artist’s share of total platform streams, not their record label.
However, for indie artists who own their own music rights, Apple Music can be more lucrative. That’s because major record labels take a substantial cut of their signed artists’ streaming royalties.
With Apple Music paying indie artists directly, they can earn more per stream by avoiding major label deductions.
How else does Apple Music pay artists?
Beyond its standard per-stream royalties, Apple Music provides other opportunities for direct artist payments:
- Promoted streams – Artists can pay to have their songs promoted on the platform for higher stream counts.
- Radio shows – Apple Music pays artists to host exclusive radio shows on its Apple Music 1 platform.
- Featured placements – Apple Music secures exclusives and premieres by paying artists directly for prime playlist placement.
Apple Music also provides indirect promotional value for artists through playlist curation, social media support, and music discovery features.
Does Apple Music pay songwriters too?
Yes, Apple Music pays royalties not only to recording artists, but to songwriters as well. Royalties are split as follows:
- About 70% to master recording copyright owners (usually record labels)
- About 15% to artists for their performance
- About 15% to songwriters and music publishers
This means for every dollar paid out by Apple Music, around 15 cents goes to songwriters and publishers. These royalties are administered by performance rights organizations (PROs) like ASCAP and BMI.
How do artists get paid from Apple Music?
Artists are not paid directly by Apple Music. Instead, Apple Music pays aggregated royalties to artists’ respective record labels or distributors.
These royalties are calculated based on the label or distributor’s overall share of Apple Music streams. The label then pays each of its artists according to their royalty contracts.
So artists get paid by Apple Music only indirectly through their record labels. Independent artists working directly with music distribution companies like CD Baby and TuneCore get paid more directly via those distributors.
How often does Apple Music pay artists?
Apple Music pays royalties to labels on a monthly basis. However, labels then pay their artists on varying schedules based on individual contracts. Some common label payment frequencies include:
- Twice a year
So while Apple Music calculates and pays royalties every month, artists may only receive payments quarterly, semiannually, or even once a year from their labels.
Independent artists paid through distributors tend to get monthly or quarterly payments matching the distributor’s payment schedule from Apple Music.
Does Apple Music pay during free trials?
Yes, Apple Music pays royalties for streams generated during free trials of the service. Even though users aren’t paying anything during their trial, Apple Music still remits royalties for those streams.
However, payouts for free trial streams may be lower for a couple reasons:
- Average revenue per user drops with free users included.
- Trial users may stream less music than paying subscribers.
But Apple Music does not withhold royalties altogether just because streams occur during a free trial period.
How can artists earn more from Apple Music?
For artists looking to maximize their Apple Music royalties, some tips include:
- Releasing consistently to maintain new content on the platform
- Promoting new releases and playlists placement
- Driving external traffic to your Apple Music profile
- Building an engaged and active fanbase on Apple Music
- Collaborating with popular artists for cross-promotion
- Using Apple Music’s promotional tools like Shazam Ad Placement
- Partnering with Apple Music on exclusives and premieres
The key is working closely with your label or distributor to identify opportunities for premium placements and promotion. This requires building relationships with Apple Music’s editorial team.
Does Apple Music pay more than physical sales or downloads?
For record labels and top artists, Apple Music generally pays less per play than physical or digital download sales. But Apple Music offers more potential reach.
A comparison of royalty rates:
|15% – 20% of retail price
|70% of sale price
|Apple Music streams
|$0.003 – $0.008 per stream
Based on these rates, an artist would need hundreds or thousands of Apple Music streams to equal the royalties from one iTunes download. But Apple Music allows artists to reach a larger audience with more aggregate streams.
For independent artists and smaller acts, Apple Music will likely generate more revenue than physical or digital sales. Mainstream artists will likely earn a larger percentage of revenue from downloads and sales versus streams for now.
Apple Music has become a critical source of income for today’s recording artists and songwriters. While the per-stream rate appears low, high stream counts can lead to substantial earnings for many artists.
Compared to sales and downloads, Apple Music may generate less money per song played. But it offers artists the ability to constantly earn royalties at scale based on their popularity and fans’ listening habits.
By maintaining a consistent release schedule, engaging fans, and leveraging Apple Music’s promotional tools, artists have an opportunity to maximize their streaming royalties. While it takes significant work to generate incomes rivaling top downloads, Apple Music offers a viable path for artists to monetize their content.