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Making Money as a Musician: The Full Song Royalty Guide (Streaming Services, Radio Stations, & More)

Updated: Dec 7, 2022


Making Money as a Musician with Song Royalties (Radio Royalties and Spotify Earnings)

As an independent musician, there are a million things you would love to do with your music career. However, one of the tasks that often gets less attention than it should is money management.


Whether you're just starting out or have been at it for a while, it's important to have a clear understanding of how royalties work and what you can expect to earn from your music.


This guide will take you through everything you need to know about song royalties – from how they're calculated to who pays them and everything in between.

Are you ready to learn more? Let's get started!


Part 1: Understanding how royalties work.

Understanding how song royalties work on radio and more

Understanding how royalties work for independent musicians is essential for any music career. In general, when a song is written, the songwriter will own the copyright to the song. However, if the song is recorded and released, the publisher will own the sound recording copyright.


This means that the songwriter will receive performance royalties when their song is played on the radio or on TV, while the publisher will receive mechanical royalties when the song is sold as a physical recording or downloaded digitally.


In addition, both the songwriter and the publisher will receive performance royalties when the song is played live.


The split between publishers and songwriters can vary, but in general, songwriters will receive 50% of performance royalties and 100% of mechanical royalties. As a result, it's important for independent musicians to understand how these rights are split in order to ensure that they are getting fairly compensated for their work.


One advantage of distributors like Distrokid or Tunecore where you retain 100% of airplay royalties, is that the only extra step you will need to take as an independent musician to claim your performance rights is to set up an account with one of the rights organizations. BMI or ASCAP are the two of the largest platforms for independent musicians.


If you do not already have your music uploaded to these organizations, you are potentially missing out on extra royalties and detailed data in quarterly reports.


Part 2: Where do artists get paid the most?

Looking for where artists get paid the most

It is important to distribute your music to each and every streaming service to maximize song plays, and with that, earn more revenue from your music.


To help you out, we've compiled a list of some of the major streaming platforms to see which pays the highest rate to musicians.


Note: Each platform pays differently depending on factors such as if a listener is on a free or paid plan, or which country the user resides in. This results in a range of amount paid per play.


1. Spotify:

Spotify is one of the most popular streaming services around, and it pays fairly well for independent artists. In general, you can expect to earn between $0.003 and $0.0084 per stream. On average, Spotify will pay you $0.004 for a stream.


2. Apple Music:

Apple Music is another major player in the streaming world, and it also offers decent royalty rates for independent artists. You can expect to earn somewhere between $0.007 and $0.0085 per stream.


3. Tidal:

Tidal is a lesser-utilized streaming service, but it actually offers some of the highest royalty rates for independent artists. You can expect to earn between $0.01 and $0.015 per stream on Tidal.


4. YouTube:

You may not think of YouTube as a streaming service, but it actually is! And if you have a lot of views on your videos, you can start racking up some serious royalties. On average, YouTube pays out $0.00069 per view, which can add up quickly if you have a lot of traffic.


5. SoundCloud:

SoundCloud is another great platform for independent musicians, and it offers fairly high royalty rates as well. You can expect to earn between $0.002 and $0.0084 per stream on SoundCloud.


Part 3: Expand your Streams of Income as Artist

earn more money as a musician

Every artist wants to go full-time. To become free of their day job, and focus on their art full time. How can this be done?


Becoming financially stable as an independent artist is can be difficult, but there are numerous ways to expand operations and begin to earn money in new avenues attached to your music career.


You can always ask for donations from fans, but what about feasible, long-term income options?


Here are three consistently viable ways to make more money with your music.


1. Live Shows

One way to make money as an independent artist is to play live shows. This can be anything from performing at a coffee shop to playing at a music festival. Reach out to venues or work with a music manager to get your first gig.


Valuable Resources:

  • Click here to learn more about live shows

  • Click here to learn more about how to work with a music manager to get your first live show booked

2. Create Merchandise

Another way to earn money is to sell merchandise such as t-shirts, posters, or CDs. Creating a brand around yourself is a great way to make your music more than just a song, but rather an experience or a movement.


Valuable Resources:

  • Click here to learn more here about creating merch:

  • Click here to learn how to build a brand as a musician:


3. Teach Lessons

Lastly, you could always give private lessons if you play an instrument or teach a particular skill related to the music industry. Or you could start a social media page where you give tutorials and feedback to the community. This could greatly increase brand recognition and overall reception to your songs when sharing to others.


Valuable Resources:

  • Click here to learn how to create your own viral TikTok Content

  • Click here to learn how to get more views on YouTube


Whew, that was a lot to go over. Let's more directly answer some of the major questions musicians have about how they get paid.


FAQs: Streaming Platform Royalties (Part I)

What are song royalties?

Song royalties are payments that are made to the composer, songwriter, or publisher of a piece of music whenever the song is performed in public or broadcast on radio stations. In the United States, these payments are governed by federal copyright law and are collected by performing rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Songwriters and publishers typically split these royalties 50/50.


For example, if a songwriter earns $1 in royalties from a performance, the publisher will also earn $1. In addition to performances, song royalties can also be generated from the sale of sheet music, CDs, and digital downloads. Whenever a song is purchased, the songwriter and publisher are typically entitled to a portion of the sale. These royalties can provide a valuable stream of income for musicians, and they help to ensure that composers are compensated for their work.


How Much Money Can You Make From Streaming Services?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including how many streams you have, which country your listeners are in, and whether or not you have a record label. That said, the average independent artist can expect to make between $0.003 and $0.008 per stream on popular streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. So, if you have 1,000 streams, you can expect to make between $3-$8. Not bad!


How Much Money Can You Make From YouTube?

YouTube is a great way to reach new fans and make some extra cash. If you have a video that goes viral, you could make thousands of dollars! Even if your videos don't go viral though, you can still make money from them through YouTube's Partner Program. Under this program, YouTube will run ads on your videos and share the revenue with you. The amount of money you make will depend on a number of factors, including how many views your video gets and which country your viewers are in.


Additionally, YouTube recently announced the ability to make money off of their newer YouTube shorts platform. Take advantage of this creator fund, best of luck artists!


FAQs: Radio Station Royalties (Part II)

How Much Are Royalties For Songs on the Radio?

If your song is played on the radio, you're entitled to performance royalties. In the US, these royalties are collected by two organizations: ASCAP and BMI. Performance royalties vary depending on a number of factors, but Independent artists can typically expect to receive between $50 and $500 per play.


Do radio stations pay royalties?

The simple answer is yes, radio stations pay royalties - but it's a bit more complicated than that. Here's a quick rundown of how royalties work in the world of music.


When a song is played on the radio, the artist who wrote and performed the song is owed a royalty. These royalties are typically collected by performing rights organizations like ASCAP or BMI, who then distribute them to the artists.


So, when you hear your favorite song on the radio, the artist is getting paid - though they may not be making a fortune off of it. In some cases, record labels will also collect a portion of these royalties.


Ultimately, it all comes down to the specific contract that was signed between the artist and the label. Radio stations do pay royalties - but how much the artists actually receive can vary greatly.


Are deceased songwriters still paid radio royalties?

Yes! Many people are surprised to learn that deceased songwriters can continue to earn commercial radio royalties long after they have passed away. In the United States, these radio royalties are paid through a process known as performance rights, which allows songs to be played on the radio in exchange for payment. The payments are typically made to the songwriter's estate, and they can provide a significant source of income for family members or other beneficiaries. While the amount of money earned depends on many factors, including the popularity of the song and how often it is played, it is not uncommon for estates to receive tens of thousands of dollars per year in performance royalties. In addition to providing financial support, these payments can also be a way of honoring the legacy of a beloved songwriter.


Do online radio stations pay royalties?

Yes, an online radio station will pay artists similar to regular radio plays. There is a common misconception that online radio stations like iHeartRadio do not pay radio royalties. This is not the case! In fact, iHeartRadio pays royalties to both songwriters and performers for the use of their music on our platform.


In conclusion:

Making money as a musician isn't easy, but it IS possible to make a living as an independent musician if you're willing to work hard and hustle. This guide has shown you how to make money from your music by streaming services, radio stations, and more. Keep at it and never give up on your dreams!


If you have any more questions about either radio or how a song played gets paid, let us know in the comments below!

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