While streaming has remade the economic landscape of music and made earning a living harder for many musicians, some of the industry's biggest stars are still managing to bring in a significant amount of revenue in this new environment.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
Streaming has changed the way artists make money, but that doesn’t mean the biggest stars of today have fallen on hard times.
When its the last time someone told you about buying an album? When is the last time someone who wasn’t a collector (vinyl, cassette) told you they bought an album? Unless your inner circle is filled with devoted, old school music fans the answer is probably not anytime in the recent past. We live in the age of digital, which means we live in the streaming era, and that evolution has changed the ways musicians make money.
Depending on who you ask, this is a good and bad thing. Newer artists, especially in the world of rock and metal, claim streaming has made it harder to earn money because fewer people are willing to pay $5 or $10 to purchase their music outright. On the other hand, artists who create strong singles have found that the ease of access that Spotify and similar platforms provide has lowered the barrier to discovery. Those artists still make far less per stream than they would if each play was tied to a sale, but high stream counts can prove more beneficial than sales over time.
Whatever the struggles for newer artists may be, those talents at the top of the industry hierarchy are continuing to rake in plenty of cash in the age of streaming. Understanding the math behind the streams is often a struggle, but Billboard recently uncovered the top 5 streaming earners of 2019 so far, as well as a rough estimate of just how much money they’ve brought in for their label and team.
1. ARIANA GRANDE
Total label streaming revenue YTD: $12.08M
Total audio and video on-demand streams YTD: 2.83B
Total label streaming revenue YTD: $11.29M
Total audio and video on-demand streams YTD: 2.58B
3. POST MALONE
Total label streaming revenue YTD: $10.90M
Total audio and video on-demand streams YTD: 2.63B
4. JUICE WRLD
Total label streaming revenue YTD: $8.38M
Total audio and video on-demand streams YTD: 1.92B
5. BILLIE EILISH
Total label streaming revenue YTD: $7.93M
Total audio and video on-demand streams YTD: 1.89B
Billboard’s estimates are based on Nielsen Music data and other information as of the week ending April 18. It’s a month later now, but the top five most likely remains the same, only with larger play counts.
It’s important to note that the second figure under each artist’s name combines song and video streams. Audio streams generate more revenue than video streams, but YouTube is an incredibly popular platform for music.
The figures above cover the sound recording royalty that the record label collects and doesn’t include publishing.
James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.