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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Streaming silence and odes to poop: The Spotify business model for artists

We’ll get more official numbers whenever Spotify puts in a S-1 filing with the SEC (the company is rumored to be preparing for an IPO), but you don’t need an exact dollar figure to know that the Swedish music streaming company has become a major revenue stream to artists. To date, the company says it’s paid $1 billion to rights holders since launching.

While artists like your Beyonces or Justin Biebers might be making the brunt of that money, there’s still value in getting plays from your fans, or in controlling good sections of the long tail. How much value is there in a single play? It’s tough to put an exact figure on it, due to different formulas and policies between countries and negotiated contracts, but according to stats unveiled as part of the Spotify Artists webpage, that value per play to rights holders is somewhere between a whopping $0.006 and $0.0084. This means one million listens pays out between $6,00 and $8,400.

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That payout to traditional artists is split between rights holders, like publishers, but independent artists using services like Finland’s MusicKickup or more well known services like CDbaby can help artists retain “up to 100%” of their profits.

Spotify’s catalogue is over 20 million tracks these days, and is growing at a rate around 20,000 songs a day. In this massive influx slips in a few artists looking to take advantage of the long tail of revenue.


Ann Arbur, Michigan-based funk band Vulfpeck have figured out a way to make them money while you sleep. Their new album, Sleepify, consists of ten 31 second tracks of pure silence, and they’ve asked their fans to play it on repeat overnight to help them finance their next tour.

The Guardian assumes the band is making $0.007 a stream, meaning that 100 streams of the track would make 70 cents, or 143 streams to make a dollar. Assuming someone sleeps seven hours, a fan would play 840 tracks, generating $5.88 for Vulfpeck.

Here’s the album if you’d like to give it a “listen”:

What will be more interesting is to hear the numbers Vulfpeck puts out after the experiment has run its course for a little bit. According to the statistics under the tracks, there have been a solid 274,822 plays of the first track, hitting an estimated $1,918 alone. Multiply that by the ten tracks, and the full album might have brought in close to $19,000 already.

Birthdays and Poop Songs

Other artists see the value in going after the keywords. It’s likely you’ve searched for your name on Spotify to see what’s out there, and it’s unquestionable that high numbers of 12 year old boys are searching for poop songs. Musician Matt Farley is on the supply side of this equation.

“So I have a band called The Toilet Bowl Cleaners, and there’s eight albums of poop songs. You’d think I’d run out, but the most recent one was my Pet Sounds of poop songs. It’s intense, it’s beautiful,” says musician Matt Farley said to On the Media‘s podcast, TLDR.

The album he’s talking about is obviously You thought we ran out of poop song ideas: you were wrong.

He has 64 bands listed on his webpage Other artists by Farley include:

  • The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns
  • The Best Birthday Song Band Ever
  • The New York Sports Band
  • The Birthday Band For Old People
  • The Hungry Food Band
  • As you can tell, it’s musical SEO. An 11 hour “best of” Morten Media can be found here.

    The best thing about Matt Farley is how he puts himself out there in such a straightforward manner – both in his songs and with his attitude about his songs. One of Farley’s band names is Papa Razzi and the Photogs, where he’s capitalizing off of Spotify search traffic on names like Justin Bieber (Ladies love Justin Bieber – 60,544 total plays on Spotify) or Ryan Gosling (Ryan Gosling, you are a great singer – 5,965 total plays).

    One of his songs under this band is entitled Someone Needs to make these Songs. The track below, Karl Marx Was a Communist Man, explores Ronald Reagan’s relationship with the philosopher. I listened to it, giving Farley my $0.007, so I guess someone did need to make this song.

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