Apple Music Pays $0.01 Per Stream

The tech giant's payment structure for labels, artists and songwriters has been detailed in a new memo
Apple Music Pays $0.01 Per Stream
Foregoing the shiny web design and interactive graphs of its competitors, Apple Music has confirmed that the average per-play payout of its streaming service is one cent USD per stream.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the reveal came as part of a new memo sent to artists, labels and other industry rights-holders as part of a new series of newsletters.

"As the discussion about streaming royalties continues, we believe it is important to share our values," Apple Music writes [via Rolling Stone]. "We believe in paying every creator the same rate, that a play has a value, and that creators should never have to pay for featuring."

RS notes that Apple's penny-per-stream is an average payout of its pro rata model, meaning that royalties are determined by Apple Music's total streaming earnings ahead of being divvied up. In any case, WSJ reports those payouts are "roughly double what Spotify...pays music-rights holders per stream."

The publication shares that Spotify, who aimed to increase transparency around the streaming economy through launching its "Loud & Clear" initiative last month, pays "an average of about one-third to one-half penny per stream," though its larger user base generates many more streams.

"While other services pay some independent labels a substantially lower rate than they pay major labels, we pay the same headline rate to all labels," Apple Music wrote. "This means artists can distribute music however they like, knowing Apple Music will pay the same rate. Sign with a label or stay independent; we believe in the value of all music."

As for artists, Apple Music writes that it pays "every publisher and licensor the same headline rate within each country," though a specific percentage was not shared. RS notes that could be due to ongoing legal action by publishers in an effort to secure higher payouts.

Apple Music's belief that "creators should never have to pay for featuring" appears to be a jab at Spotify's November 2020 test feature, which offered artists further promotion of music for a lower royalty payout. "Apple Music's team of global tastemakers hand-curate 30,000 editorial playlists," the service wrote. "These tastemakers select music based on merit."

The memo also notes that Apple Music has "looked into alternative royalty models," though nothing definitive was outlined. "Our analysis has shown that they would result in a limited redistribution of royalties with a varied impact to artists," the company claimed. "Per play rates would cease to be the same for every play of a song. But more importantly, the changes would not increase what all creators earn from streaming. Instead, these changes would shift royalties towards a small number of labels while providing less transparency to creators everywhere."

Ultimately, the company concludes, "At Apple Music, our focus remains on artists and songwriters and finding new and innovative ways for all creators to make a living from music."

At a penny-per-stream, that's some kind of living, but at least their company heads don't directly badger you for not working hard enough.