A year ago I released an EP on Spotify, iTunes and Bandcamp. This is what I (L)Earned.
How do the most popular music distribution platforms compare in terms of traffic and sales? Is streaming a dead-end? Are downloads over? Is there any money in self-publishing your music at all?
Who am I and what’s this about?
Early January 2014, I put out my self-published 5-track EP on a range of music distribution platforms. Self-published, because I’m not signed to any record label, and having been burned by a large label or two almost two decades ago, I’m more than comfortable having both full control and full ownership of my own music.
Naturally, there isn’t much money in being a completely unknown indie artist, but my goal has never been to make money, but rather not to lose money.
So as long as I’m able to cover my expenses (server rental, mastering services, a new synth once in a while), I’m good.
Looking at the three big ones
When it comes to making your music available to people, the game is usually split into two camps: downloads and streaming.
The king on the download playground is undoubtedly iTunes, with a catalogue of over 37,000,000 songs and over 25 billion songs sold, worldwide. iTunes main distribution method is downloads, even though it supports streaming as well.
When it comes to streaming, there are a few players out there, but the biggest by a large margin is Spotify, with 10 million paying users.
And then there is Bandcamp — which has both streaming and downloads, but which is mostly known as a direct sales channel for independent artists with support for lossless audio formats such as WAV and FLAC.
With both downloads and streaming supported, iTunes has provided me with two metrics. I’ll list both and show the combined income as well.
22 downloads = $19.77
15 streams = $0.05
Total revenue: $19.81
There is only one method of compensation with Spotify, and that’s per stream. I’m not going to dig deaper into the topic of whether or not their compensation model is fair (it isn’t), so let’s just get to the numbers..
1558 streams = $14.58
You can distribute your music on a few different models on Bandcamp, including “pay-what-you-want”, where people can opt to pay nothing but still download your music. For this release however, I wanted to have a fixed price: $5 for the EP — $1 per song, the same as iTunes.
51 downloads = $337.70
So what does this mean?
Should everyone start taking out Google Ads for their music on Bandcamp? No, probably not. This data is not in any way scientific, as it only applies to one release from one artist, but at least it can show how vastly different the different platforms can compensate independent artists for their music.
In total I’ve made $372,09 in sales from my EP “Hit The Grave Running” over the last 10 months. Almost all of it came from Bandcamp, which is most likely due to a decent fan base who prefers that platform, and that my music has little-to-no mainstream appeal, plus the fact that they let me keep a larger percentage of the revenue.
That said, one of the most important takeaways form this is just how close the Spotify income is to the revenue from iTunes. Streaming is definitely here to stay, and if they improve their pay-for-play numbers, Spotify will most likely overtake iTunes as a source of revenue for me — but Bandcamp will remain my number one channel.
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