Broadcast & Satellite

Thought Streaming Royalties Were Bad? Radio Airplay Royalties Even Worse

1Almost since its inception, streaming has often been maligned in the industry for the pittance which it pays out to artists, and while this criticism is often merited, things are actually much worse in the world of old-school radio play.


Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0

Artists and songwriters have a tendency to rip on streaming for its low payouts, sometimes without understanding the scale and metrics of how it really works. While it’s true that streaming royalties can seem absurdly low sometimes, it turns out that U.S. radio airplay is way worse.

According to a post on Roconomic, a spin was worth an average of .00955 of a cent to the songwriters, based upon figures that have been publicly released by ASCAP, BMI, RAB, Arbitron, Nielsen and others. Contrast that to .0607 for a premium Spotify stream and .0152 for the free tier according to Audiam.

Granted, the data that the airplay rates were based on comes from 2014, but it can be said that radio’s health is not in a better place 4 years later.

Here’s how the payments break down:

$0.0000955… for the songwriter/composers/lyricists
$0.0000955… for the publisher(s)
$0.0000281… for the PRO (average across ASCAP/BMI/SESAC)
$0.000219 <- in Total for Songwriters, Publishers, and PRO

2Basically, a songwriter needs a million listeners per performance to make $95. In other words, radio is based on the number of listeners, not plays, but that’s actually equivalent to streaming with one stream per listener.

For an artist the metrics are completely different matter.

0.0000 of a cent – Radio artist royalty per play

.397 of a cent – Spotify artist royalty (average of premium and free tiers) per stream

.783 of a cent – Apple Music artist royalty per stream

.0134 of a cent – Pandora artist royalty per stream

.0074 of a cent – YouTube artist royalty per stream

Artists (not songwriters) get paid zero, zip, nada, nothing for radio airplay in the United States. They get paid almost everywhere else in the world.

You may not get paid much, especially from YouTube and Pandora, but at least an artist gets paid something, as opposed to songwriters who always get paid, albeit less than an artist on every platform except radio. These are all small amounts, but the pennies add up. Get used to collecting them. 

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1 Comment

  1. This isn’t a fair comparison. Radio is not on-demand, first of all. More importantly, radio’s low pay was justifiable as a promotional tool for actual music sales. Whereas streaming is replacing and destroying sales.

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