Independent Artists Require 5 Million Annual Streams to Earn U.S. Minimum Wage: Report

Independent artists continue to face a staggering challenge: a need to generate five million streams annually just to earn the U.S. minimum wage.

That's according to new data published by Duetti in the music financing company's annual "Music Economics Report for Independent Artists." Despite the general perception of streaming platforms as a democratizing force in the music industry, the report reveals some sobering truths.

Independent artists are estimated to earn roughly $2.95 per 1,000 streams, a rate that has declined by 2% in 2023. The decrease is attributed to various factors, including Spotify's expansion into lower-cost markets, reliance on discounted plans and the introduction of promotional features like the streaming giant's controversial Discovery Mode

While platforms like Apple, YouTube and Amazon have raised their payout rates, due in part to recent consumer subscription price increases, Spotify's strategies have led to an 8% reduction in what they pay independent artists per stream. That's a significant development, given that Spotify still holds the largest wallet share for independent artists, commanding 55% of the market.

Another finding in the report reveals the high percentage of income spent by independent artists on distribution fees, which average around 26%. These high-cost fees are often unavoidable and dependent on genre. Latin and country music artists unfortunately bore the brunt of these fees compared to other styles of music.

For more insights on the state of the streaming economy, read Duetti's full report here.

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