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Most Tracks on Spotify Won’t Earn a Royalty Under New Scheme

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Most tracks on Spotify will not be eligible to receive royalties based on the company’s proposed royalty scheme that will go into effect in 2024. That’s because a track must reach a threshold of 1,000 streams within 12 months to receive royalty payouts, according to an article this week written by Kristin Graziani, president of music distributor Stem. A source with knowledge of the plan confirmed the details to Billboard.

According to Spotify’s Loud & Clear website, 37.5 million tracks had surpassed 1,000 all-time streams as of 2022. That’s out of a catalog of 100 million tracks at the end of 2022, per Spotify’s 2022 annual report. In other words, almost two-thirds of Spotify’s catalog has never reached the 12-month minimum stream count to be eligible to receive royalties. Given that’s all-time streams since the company launched in 2008, it stands to reason that fewer yet will reach 1,000 streams within a 12-month period.

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While this 1,000-stream threshold affects a large number of tracks, it doesn’t impact much of Spotify’s royalties to creators and rights holders. Implementing the threshold will shift about 0.5% of Spotify’s royalty pool to more popular tracks, a source tells Billboard. That was equal to about $46 million in royalties in 2022, based on Spotify’s $9.27 billion cost of sales that year, which represents virtually all royalty payouts.

Tackling fraudulent streams could have a larger impact than a minimum threshold. Spotify’s new royalty scheme also imposes financial penalties for music distributors and labels when fraudulent activity has been detected on tracks they uploaded. That should incentivize distributors to locate and remove fraudulent tracks before they can get to streaming platforms.

Various estimates put fraudulent tracks’ share of listening — at Spotify and elsewhere — at 3% to 10% of total streams. With the 2022 global streaming market valued at $17.5 billion, according to the IFPI, up to $1 billion worth of streaming royalties globally is ending up in the wrong hands. Removing those fraudulent streams from eligibility means all other tracks will receive a greater share of the royalty pool.

French music company Believe would get a “significant double-digit” percentage growth in its market share at Deezer under the company’s new artist-centric royalty scheme, Believe CEO Denis Ladegaillerie said during the company’s Oct. 24 earnings call. The bulk of that impact comes from fighting streaming fraud and abuse, said Ladegaillerie, adding that Deezer has a “much higher” level of streaming fraud and abuse than Spotify and Apple Music. In contrast, he added, changing how royalties are allocated to artists would impact an “extremely marginal” amount of royalties.

A cleaner, easier way to improve all artists’ royalties — one resisted by streaming services until recently — is to raise subscription prices. Every time a streaming service raises fees by 10% — such as Spotify going from $9.99 to $10.99 per month in the U.S. in July — the royalties earned from those subscribers increase a commensurate amount. Deezer has raised its price twice in less than two years. Amazon Music, Apple Music and YouTube Music have also raised prices in the last year.

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