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Music Streaming Royalties

For artists releasing music online, understanding streaming and royalties due from the likes of Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer can be complicated. Find out how to earn royalties from music streaming and what you can do to increase your income from it.

Last updated: 18 March 2024

Do musicians earn streaming royalties in the UK? 

Streaming now accounts for over 85% of UK music consumption. There was a record 159.3 billion audio streams in the UK in 2022, according to figures released by the BPI.

Yet for thousands of artists, income from online music streaming is minimal. Understanding  different types of royalties due from Digital Service Providers (DSPs) like of Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer can also seem complicated at first.

What royalties are due from streaming?

Publishing royalties

Publishing royalties are the money owed to owner(s) and/or songwriter(s) of a composition. Payments are typically made via publishers, agencies and collecting societies.

Recording royalties

Recording royalties are the money owed to the owner of the sound recordings (as opposed to who wrote the music) streamed on a DSP. They're typically paid through a record label or your aggregator/distributor if you are a self-releasing artist.

What about performers’ royalties?

As the law currently stands, performers do not have a right to Equitable Remuneration from streaming in the same way that they do from public performance of their recorded works such as on radio, TV and public venues.

The MU is leading the Fix Streaming campaign in an effort to make streaming royalties work better for musicians both as performers and as writers. As you’ll see below this is vitally important not just for ‘non-featured’ performers but also featured artists and writers.

How are streaming royalties split?

Currently, most DSPs pay royalties based on the number of plays for a track out of the overall number of streams across their platform in a given time period. This royalty pool is based on the DSPs income after their share is deducted. Whilst exact figures may vary it is generally the case that most of the income goes to the music side.

However, due to a number of factors how that money is then split remains problematic for a variety of reasons.

The Royalty Pool

At the highest level, given that DSPs core income now comes from subscription fees there is a discrepancy between the money coming in and how it gets paid out. For instance, if someone has paid £10.00 per month for a subscription and only listened to a few friends’ bands the majority of what they paid will end up going to music they haven’t listened to.

DSPs by the very nature of their digital delivery have complete knowledge of who is paying in and what they have listened to. So, the MU does not see any legitimate reason that its support for a more ‘User-Centric’ approach to paying creators hasn’t happened.

Worst still, some DSPs have recently announced plans to exclude anyone that falls below a certain threshold of streams, and we will continue to try and dissuade them from going down this path.

Publishing royalties versus Recording royalties

Currently, whilst the negotiations that led to the situation are generally covered by commercial non-disclosure agreements it is widely recognised the split between royalties is skewed towards the record label side as opposed to the writing.

What streaming royalties do musicians get?

Royalty split for composers and songwriters

Provided you have joined PRS 50% of any publishing income they collect will be paid to you (or split between you and your co-writers) directly.

If you are self-published the remaining half should also go to you directly. If you are signed to a Publisher, then a further share of that half should come to you under the terms of your contract.

The same applies to ‘Mechanical’ Publishing Royalties though unless you are a member of MCPS as a self-published artist directly, normally the full royalty for that part will go to the Publisher in the first instance and then they will account to you for your contractual share.

If you are an MU member and need specific advice about your contracts, please contact the MU.

Royalty split for recording performers

If you are a self-releasing musician or a band who owns your recordings you should be paid directly by your aggregator. Look at our guide to aggregators.

If you are signed to a label you will be paid according to your contract with them. Unfortunately, many labels treat streaming income as ‘sales’ rather than a licence meaning a far lower royalty rate despite their not incurring any of the costs of physical production and distribution.

If you are signed to a label, please check the royalty rate or percentage split set out in your recording contract and contact the MU for advice.

We will also continue to campaign to Fix Streaming for the benefit of all musicians including those such as ‘non-featured’ performers who don’t benefit from any streaming income at all.

Join the MU for fairer music streaming

The MU is campaigning to fix music streaming royalties.

At least 92% of musicians say that less than 5% of their earnings comes from online streaming, so it's time to put the value of your work back in your hands. Together, we're aiming for a fair portion of revenue from streaming services to be paid out to session and 'non-featured' performers.

When you become an MU member, you'll join a network of passionate musicians and professionals across the UK. And because the MU is a trade union, you can have your say as soon as you join.

Browse membership benefits

Member benefits for recording musicians


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