Apr 012014

(We welcome Chris “OJ” Ojeda, frontman of West Virginia’s Byzantine, with an eye-opening guest article about the economics of music streaming and what fans can do to increase band revenues. Despite the April 1 posting date, this is no joke.)

Hello friends and audiophiles. This is OJ from the band Byzantine. I want to spread some information that I have been wanting to tabulate and disseminate for some time now. This information is based on 1 topic only: Legal Music Streaming and the Amount An Artist Gets Paid.

Before I get into the hard numbers of this topic, I want to make clear that I am completely bipartisan on this issue. I do not feel that legal streaming has ruined my band’s chances at being a top-tier money-earning act. We have attempted to do that all by ourselves and I am completely fine with that. I also do not feel that legal streaming has afforded my band or myself any luxuries. The figures I have compiled will back that up. With that being said, I have to admit I am very grateful to be spreading this information on my band because it means two very important things:

1. At 39 yrs old, I still have a band, and that’s pretty awesome.
2. A small number of people actually listen to our band and that’s even more awesome.

In 2013, streaming music overtook all other forms of music listening combined, clocking in at around 118 BILLION songs streamed in the US alone. Streaming music accounts for over 10% of all the music sales in the US, and streaming services now account for 27% of all global digital revenues (see this source). While these numbers will continue to climb, album sales and even digital downloads will continue to slip, as they did by 6.3% in 2013. So this topic is a major concern for artists.

What I am going to show you all is Byzantine’s revenue stream from Jan 2013-Jan 2014 based on streams alone. I know this is a microscopic look at a D-level band, but I am almost certain these number will accurately shed light on what bands such as Opeth, Mastodon, Behemoth, and the like are getting paid as well, albeit on a bigger scale.

As of right now, Byzantine currently distributes our latest album through 14 different companies, worldwide. I will be breaking these down into 2 different categories — US and International. In those categories, the companies will be broken down further into Classes based on pay scale. Class I pays the most and Class III pretty much shouldn’t even bother reporting their revenue to us. Actually, after doing this research, I will be taking steps to remove our distribution from the Class III companies, as the $1.96 we pay yearly to use their services can never be recouped. (I can’t believe I even typed that sentence.) So here it goes.


This is based on 63,220 Streams of the Byzantine album “Byzantine” between Jan 2013 and Jan 2014.

1. X Box Music – $0.022
2. Sony Music Unlimited – $0.018
3. Rhapsody – $0.010

4. Muve Music – $0.0085
5. Rdio – $0.0084
6. Media Net – $0.0067
7. Spotify – $0.0047 (½ a penny per song)
8. Google Play – $0.0039
9. Itunes – $0.0029

10. MySpace Music – $0.00071
11. Amazon Cloud – $0.00022

Average payout per Byzantine song streamed: $0.0055



1. Sony Music Unlimited – $0.024
2. X Box Music – $0.019
3. Simfy – $0.017
4. Rhapsody/Wimp/Deezer – $0.010 (1 penny per song)

7. Spotify – $0.0074
8. Rdio – $0.0060
9. Media Net – $0.0044
10. Itunes – $0.0027

11. Amazon Cloud – $0.00014


So, here is what I have learned doing this little analysis: X Box Live is where it’s at! I’m also very pleased with the amount that Sony Music and Rhapsody pay the artist. I know that 1-2 cents per song doesn’t seem like much, but I will provide a very small example and you will see the difference. Also, I have learned that Spotify has a brilliant marketing campaign. I have heard multiple friends say they use Spotify because they promote their company as “Artist Friendly”. Well, at $0.006 per stream, it seems more like “Artist Rapery”.

Oh, and here is the example I have to show you about what difference your choice of streaming means to artists like us. If all of our music had been streamed through X Box Music, our pay for the year from streaming would have been $1,390 as opposed to the $347 we did receive.

Not a big change, right? Well, let’s look at a band like…MESHUGGAH. I will use them because almost all of us know who they are; safe to say you probably love them like I do, and they have been one of the most influential, groundbreaking, and consistent bands of the last 20 years. We have 5,000 Facebook likes, they have 629,000 Facebook likes. Let’s play it safe and say they have had 500,000 streams over the last year. If all their streams had come through shitty Amazon Cloud they would have been paid $110. If all their streams had come through X Box Live, Meshuggah would have been paid $11,000.

That’s the change we need to see.

I am hoping with this information, you as a music buyer will be a little more informed. The options are here and they are plenty. But if you love your artist as much as we love you, stream wisely. It might just pay our gas to the next gig…



  1. Byzantine has made at least 18 sales on their Bandcamp. 15 x $7 + 3 x $5 – 15% cut for BC = $102.

    So $102 for 18 album sales vs $347 for 63220 streams.


    • It’s worth nothing that in addition to paying money for Byzantine’s latest, I also sent them some naked pictures of myself. Some rewards can’t be monetized.

  2. Great researching and breakdown. This info is all on scratch paper and posties randomly around my desk. Organization is hot. ;). Hope people pay attention.

  3. Makes me feel better that on March 30th I bought a physical copy of the cd from the bands merch page

  4. This is interesting, seeing the breakdown did make me think about perhaps pruning some stores that really don’t pay much, but on the other hand does having them in those stores perhaps mean somebody will hear (of) your band who otherwise wouldn’t.

    From an economic point of view having your music in a store where you pay more to have it than you’ll ever get back of course makes no sense, but in my case my band is so small that our existence in those stores is essentially a marketing cost not a revenue stream.

    • You make a very valid point regarding your band, JH. I appreciate you reading my article and chiming in. Rock!

  5. Oh man this is so depressing. And I don’t mean that in a off the cuff ‘oh I’m so depressed!!!’ exagerration, but this is a really stark breakdown of income that leaves a pit in the stomach. I know other sites have gone through this before, but this just really brings it home.

    This reminds me of the arguments of Jaron Lanier – that the internet (or at least, the way it was set up) is leading to a loss of the middle class by gutting out income potential for a whole range of professions (journalists, writers, musicians, etc). He proprosed that a system of micropayments could reverse this by giving financial reward to the makers of content which is used or shared widely on the internet. But here’s the catch: this is exactly what these streaming services are supposed to be: you play a song, the artist gets some small amount of money. Obviously for some of them it’s so shitty as to not even be worth $1.96 per year.

    This also reminds me of what Vince Neilstein in particular would rant about – that streaming, and to some extent album sales, is just getting your music heard and that touring and merchandise sales are the only money earners now. I’ve always hated that argument, probably because of the perspective my geographical location gives me: I live in New Zealand. Almost no bands I listen to ever come here, so there’s little chance I would ever see any of their shows, and hence zero money they would ever make off me from concert tickets. I also pretty much never buy merchandise because the shipping makes it double the original cost. Postage companies would probably make more money than the artist from me buying merchandise. So this leaves a situation where I could get great personal satisfaction off a product that someone worked hard to produce without them ever earning anything from me. I also hate the suggestion that I could really like a band for it’s music but that they only make money when I buy a shirt printed with their logo; why not have them make money off me listening to their music? given that’s what I enjoy in the first place?

    Also, seeing the breakdown of those bandcamp numbers is depressing too. Only 18 sales for a phenomenal album like Byzantine S/T, and when it appeared on so many ‘best of 2013’ lists? (and so got a large amount of free marketing). I’ve always wondered how many sales on bandcamp come from ‘lurkers’ who don’t have a profile so whose purchases don’t show up as those little icons.

    • I’m sorry I hit you in the gut with these numbers, Booker. You are dead on with the New Zealand issue. We have shipped numerous piece of merch to NZ, and we typically pay the US Postal System around $11-$13 in shipping alone to send a T-Shirt. We might make $8 off of the T-Shirt if we are lucky so the Postal System is making about the same amount on our merch as we are and they don’t have to write the music OR gig out. It’s a mad, mad world…

      • Thanks for the reply. And don’t be sorry about it either! I’d rather be in the know than have my head in the sand. Good to hear there’s some NZ Byzantine fans around too…. now where are they hiding….

    • I’m one of those “lurkers” (I don’t like the sound of that) who buys albums on bandcamp without being registered. I just never felt the need to register.
      I really hope that I’m not the only one so that the 18 icons are not representative. As MaxR put it: “at least 18 sales”.

      • I really should have thought of a better phrase than ‘lurkers’. ‘non-registered buyers’ would have been logical, but me and thinking clearly aren’t often on good terms 😉

  6. this is a really fascinating, if somewhat depressing, post. you really have to love what you’re doing to be able to see these kinds of numbers and not want to hang it up.

  7. This convinced me to stop using Spotify (though even so I only used it once in a blue moon), and get the Rhapsody app on my phone instead.

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