How much do musicians make from online music sales?

Short answer: an infinitesimally small amount.

If you have any sympathy for musicians you’ll buy their CDs from their web sites or at their performances. That’s pretty much the conclusion you’ll draw from a great attempt at quantifying musicians’ pay rates in the online music business(es) by David McCandless of InformationIsBeautiful.net.

McCandless tried to determine how many songs or CDs a musician would need to sell in various ways to make the U.S. minimum wage ($1,600 per month). It was a tough project. He wrote: “As ever, this was incredibly difficult to research. Industry figures are hard to get hold of.”

The musician’s best deal: press and sell the CDs yourself (143 per month).

Second best deal: sell them on eBay (155 per month).

Worst deal: Spotify stream (4,540,020 per month).

Obviously Spotify makes the music available globally and selling CD’s from your own web site involves much less exposure. But four million a month?

McCandless acknowledges that his numbers are crude, but they are certainly an indication of what musicians face. It’s a good data point in the debate about piracy and the efforts of the Pirate Party to give creators less and consumers more.

Also, it’s another indication of why the successful working musician’s business model has always boiled down to: “work a lot of weddings and don’t quit the day job.”

McCandless blog here: “How Much Do Music Artists Earn Online?”

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