Twitter’s favourite cellist reveals how little she earns from Spotify

Twitter’s favourite cellist reveals how little she earns from Spotify


norman lebrecht

February 24, 2014

Zoe Keating is an e-phenomenon. As @zoecello, she has 1.2 million twitter followers upon which she has built a touring career that is a paradigm for balancing live performance and social media.

Today, she revealed the fruits of her labours in terms of annual earnings for 2o13. Click here to read the full document.

In sum, Zoe earned $75,341.90 from sales of singles and albums,  mostly by download from iTunes, Bandcamp and Amazon.

She also earned $6,380.82 from streaming, of which a measly $1,764.18 came from Spotify.

Zoe, as we’ve pointed out is e-savvy. She doesn’t think Spotify is good for working musicians. Nor do we.




  • Anna says:

    The news doesn’t say how many times her tracks were listened to at Spotify. If there were for example one million listeners, 1700$ is pretty well paid when you compare with the royalties one gets from radio broadcasts to same number of listeners.

    Spotify is very good for copyright holders, when the alternative is piracy.

    • She had 403,035 Spotify listens.

      • Anna says:

        I can only comment on typical Scandinavian royalties, but an average radio broadcast of a say 10-15 minutes long work that gathers say 100 thousand listeners, and is broadcast four times would hardly bring 1,700$, or 1,200€. It seems that Spotify are paying pretty well.

  • sdReader says:

    Anna, given the number Norman cites, is $1,700 more than well paid?

    This is a truly interesting report!

    • sdReader says:

      Thanks, Anna.

      I guess, then, there are two differences to consider between radio-broadcast compensation and Spotify:

      1. Radio listenership is number of broadcasts times size of audience. In the Scandinavia example, 4 x 100,000 = 400,000.

      Spotify listenership is number of “listens”: one person hearing once. In this case, 403, 035.

      2. Radio listenership is passive. There is no measure of how many of the 400,000 paid attention or even wanted to listen.

      Spotify quantifies desire and participation on the part of the listener.

      These differences suggest that Spotify SHOULD pay more in royalties than radio.

  • Joseph Artois says:

    sorry – Spotify can not be compared to a radio program as for the revenues model.

    As you know probably when listening to a radio show you do not chose the music you are listening to.

    The radio revenues are very low because the radio programs are supposed to promote the artists and the recordings.

    • Anna says:

      I don’t really want to argue about this, but no way radio programs are supposed to just “promote the artists and the recordings” more than Spotify. Because of that, radio stations and broadcasting companies pay out royalties.

      I myself always choose what I listen to on the radio. If the music/programme isn’t for me, I don’t listen to it. There is no difference to Spotify.

      As it seems to be, Spotify pays more per head than broadcasters, but we can’t prove that some people are listening better than the others.

  • Mike Breneis says:

    Hi Anna, I do understand that streaming is some kind of radio, but you can’t compare streams with radio. The evolution was physical recording – download – streaming. The difference between streaming and radio is instant access. You can hear everytime and everywhere what you want to hear. That’s like buying music and always have your player with you.

    So, what Norman might mean (Norman, please correct me) is that the old business model generated some revenue for musicians, which was part of making their living. The reason is that this old business model was made by musicians, labels and traders. The business models of downloads and streaming services was made by software developers and access providers. It’s a matter of fact, no judgement behind it. The music industry was just too stupid to make it by themselves.

    The problem now is that you can’t return. Soon many more people will have their content somewhere in the web (the famous cloud), or even don’t own the files, but use instant web services to consume digitalized content. (It’s not all about music.)

    I’ve written a few short articles about that issue, which I’m sharing here with you:

    About youtube and Simon Rattle

    About inequality in creative work

    Please let me know your thoughts on this!

  • Tommy says:

    Well £50k earnings in a year from recordings/streams for such a marginal artist doesn’t seem too bad to me.

    It certainly seems that writing blogs about such poverty is working well for her as a marketing tool.

    If Spotify is so damaging, maybe Ms Keating could boycott it? I note that, when Thom Yorke moaned about Spotify, saying “as musicians we need to fight the Spotify thing” he only pulled his solo project recordings from the service; somehow, he thought the Radiohead records (ie the most profitable) should stay put.

    I’m with Billy Bragg on this one. There’s clearly some way to go, but simply dismissing Spotify doesn’t help.

    • Ian says:

      Regarding Thom Yorke not pulling the Radiohead tracks – he doesn’t have complete control over them: other band members plus record label have a vote too. But he has complete control over his solo material, and so he could pull it.

    • Justin says:

      You’re not thinking of her career as a business, which it is. If you ran a corner store with a yearly income of 50k, would you consider that a good living? Surely not, since you would have to factor in the cost of rent and utilities, goods to be sold, advertizing… 50k gross is a far cry from 50k net. Being a recording and touring musician is a very expensive proposition. Recording and producing physical copies of albums costs time and money. Getting from venue to venue, having a place to spend the night, insurance costs on one’s instrument and equipment… These things add up, and many musicians who seem quite successful could never qualify for a mortgage.

  • However, Spotify has hardly “killed off’ her paid downloads.

  • Bang Bang says:

    “1.2 million twitter followers..”

    unfortunately such numbers cannot be taken at face value these days–how-the-market-in–fake–followers-works-150550617.html

    ..Just for information purposes and to advise caution in interpreting such statistics, far be it from me to imply that Ms Keating is involved in such practices…

    on facebook it is even worse … web search “click farms”

  • Anon says:

    1. I simply don’t understand the Spotify bashing.

    Zoe’s document shows:

    – she earn nothing at all from 488,557 streams on Bandcamp + Soundcloud

    – she earn $1200 (less than Spotify) from Youtube, despite 1.9m views (more than four times the Spotify streams)

    which suggests, on the face of it, that Spotify is far better than any of those services.

    2. Number of twitter followers is irrelevant to Spotify earnings

    3. the document doesn’t go in to enough detail. Where are Zoe’s markets strongest? Spotify doesn’t have a hold in many territories, and if her main markets are in non-Spotify regions, then low earnings are unsurprising.

    4. it’s worth noting that Spotify count anything over 30s as a “stream” (I believe) for revenue purposes. So whilst people have to purchase an entire track to count as an iTunes purchase, even a cursory “might I like this?” on Spotify still earns Zoe money. An iTunes preview followed by no purchase earns her nothing at all.

    5. and finally, yes, Spotify can be just like radio. Sure, you can choose what to listen to – but many users do not. Many select other people’s playlists and let the computer churn away track by track, exerting no real control over the process. Radio without the annoying chatter or adverts (if you are a spottily subscriber – otherwise it’s just the chatter you lose). These listeners no more select to hear Zoe or another artist than someone choosing a show to tune in to on the radio. here is a valid comparison (maybe it isn’t a straight one) to radio, and on this basis, Spotify don’t pay too badly.