In another article, we went over ways to generate income through streaming services when you’re stuck at home. What we didn’t discuss was the types of royalties (if any) these platforms can earn you.
Streaming is an umbrella term for listening to, or viewing, media on the internet. It can include watching a YouTube video, replaying a radio show, or listening to playlists on Spotify. Depending on the type of ‘stream’ — interactive or non-interactive – each platform will generate different kinds of royalties on the publishing and recording side.
Let’s dive a little deeper into some of the aforementioned platforms to get a better understanding of whether you should be collecting royalties from them or not.
Please note: the information outlined below was current when this article was published. As with any industry, processes often change, and information may become irrelevant over time. Make sure to research the platform(s) you’re most interested in and reach out about the royalties you may be able to earn before moving forward, or head over to our Help Center for more frequently asked questions about nearly every aspect of music publishing imaginable.
In the past, many rights holders had unique deals and blanket licenses with Instagram, ensuring payments to their songwriters and artists. Instagram and its parent company Meta now offer a content management system (CMS) that’s similar to YouTube’s Content ID setup. An intrinsic part of Facebook’s (Meta) Creator Studio platform, Rights Manager encourages creators to submit original content to its reference library.
According to its landing page, “Rights Manager will take it from there, finding any content on Facebook and Instagram that matches yours…When your content is detected on a Page or profile, you can choose from one of the available actions that works best for you. This can include monitoring the content, blocking, it or attributing credit via an ownership link.”
Streaming music on Twitch can earn you royalties, but it has a limited reach. As of early 2020, you could legally stream music if you had a license from the creators and met Twitch’s music sharing guidelines. That meant you could play and perform your own music on Twitch, but you wouldn’t be able to receive royalties.
However, Twitch signed a licensing deal with SACEM the following September as part of a new product launch called Soundtrack. Soundtrack is a huge step forward for artists, a reflection of their decision to discontinue extensions like Twitch Sings and “invest in broader tools and services that will help support and grow the entire music on Twitch.” With this welcome product, a Twitch streamer may now stream a live video alongside fully licensed, high-quality music. This means that publishing and recording royalties are available to anyone that are licensed with Twitch.
Much like with Instagram, you’ll want to contact your distributor and publisher to see if they have licenses with Soundtrack for Twitch. Be sure to look out for special partnerships Twitch has in place as well, such as the “fast-track” to monetization it offers with SoundCloud Pro, SoundCloud Premier, and Repost by Soundcloud users.
YouTube tracks and pays royalties in multiple ways. In addition to paying recording and publishing royalties based on unique ISRCs associated when videos are uploaded, they also offer a signature Content ID system to scan and identify videos on their site that use your song.
Earning and collecting YouTube royalties can be quite complex, but rest assured that you will receive royalties for the use of your music if you meet their monetary thresholds. Check out the current ways you can earn money on YouTube here.
YouNow doesn’t monetize music on their platform. It is also against their terms to play music that you don’t have permission to play. You can play your own music freely, but you won’t receive additional royalties.
This service allows musicians to upload their own samples, beats, and FX for others to use. When you upload your own beats to Splice, you get paid when someone downloads and uses them. Royalties aren’t factored in because everything on the Splice website is 100% royalty-free and cleared for commercial use. This means you’ll get paid by Splice for a producer downloading a beat you uploaded, but you won’t get royalties if they upload the song to Spotify.
BeatStars is a marketplace for hip-hop producers to connect with artists and rappers looking for beats. Anyone can sign up, offer their own beats for sale, and create unique ‘beat lease’ contracts. The producer can also set limits on how artists use their beat and the ways in which rights are split.
As an artist or producer, it’s important to read over your contracts when entering into any beat lease agreements. In most cases, a producer and artist will split publishing and recording royalties. In an exclusive license, the original recording rights are transferred to the artist, but the producer will retain their publishing rights.
Resonate uses a unique payment model they call stream2own, which encourages users to pay for a song download via streaming. Or as they put it, “listeners start as explorers, and then become backers.”
Here’s how it works: You add ‘credits’ to your account, and when you stream a song, you pay a small amount for the stream. The amount you pay for each play doubles every time until you reach your ninth listen and own the song for the overall rate of 1.25€ ($1.40). According to this “co-op” model, Resonate “guarantees at least 1 cent per play to artists: around 10€ ($11.20) per 1,000 discovery streams.”
Please keep in mind that this form of payment is only for the original recording. Resonate will also pay out mechanical and performance royalties on the publishing side as well.
Stationhead has created a unique way of tracking plays by having fans pair their Apple Music or Spotify accounts with their Stationhead account. When a song is streamed on Stationhead, it generates and tracks royalties from each listener's Spotify and Apple Music account.
This is especially useful, because if you’re broadcasting your radio show on Stationhead to 50 people, and you play your song, it equals 50 streams. Both publishing and master royalties will be paid out for this use because it is played via the listener's Spotify or Apple Music account.
For more details on how Stationhead works, check out their FAQ page here.
TikTok’s platform is focused primarily on allowing users to pair music with short video clips. Simply putting your music on a video in the app won’t earn you royalties though; an artist must distribute their music through an official channel like CD Baby for it to be available and monetizable. You must also be registered with a collection society — a PRO like ASCAP or BMI in the U.S. — and have a publisher or publishing administrator like Songtrust in place to collect publishing royalties.
Because TikTok is a new application, they are still working on deals to license music with various rights holders. You’ll need to check with your distributor, collection society, and publisher to ensure that they have licenses in place with TikTok to collect royalties on your behalf. If they are licensed, then it’s fair to assume that your music will be collecting royalties for each use on the platform. How these royalties are calculated — a confusing process that values market share over metric views — is described in detail here.
TikTok also introduced SoundOn — “an all-in-one platform for music marketing and distribution, designed to empower new and undiscovered artists” — earlier this year. According to its guidelines, SoundOn lets you upload your music directly to TikTok and start earning royalties as soon as it is used. The royalty rate is 100% in your first year, and 90% after that, with the option to also distribute your work to other DSPs through SoundOn. For a closer look at how SoundOn works, and why it may or may not make sense for your own music, check out a post over at Protocol.
Long considered a legal alternative to SoundCloud for online radio stations and DJs, Mixcloud has deals with place “with many of the largest rights holders, record labels and publishers around the world.” This means you can share a DJ set on its platform without worrying about takedowns or concerning yourself with how copyright law works. Mixcloud’s Pro tier now offers a fully licensed livestream option as well. For more information on how Mixcloud’s content ID solutions work, you can submit a request with their support team here.
To Sum Up
These streaming platforms are extremely powerful and can help you advance your career in music in many ways. It’s also important to know what you should and shouldn’t be collecting when you put music on these platforms. That way you can not only get the most out of the services you use, but also make informed decisions about where your songs should be distributed. To maximize your income, make sure to register and distribute your music to these platforms properly and check with your publisher to see if they have licenses in place with them. And, as always, if you have any questions, reach out to our team.