Well, the rumors were true. Starting in 2024, Spotify will require every song on its platform to get at least 1,000 plays yearly in order to be eligible for royalties. The threshold was confirmed by Music Business Worldwide, who have shared that "1,000 streams will indeed be the minimum yearly play-count volume that each track on the service has to hit in order to start generating royalties from Q1 2024."
Sure, 1,000 plays per track seems at least sort of doable depending on what size artist you are, but that's hardly the point. The real takeaway here is that Spotify is essentially going to be getting free labor from a certain percentage of artists. So if you're a brand new band who just posted their demo on Spotify in January 2024, and you're only clocking in 950 plays per song for the year, congratulations! You've given your music away for free on Spotify, who is using your work to continue their platform and paying you nothing in return. Better luck in 2025.
Billboard recently released a new royalties calculator that does exactly what you think it does – you plug in the number of plays, and it shows you what you might make. According to that calculator, 1,000 plays is roughly worth $4.80.
Though according to Kristin Graziani, president of music distribution platform Stem, in an editorial published by Consequence, that payout is closer to $3 and that you weren't going to make anyway.
"According to Spotify, songs will begin to earn royalties once 1000 streams per track are generated within the course of a year (just over 80 streams a month)," said Graziani. "1000 streams in a 12-month period accounts for, at most, $3.00 in earnings. $3.00 is well below the threshold at which almost every distributor allows artists to transfer earnings into their own bank accounts. In other words, this is money that isn’t currently making it to artists in the first place."
Why bring that up? Because it's a little gross, honestly. Even if 1,000 plays were worth $0.03, artists should be making that money. Period. There is no justification under the sun where an artist should be giving a platform like Spotify their music for free. Keep in mind that Spotify also just posted an 11% growth year-over-year, with their total revenue now sitting at €3.4 billion. The company also stated on their website that "Spotify returned to profitability, reporting Operating Income of €32 million for the quarter" for Q3 of 2023.
It's also worth reiterating that this is a threshold per song. So if you've got one "hit" song on an album and the rest aren't raking in the listens, congrats – you're getting royalties for a fraction of your album.
From a functional standpoint, the argument is that this is all to combat folks uploading white noise, or random ambient noise, to try and gain royalties off essentially nothing. Which doesn't make much sense, considering that some random ambient noise is racking up loads of streams. I mean look – here's 90 seconds of a fucking vacuum cleaner that has 36 million plays. That vacuum cleaner will qualify for royalties, but your band might not.