Fewer than 800 UK musicians make a living solely from streaming

And they are the ones achieving more than one million UK streams each month

Approximately 720 British musicians make a living solely from streaming royalties, a new study has suggested.

The study, titled Music Creators’ Earnings In The Digital Era, has been released by the UK Intellectual Property Office, which analyses streaming services data between 2014-2020.

Alongside data gathering and analysis the report also includes focus groups as well as interviews with musicians.


A particular finding points to artists making a “sustainable living” from streaming alone, revealing that approximately 720 British artists are able to. Those 720 musicians fall into the 0.4 per cent category of those who are achieving more than one million UK streams.

October 2020 was used as a focus month for the statistic. The number of artists achieving one million UK streams or more in that period was 1,723 (0.41 per cent), however, that amount does not differentiate between British artists and those from elsewhere.

“We estimate that this 1723 UK figure may translate into around 720 UK artists achieving this level of success in 2020, but the number of variables makes this only a very rough guide,’ the report reads.

Spotify. CREDIT: Getty Images

Referencing data provided by OCC and BPI, the report says that the share of the top 5,000 UK singles ‘sales’ [combining physical and download sales data with streaming figures to produce composite figures] attributable to UK artists the year previous in 2019 was 41.8 per cent. By comparison, US artists accounted for 43.2 per cent in the UK.

“Applying this figure to the 1723 artists achieving more than 1 million streams in the UK, this would mean that 720 British artists gain a million or more UK streams a month (because 41.8% of 1723 is 720) and therefore exceed what we are suggesting might be some sort of minimum basis for sustaining a career,” the report states.


Overall, that means that 0.41 per cent of artists who earn money from their streams in the UK, British or not, can rely solely on that income.

“On the basis of the average per-stream rates we have calculated, we suggest that a sustained achievement of around one million UK streams per month may be some kind of guide to a minimum threshold for making a sustainable living out of music, at least in cases where UK streams are complemented by non-UK streams and other sources of income. For solo performers and songwriters and for those with significant access to other revenue streams, that minimum threshold figure will be lower,” the report added.

Elsewhere in the report – for the number of musicians whose income is entirely based on music – 43 per cent reported earnings of £20,000 or less and 64 per cent reported £30,000 or less.

The median reported income for those currently signed to major record labels (£51,816 in 2019) is “considerably higher” than for all other groups of artists.

Streaming Services
Photo credit: Ascannio / Alamy Stock Photo

Those previously signed to major record companies come in next (£25,500). For those signed to independent record labels, the median reported income is £20,250 while for self-releasing artists it’s £12,944.

The report follows the UK government calling in a number of music industry leaders to help consider streaming reforms in response to the DCMS Committee’s recent report on the economics of streaming.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Commons Select Committee have been examining the business model for streaming since last year and whether or not the model is fair to songwriters and performers.