South African bands only make R50,000 per million plays from Spotify and Apple Music. Here’s how they make ends meet.

Business Insider SA
(Instagram, @iamdaskapital)
(Instagram, @iamdaskapital)
  • South Africans earn roughly $3,800 per million plays on Spotify, and $7,800 per million plays on Apple music, a prominent DJ says.
  • This is roughly 5c per stream on Spotify, and 11c a stream on Apple Music.
  • To diversify their income streams, local bands focus on performances, selling merchandise, and doing corporate events.

South African artists earn about $3,800 (roughly R52,000) per million plays on Spotify, and $7,800 (roughly R108,000) per million plays on Apple Music, Das Kapital, prominent South African DJ and producer, says.

That boils down to roughly $0.0038 (5c) per stream on Spotify, and $0.0078 (0.11c) per stream on Apple Music.

“This might seem doable, but you have to take marketing, mastering, and promotional expenses into account when you’re releasing through a label,” Das Kapital tells Business Insider South Africa.

“So yes, it can be sustainable if you are amassing enough plays to break through thresholds, but more importantly, the accessibility, popularity and frequency of your releases all help drive most artists’ primary revenue stream.”

Das Kapital, who has been a professional DJ the past eight years, says such numbers make it crucial that musicians have alternative streams of income, at least for now.

“Streams will increase in South Africa over time, but in the interim it is necessary to work as a performing DJ or artist, possibly have your own label in order to maintain ownership of copyrights, build yourself as a brand and have things that you stand for,” he says.

Das Kapital at the We Love Summer festival in Cape
Das Kapital at the We Love Summer festival in Cape Town (Instagram, @iamdaskapital)

Building a strong social media following and partnering with brands can also go a long way to help cover the bills.

Ashley Brown, sales and marketing manager who has worked at major festivals such as Plett Rage, Rocking the the Daisies, Sanlam Woordfees, and the Cape Town Carnival, says artists can diversify their incomes by selling merchandise at events, performing live, doing corporate shows – and even modelling.

He said top South African artists can earn anything between R10,000 and R250,000 per live performance.

But artists should expect to earn roughly R1,500 to R3,000 per show until they make it.

“The big money comes in when brands are signing you due to your influence in your large following of fans which could influence their consumption and purchasing habits,” Brown told Business Insider South Africa.

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