How Many Streams Does It Take To Pay Your Rent?

Kodi Vonn

On a recent episode of Everyday Struggle, Joe Budden asked hip-hop producer and It’s a Wonderful World Music Group executive, 9th Wonder, “How do you get to the money in the streaming era?”

“You can’t depend on streaming. You have to depend on other ways—or avenues—or other revenue streams to do other things,” he replied.

“That can’t be true,” many up-and-coming artists and producers will moan.


A recent Digital Music News headline read: I’ve Got 1.2 Million Plays on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and TIDAL. Want to See My Royalties?

They weren’t pretty.

DMN describes the anonymous subject of the article as a “successful indie artist” who owns 100% of his publishing and masters. The artist reportedly made “€3,765.01, or $4,432.58” on the million streams (keep in mind an artist based in the United States would receive different returns).

DMN ran another royalties article for a songwriter who had worked with Justin Bieber on “As Long As You Love Me”. In three years, the songwriter made $149,000 (with 20% publishing rights on a top ten hit).

Seeing all of these numbers can feel a little hypothetical to artists trying to make a career with their music. So we’re breaking down exactly how many streams you need to cover your daily life.

Based on streaming platform revenue data released by Information Is Beautiful, here is what it would take an unsigned artist to support themselves.


  • $875 rent: 230,263 streams on Spotify
  • $75 for groceries: 68,182 streams on Pandora
  • $8.65 for a chicken rice bowl with guac from Chipotle: 14,417 plays on YouTube
  • $185 for a pair of AIR JORDAN XXXII “BRED”: 16,818 streams on Tidal
  • $379.95 for a Sennheiser MD421 II Microphone: 19,997 streams on Napster
  • $40 for gas: 7,143 streams on Deezer
  • $15 for a SoundCloud Pro Subscription: 2,344 streams on Apple Music
  • $274.50 for a 4-day general admission Bonnaroo ticket: 40,368 streams on Google Play

To do some math of your own, check the chart below for the reported Artist Revenue Per Play for Unsigned and Signed Artists.

Apple Music$0.0064$0.0073
Google Play$0.0059$0.0068

If you want to start your career as an independent artist, check out our course on what it takes. Our lesson on Music distribution shows you your options when it comes to releasing music.