How long do I have to play a song on Spotify before the artist is paid?

Pay-per-play: how long do you have to listen for to trigger a payout?

Worried you’ve helped Kanye save up for a new Maybach because you couldn’t hit the Skip button on Spotify fast enough? Concerned you’ve robbed Chris de Burgh of a much-needed fraction of a penny because you shut off Lady In Red seconds before the end of the ballad? How long is long enough for a Spotify stream to pay out royalties to the artist?

Spotify royalty payments

Let’s cut to the chase: you must listen to a song on Spotify for 30 seconds before it’s counted as a payable stream, according to Spotify’s own artists’ FAQ. There are no varying degrees of payout. It doesn’t matter if you listen for only 31 seconds or the entire track, the payout is the same.

However, there are many variables that determine what rate the artist is paid for each stream. These include but are not limited to: the country the listener is based in, the percentage of paid subscribers Spotify has on its books at the time, currency fluctuations, and the artist’s own deal with their record label.

The last point is particularly pertinent, as unless the artist is an up-and-coming musician without a record deal, the royalties will be paid to the label. It’s then the artist’s own contract with the label that determines how much they’re paid. That can range from millions of dollars for stars such as Beyonce, right down to diddly squat, even for artists such as Tom McRae who have racked up millions of plays on the service.

It’s also worth noting that royalty rates aren’t directly affected by whether the person doing the listening is a paid subscriber or not. As a Spotify blog announcing a revamp of its free tier noted earlier this year, “we’ll continue to pay rightsholders from revenue brought in from both our premium and ad-supported tiers”.

Spotify, it seems, puts all the revenue earned in a bucket and then distributes a percentage of that to the artists. This is one reason why the stream rate per song varies over time.

Now read this: How can I hide what I’m listening to on Spotify?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.