Home Opinion A Rapper’s Guide to Streaming Monetization

A Rapper’s Guide to Streaming Monetization


If you’re a rapper trying to hustle in 2017, you need to be streaming your music. Streaming is basically just the modern form of music consumption; according to the RIAA, “in 2016, for the first time ever, streaming music platforms generated the majority of the U.S. music industry’s revenue.” This is mostly due to a doubling in paid subscriptions to streaming services. [1]

But with streaming gaining speed, there are a lot of options to choose from. Maybe you are a YouTube junkie, or a fan of SoundCloud. Maybe you listen to Spotify at work but Pandora on the road.

So where should you host your music? The short answer is: everywhere … except SoundCloud.



See, there’s a reason why SoundCloud is dying — it sucks. It’s a very popular platform for hosting and distributing music to your fans, but outside of an elite few (think Justin Bieber level artists), it doesn’t really generate any income. The “On SoundCloud” program (their revenue share service) is limited to only the most popular accounts and is invite-only, making it nearly impossible to earn any revenue from your music as an up-and-comer [2]. As an artist, the main benefit to SoundCloud is being discovered, but with SoundCloud’s larger financial issues at play, that ability is likely to disappear soon.

But enough with that, let’s look at the streaming services that have something to offer:

Source: [3]

Disclaimer: these data represent average pay per play. The actual amount of money you make varies based on a wide variety of factors, so use these as a guideline rather than a budgetary tool.

As you can see, these streaming services offer quite a paltry sum. The most lucrative offer on the table is Napster offering a whopping 1.7 cents per play.

So how do we game this system? Let’s take a look at the details.

Streaming services like Napster and Tidal pay the most, but don’t have many users, making it difficult to earn those dollars. On the other hand, YouTube has a massive amount of users (something like 1 billion), but doesn’t pay much, so the earning potential is again low.

Fortunately, there’s a good option in the middle ground — my personal recommendation is Google Play Music.


Compared to the other streaming platforms, Google Play Music sits in the middle of the payment scale, but I think it has a large potential for growth (and already has about the same amount of users as Napster and Tidal combined). Plus, this service is run by Google. They kind of own the internet right now, so it’s good to be in that ecosystem (more on this later). Tidal is run by Aspiro, a development company in Norway, and is now owned by Jay Z who has infamously made some sketchy and gut-wrenching business moves publicly.

On the other hand, a streaming service like YouTube is so large it’s basically used by everyone, but unfortunately it doesn’t pay much, limiting significant earnings to viral hits. This is why it’s important to focus on the middle ground.

For reference, you only need about one tenth (1/10th) the amount of plays on Google Play Music to earn the same amount of money as a song on YouTube. That means instead of shooting for 1M plays, you only need about 100K, which is much more attainable for someone on the come up.

Another reason to be a fan of Google Play Music is because it has a hidden backdoor to YouTube (after all, they are run by the same people). Take a look at this, the video description for “Shout Out to the Bay” by RiFF RAFF:

Pack Osiris is a rap music fanatic, mathematician and former data scientist. He grew up in North Carolina and, after attending school at NC State University, lived in various cities across the country in pursuit of his career, ultimately settling in the northern Kentucky / Cincinnati area. Now he spends his time studying rap music from an analytical standpoint and is working on his flagship product known only as "RapRundown".

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