What counts as a stream on popular streaming platforms?

Written by Kristian Floate

Today, streaming platforms are pioneering the way that we consume music, and despite the resurgence of physical records, there’s no denying the power of streaming in helping a song reach an end consumer quicker and easier than ever before. For musicians, there’s been a heated discussion about how fair streaming platforms are, and most importantly how your streams are actually counted across leading sites such as Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, Apple Music and Deezer. You may already use artist-focused tools such as ‘Spotify for Artists’, but there’s no information to truly know what a ‘stream’ is, and how much they’re really worth to you as an artist.

The 30-second rule

Spotify and Apple Music, the leading music streaming platforms, require listeners to play a song for at least 30 seconds to count as a stream. This also applies to both music videos and audio-only content on the YouTube platform, alongside Tidal, the high-fidelity streaming platform for high-quality seeking audiophiles.

This consistency across platforms further highlights the industry's efforts to maintain a uniform standard for measuring streaming success, ensuring tracks can’t be spammed or tampered with in a way that hinders results. The 30-second rule is a consistent metric across Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, Apple Music and Deezer, to ensure an accurate representation of how a song is performing. But let’s unpack this further by seeing how much a 30-second stream is really worth:

No. of streams YouTube Spotify Apple Music Tidal Deezer
1 £0.0015 £0.0034 £0.0043 £0.0103 £0.004
500 £0.75 £1.70 £2.15 £5.15 £2.00

Use our streaming rates calculator to see how much your streams could be earning

As you can see, artists hitting thousands and thousands of streams are the only users that may begin to see results through using these platforms. For the majority, these sites are a simple and accessible way to distribute your work, build an audience and create an image for yourself. As a new artist, you can increase your success on these platforms by encouraging listeners to follow, pre-save and engage with extra functionalities being enrolled through these platforms - such as buying merchandise or gig tickets on Spotify!