In 2020, Bad Bunny’s music was streamed 8.3 billion times on Spotify – more streams than there are people on Earth. The year before, Drake made $12.1 million just from streaming. While artists of their stature make plenty more from touring, endorsements and the like, that’s a hefty chunk of change just from people clicking play.
The thing is: Spotify famously pay minuscule sums per stream – the Guardian recently quoted that the service dishes out a paltry £2.74 per 1,000 streams. The Musicians Union did a survey last year and found 82 per cent of its respondents made less than £200 all year from streaming. But what if one listener decided to take it to an extreme and stream one artist an industrial amount of times? Could they, theoretically, help the artist make Drizzy money from streaming music?
Having read about fan campaigns designed to boost the streaming numbers of mega-stars, I wondered if I – a normal person – could upload some music, turn Spotify into a farm and leech a life-altering amount of money from it (£1,000,000), all while sitting on my arse in my bedroom.
As a public service, I now present these calculations. Here’s my step-by-step guide to industrially farming your way to a million quid.
STEP ONE - STREAM YOURSELF SILLY
The first thing anyone wanting to make money from Spotify needs to know is that once a track is 30 seconds in, it counts as a stream. So, with absolutely no talent, you can fart something together on GarageBand that is 30 seconds long and absolutely recognisable as music. Then, after paying a pretty reasonable fee to a distributor – Ditto Music charges £19 a year, but there are plenty of options – you can upload it to Spotify and start making a small amount of money from it.
Running constantly, a playlist of your 30-second songs could get you through 2,880 streams in a 24-hour period. Using the Guardian’s figure, that’s £7.89 profit per day. It’s not enough to quit your job, but it does add up – £7.89 per day nets £2,800 big ones over the course of a year.
Add in a Spotify Premium Family Plan – meaning six users at the same address can access the service – and you can multiply that £2,800 by six, meaning a total pay-out of £17,279 per year.
That said, Spotify doesn’t count streams when the app (or device) is muted, so to make that £17,000 you’d need to be blaring your own bad music, 24 hours a day, from six different sources, which would be fairly nightmarish.
This is where fuckin’ going for it comes in.
STEP TWO: GET TECHNOLOGY ON YOUR SIDE
A Raspberry Pi Zero W is a cheap computer without a monitor, keyboard, internal hard drive or mouse. It does, however, have wifi capability, and with a bit of elbow-grease and an SD card you can run Spotify on there. It doesn’t have a headphone jack so, presumably – and there are a few presumablys in this theory – you could turn up the volume on Spotify, but not hear a peep.
“It would be a pain in the arse to set up, but it’s probably doable,” says Cal King, photographer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast who has used the computers for all kinds of devices, like a screen that constantly displays the front page of the newspaper and a playlist shuffler.
“You want to set each one up so that when you turn it on, as soon as the device powers up, it triggers the Spotify playlist and starts automatically playing. You’d need to put the code together, then flash that to every SD card and just change whatever login details you needed to. You’re basically proposing the same kind of thing as bitcoin mining, but for Spotify streams, which requires a lot less from the computer. It’ll be fiddly but it should work.”
Continuously streaming 30 second songs for 24-hours on one computer nets you £7.89 per day. If, somehow, you got your hands on twelve Raspberry Pi devices, that turns into £94.68 a day, which is just over £34,000 a year. It’s not a bad deal, but to get to seven figures we need to take a cue from the old man in Taiwan who mounted 64 smartphones on his bike to play Pokémon Go, and go properly industrial.
STEP THREE: INVEST AND INDUSTRIALISE
The good thing about the Raspberry Pi is that it’s very small. If you were very organised, very patient and knew your way around a cable tidy, you could very plausibly fit 360 of them in an IKEA Pax Wardrobe. That is 360 computers constantly streaming your music, and over a million streams (1,036,800, to be exact) a day.
Of course, having enough Spotify Family Plans to farm the streams is going to look a bit suspicious, but Spotify are much more concerned about multiple addresses using the same plan – the terms and conditions of the Family Plan require all the users to be under the same roof. Paying for multiple accounts from one address is (fingers crossed) unlikely to be flagged up anywhere.
Set your 360 Raspberry Pi computers up to stream your 30 second song all day, every day, for a year, and – finally! – you’ll have earned over £1,000,000 in streams (£7.89 per day, multiplied by 360 computers, multiplied by 365 days a year). It’s a lot of work, but god damn, you got there. You’re a millionaire, baby (check the maths, it took ages)!
STEP FOUR: DOES INDUSTRIALLY FARMING YOUR CRAPPY MUSIC ACTUALLY WORK?
Essentially – no. Everything above goes against Spotify’s terms and conditions, which prohibit “attempting to manipulate Spotify by using automated processes”.
If you followed the above process, you would make enough money to buy another four set-ups every month, thus increasing your output. Month one, one humming wardrobe. Month two, five. Month three, 25, and so on. Spotify is worth $67 billion. By the end of October you are worth £167 billion. By the end of one year, you own 48 million wardrobes and Spotify owes you 4.2 quadrillion pounds, vastly more money than exists in the world. The entire global economy is irreparably destabilised. Everything that exists is yours. You are a god. The world as we know it is over.
So, while concluding this almost-excellent plan won’t quite work is a pain in the arse, it does mean Spotify’s terms and conditions may have saved the world, and that’s something.
The music industry is bonkers, with unimaginably huge sums of money at the top and insultingly minuscule ones at the bottom. The chasm between those making millions in their sleep and those working themselves to the bone for next to nothing is just going to continue to get wider, and there is in all likelihood nothing that can be done about it. If building a high-tech wardrobe-based industrial stream farm in your house won’t close it, maybe nothing will.