New app shows how much singers make by song in real time

Woman listening to music while on tablet
Paul Bradbury | Getty Images

No matter how popular a song gets, the musician who created it usually has no clue how much money the song will actually bring until the royalty check shows up in the mail.

Now a new app breaks out an artist's earnings from a song in real time as it plays as a stream or a download. Major music publisher and rights manager Kobalt on Wednesday launched an iOS app for clients that provides real-time data on revenue by song from services including Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music and Pandora.

"Kobalt has quietly built one of the most important and empowering platforms in music," said Bill Maris, CEO of GV (formerly Google Ventures), which led a $60 million Series C funding round in Kobalt last February.

"With the launch of the Kobalt app, an unprecedented amount of transparency and control is now in the hands of artists, where it belonged all along," he said in an emailed statement. "We are excited about this huge step forward."

The app breaks down a client's top 100 songs with revenue information by geography, listening rights type (streaming, download, broadcast, physical etc.) and quarter. Users can also see live synchronization activity, or use by third parties such as TV shows, films and advertisers.

Such clarity on revenue streams should allow easy comparisons with more traditional collection measures, and highlight the more than 20 percent increase in revenue Kobalt says clients receive.

Of course, knowing exactly how much bank you're making off every note could be distracting for creative types.

"It's not for everyone. Some managers have said what you can do is turn off certain aspects of the app," said Jonny Quinn, a drummer for the band Snow Patrol and founder of music publisher Polar Patrol, which works with Kobalt.

He said the financial information from the app will help with budgeting, such as determining the advance payment or whether to keep an artist. "Synch earnings can be a lifeline for touring support," he said.

The app is free for the company's clients and the firm is planning an Android release in the near future. The current desktop portal for clients provides quarterly statements.

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Max Martin, Paul McCartney and Pitbull are among Kobalt's clients, which include more than 8,000 songwriters and more than 500 publishing companies globally.

"Overall, I am excited, how we can help the whole streaming industry to monetize 1 billion people on a global scale," Willard Ahdritz, founder and CEO of Kobalt, told CNBC. "The music industry can double in the next year if the music and tech industry can work together."