Prince, famously skeptical of streaming media when he was alive, is increasingly likely to see the fortunes of his estate boosted by digital in his death.
That is because last week — when a big chunk of the musician's catalog reappeared on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Napster — his fans flocked to listen to albums that had been systematically kept from them by Prince himself since 2015. The sole exception was Tidal, the service co-owned by Shawn "Jay Z" Carter that gave him complete control over the way his catalog was presented — and paid him well enough.
Despite Prince's contention in a November 2015 interview that no musician "got rich off digital sales," the sudden reappearance of his music on streaming services may prove to be a big posthumous boost to his estate — just as it was for Michael Jackson, whose music royalties put his estate back in the black after he died. That is because since last year, streaming now counts toward singles and album certifications.
In the week following his music being re-released to streaming platforms, Prince songs were streamed nearly 6 million times, according to data from BuzzAngle Music, rivaling the 7.8 millions of streams his music saw week following his death in April 2016.
To be certain, the economics of the streaming business depends largely on the profile of the artist. The more famous the artist, and the larger the fan base, the more lucrative streaming plays can be.
Spotify does not disclose its average royalty rate for artists. However, in May 2016, Digital Music News reported on an anonymous group whose music had been streamed on the service more than a million times between October 2013 and February 2014. The group received a total payout of less than $5,000, or less than a cent per stream.
Trent Ramseyer, a drummer for the California-based independent rock band Whores of Tijuana, told CNBC recently that since May 2010, the group has had approximately 80,000 streams on Spotify. It has received total royalties of $339.