Digital Execs Discuss How Much a Play Is Worth at Inaugural Revolt Music Conference

Vevo president/CEO Rio Careff (right) and SoundCloud CEO Alex Ljung at the 2014 Revolt Music Conference at Fontainebleau Miami Beach in Miami Beach, Fla.

The value of music was the prevalent theme at the “Disruptors” panel during day one of the 2014 Revolt Music Conference at Fontainebleau Miami Beach in Miami Beach, Fla. But reps from Spotify, Vevo, Soundcloud and Pandora were not always on the same page as to where revenue should be coming from.

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On the one hand, services like Spotify and Pandora charge monthly fees for premium subscriptions. On the other hand, people like Vevo president/CEO Rio Careff are advocating for a completely different revenue model where all monies come from advertising and not from the user.

“I’m far more focused on what’s the business model for passion,” Careff said. “How do you generate value from everybody in the planet who loves music.”

But as the panel unfolded, it became clear that although everybody in the planet may love music and may access it through multiple services, the value of music varies depending on where you are and what kind of label deal you have or not.

In Mexico, for example, Vevo is doing close to 1 billion streams per month, said Careff, but advertising revenues are far less than in America. As a result, a play in Mexico has less value than a play in the United States.

When musician/philanthropist Kenna, who moderated the panel, asked point blank how much a play was worth, Careff calculated the amount could be between 8/10 of a penny to 1.2 pennies per play. Then again, those amounts could see-saw depending on the deals artists have cut with their labels.

That kind of ambiguity prompted Sean Combs, chairman/co-founder of Revolt, to get up and ask how much an artist -- not the label -- could make from plays in a dollar.

“The answer is not attractive,” said Britt Morgan-Saks, artists relations for Spotify.  “It is less than a cent. But I think it’s doing us a disservice to think about our potential in earning revenues in terms of a per stream.”

These are the numbers that were not in dispute.

Pandora has a monthly audience of 80 million in the U.S. alone, according to Lars Murray, VP of music industry relations. Last year, the service paid out $350 million to the industry through Soundexchange.

Spotify has 10 million paying subscribers and more than 40 million people using the service, according to Morgan-Saks. “We have paid $1 billion to the industry and we’re extremely focused on returning money to the music industry.”

Vevo has seven billion global streams every month, with six billion of those coming from outside the United States.