Portishead's Geoff Barrow Says He Earned Just $2,500 from 34 Million Streams

Geoff Barrow of Portishead
Kevin Nixon/Prog Magazine/TeamRock via Getty Images

Geoff Barrow of Portishead photographed on May 25, 2012.

Portishead’s Geoff Barrow has revealed he earned just $2,500 from 34 million streams of his music. 

The British took to his Twitter account to blast Apple, YouTube, Spotify and “especially” his label Universal Music for “selling our music so cheaply.”

Barrow added that the sum was a "rough estimate" of his income after tax from streaming sources, but it was "not far off" the precise number. According to Barrow’s math, he earned about 0.000007 cents per stream. “When is this madness going to stop?” he added.

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He went on to write, "I've got nothing against streaming a record. But I've got a lot against people giving my work away for free." A couple of days after his initial tweets, he sounded off, "I'm not here to argue about streaming music. It's here and it works! What I tweeted was just a fact, take from it what you will."

Barrow’s comments come as the debate intensifies on streaming royalties, and whether the ad-funded “free” model is doing more damage than good to the record industry and artist community. 

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Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge stated at the Code/Media Conference in February, “We want to accelerate paid subscriptions and raise income and compensation for everyone…Ad-funded on demand will not sustain us or the entire ecosystem.”

Charles Caldas, CEO of indie-label digital rights agency Merlin, has said a service like YouTube, which only has a free, ad-supported tier available widely to consumers, is driving “high-consumption, low-value” music consumption that further de-emphasizes paid content.

Taylor Swift led an exodus from Spotify last year, which her reps later explained was a response to the service’s ad-supported tier and that her catalog would be offered to pay-to-stream services. Swift reportedly earned less than $500,000 in the prior 12 months from domestic streaming at Spotify -- a bonanza compared with the sums Barrow is claiming. 

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In an interview last December with Billboard, Spotify founder Daniel Ek countered, "there are many artists to whom, through the labels, we’re paying out millions a year already. Those check sizes will just keep increasing. I’m certain that if we can get the billion-people-plus that are consuming music online and move them into a model like Spotify, the industry would be considerably bigger than it is today."

Meanwhile, Portishead fans are still waiting on the band’s follow-up to Third, from 2008. In an interview published earlier this month in Rolling Stone, Barrow suggested a fourth album might not be far away. Barrow said "I am calibrating my brain to Portishead mode and got some ideas of what I want to do there -- at long last.”

Read Barrow's tweets below: