top of page

User-Centric Streaming: A Fairer Model for Indie Artists? Not Necessarily.

User-centric streaming is a new way of distributing the revenue from music streaming services, where each subscriber's fee is allocated only to the artists they listen to, rather than to the whole music catalog. This means that artists are paid according to their actual fanbase, rather than their popularity among the general audience.

Deezer has been promoting this new revenue sharing model for streaming since 2021. This article explains how it works, in details. For the last few years, major distributors have not been such fans of this model, as it would probably penalize the top stars in their roster. Or would it?

- Based on articles by Dylan Smith in Digital Music News (June 14, 2023), Daniel Tencer, in Music Business Worldwide (July 27, 2023) and Bas Grasmayer in JazzFuel (March 13, 2023).

A recent study by SoundCloud and MIDiA Research has shown how user-centric streaming could benefit independent artists on the platform. The study examined the streaming behavior and earnings of 50,000 indie artists on SoundCloud in 2023, and compared them to the current pro-rata model used by most streaming services.


The results revealed that under a user-centric model, 20% of indie artists on SoundCloud could double their income, while 40% could increase it by more than 50%. The study also found that user-centric streaming would reduce the market share of the top 1% of artists by 5.6%, and increase the share of the bottom 99% by 5.9%.

The study argues that user-centric streaming would create a more diverse and sustainable music industry, where artists are rewarded for their loyal fanbases, rather than for attracting casual listeners. It also suggests that user-centric streaming would encourage more experimentation and innovation, as artists would not have to compete for mainstream attention.

SoundCloud is one of the few streaming platforms that has implemented user-centric streaming, along with Deezer and Resonate. The company claims that user-centric streaming is more fair and transparent, and aligns with its mission to empower independent creators.

A new study from Germany-headquartered music services firm Pro Musik.

The study found that 29.3% of artists would see an increase in income of 40% or more, when compared to the “pro-rata” model of payments currently favored by most streaming platforms. (Chart by Pro Musik)


However, not everyone agrees that user-centric streaming is the best solution. A recent report by Digital Music News found that user-centric streaming would have little impact on the income inequality in the music industry, and that it could even harm some genres and markets. The report also criticized user-centric streaming for being too complex and costly to implement, and for potentially reducing the overall revenue of the industry.

Yvette Griffith, co-CEO and executive director of Jazz re:freshed, is not optimistic about user centric streaming, as quoted by in March 2023:

“I don’t think user-centric is going to work, certainly for the indie sector. […] The type of people who are going to listen to a lot of the indie music are people who are wanting to discover new things. They’re going to be streaming quite broad amounts… which means that that £9.99 [subscription] would be spread very thinly across quite a broad expanse of artists and streams.”

Other factors would also need to weight in. The length of the track is one. In the current model, a track that is 10 seconds long is worth 1 stream, just as a 20-minute long piece of music, clearly penalizing many genres such as Classical music, Jazz or Progressive Rock. As of now, not all streams are worth the same.

The debate over user-centric streaming is likely to continue, as more studies and experiments are conducted. The question is whether the music industry will embrace this new model, or stick to the status quo.


Read more about the user-centric model in this Billboard Pro article from 2021.

To dive deeper: Music Ally has created a comprehensive list of user-centric music streaming studies and developments.


Summary of these articles partially done with the New Bing! AI tool

Illustration by Gary Neill, Billboard


bottom of page