How to Save Content Creators from the Spotify Death Spiral

It’s time to artificially limit the supply of content in order to prop up pay rates, the way we did during the Depression for farmers

Micah Sifry


In 2020, just 184,000 artists made more than $1,000 from uploading their songs to the Spotify platform. That’s out of a much larger universe of more than 3 million artists on the music platform.

Spotify is one of the lowest paying streaming sites, offering about 1/3 of a penny per stream. Amazon Music pays 4/10 of a cent. Apple Music pays a penny.

To make $1,000 a year, a typical YouTuber needs to get about 1,500 views per day, or more than half a million per year, according to

And here on Medium, you can earn somewhere between half a penny and two cents per view (the number varies because the site also factors in how long a reader is engaged with an article). So to make $1,000, you’d need your stories to reach somewhere around 100,000 views.

From the platforms’ point of view, these piecemeal rates make sense, since they’re in the business of selling thousands of eyeballs (or eardrums) at a time to advertisers. Supporting artists or writers isn’t really their problem, and the more content-creators on their sites the better.

It’s the content creators who lose in this game, especially as we are all competing against each other.

So I have a modest proposal.

We need an Agriculture Adjustment Act for online content.

The AAA was part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, which he pushed through to keep the nation’s farmers from going out of business. During the Depression, American farmers were too productive and demand from overseas was, well, depressed, so prices for agricultural good crashed. Millions of farmers couldn’t make enough money to survive.

So the government started paying farmers to not farm on a portion of their land. Though the AAA itself expired in 1942 after some of its provisions didn’t past muster with the Supreme Court, it lives on in spirit through other federal programs that assist farmers in cooperative marketing of crops and…