The Ledger: How Much More Revenue Can Streaming Price Hikes Bring?
The Ledger is a weekly newsletter about the economics of the music business sent to Billboard Pro subscribers. An abbreviated version of the newsletter is published online.
Apple Music’s recent subscription price increase and a likely forthcoming price hike by Spotify would provide a boost to U.S. and global music revenues and likewise impact catalog valuations.
Higher prices for Apple Music and Spotify’s individual plan could be worth hundreds of millions in additional subscription revenue annually in the U.S. Incremental revenues resulting from these price increases have the potential to reach roughly $650 million a year for streaming services. That assumes 7% growth in subscribers in 2023, no additional churn, a full year of higher prices and higher prices for both self-paid and promotional subscription plans.
However, a small amount of churn is possible, and Spotify is unlikely to raise rates at the beginning of the year. Additionally, not all subscription plans are subject to increase. (Apple is not raising the price on Apple Music Voice, for example.) Thus, the actual impact is likely to be lower next year and in successive years.
Apple Music’s individual plans rose $1 from $9.99 to $10.99 per month, while its family plan price increased $2 from $14.99 to $16.99. Apple One, a bundle that includes Apple Music, Apple TV+ and other services, rose $2 for the individual plan and $3 for the family plan (which includes Apple Arcade and iCloud+) and premier plan (which adds Apple News+ and Apple Fitness+).
Spotify could follow with similar price increases in the U.S. of $1 per individual subscription, though it may not further raise its family plan price on top of the $1 increase, to $15.99, that it imposed in April. Spotify also has discounted plans for students that cost $4.99 per month. For these purposes, Billboard assumes those discounted plans will remain untouched.
Creators and rights owners effectively get a raise from a price increase. The same percentage of streaming services’ revenue would flow as royalties to labels and publishers. Higher prices wouldn’t impact listening habits — although some churn is possible — so the math is favorable to creators and rights owners: a larger royalty pool would be divided by the same number of streams to calculate the per-stream royalty owed to each track.
Higher rates from the two largest subscription services in the U.S. would make songwriting and recording catalogs more valuable, too. Price increases will add revenues to a catalog’s existing royalty income, and streaming growth has been positively correlated with higher valuations of music catalogs. As Billboard reported this week, a new paper by New York University professor Larry Miller found that streaming accounted for 62% of the average multiple paid for songwriting catalogs in 2021.
Spotify has not announced a broad price increase on its individual and family plan subscriptions, but CEO Daniel Ek signaled the company would likely follow Apple Music’s lead when speaking to investors during Spotify’s Oct. 25 earnings call. A U.S. price increase “is one of the things we would like to do,” Ek told investors, adding Spotify will have conversations with labels “in light of these recent developments with our label partners.”
Expect higher prices to become the norm. Amazon Music Unlimited raised its prices in May. Deezer raised its subscription prices in France, its largest market, in January and plans rate hikes in Germany and the U.S. in December. Apple Music’s decision to raise prices “opens the door for further price increases down the line,” Deezer CEO Jeronimo Folgueira said during its Oct. 28 earnings call. Exactly how much incremental revenue these price hikes will generate depends on many variables. In any case, creators and rights owners can expect more subscription royalties in 2023 and beyond.