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I simply couldn't see the point of TikTok - stupid videos that last up to a minute and a half or so. Something for the teens, I thought.

Then I got my Distrokids latest statement. My own music runs alongside some covers, mainly either backing tracks or instrumentals I had done for various projects, but I put them out there. A few hundred streams on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, and the others.

Something had changed $28 had suddenly appeared, and looking at the details something wasn't right. A track I did of Mr Blue Sky, the ELO song - was generating money. In a few days a couple of thousand streams - on TikTok. A bit of Googling and I see my music attached to 900 videos on that platform. I clicked a bit and sure enough there are a few odd videos, but playing them - there's some strange people doing things and there's the music, with a song credit to me and . 520,000 likes! Click a bit more and it adds up to over 2 million plays. The other one way behind but still serious numbers is the fast bit from John Mile's Music - the ⅞ bit in the middle, and that's doing OK. Even a few of my own stuff way, way down in the quantity pile.

It's simply amazing. I'm not counting chickens, and the payment stories seem a bit variable, but if these figures are real, and the $00.0023746538746 per stream figure is right - I might get a little money - Covid lack of business is looking better, maybe? 92 streams from the US seems to have generated 33 cents, so I have to say this is very, very weird. The usual $10-15 dollars from Spotify in 6 months can't compete with millions of listens. I just find the notion of people listening to some drums and stuff and picking it to use mind boggling - when I didn't even use the platform myself. I think I have to wait a couple of months for the Sept/October figures to appear in the account - but I'm hopeful.

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paulears Sat, 12/19/2020 - 07:51

I'm starting to get a bit kind of excited about this streaming thing - I've still not had the viral period Tiktok results but I did catch two days before the period ended when there were 238 streams one day then 288 the next - and Tiktok paid these - 74 cents and 1.01 dollars. The current total likes on Tiktok for the two songs is now 4.7 million. I cannot find out if a like is counted as a stream, because somebody could like it and not listen to the whole video it's attached to, or people could watch the whole video and not like it? I don't know. It does seem clear that the video originators don't seem to get much/anything, but the music content, having rights attached does pay. Tiktok are 3 months typically for their reporting period. The 288 figure was paid on 29th October and covers July. Nothing seems to have been added in November - but odds and ends get added every few days, but 10s or 20s, those kinds of figures. My accountant tells me that I must declare the sources of the money - anything streamed or downloaded to UK listeners I need to pay 20% to the Government here as VAT, but other amounts for streams outside the UK are outside the scope of our tax. He's not an expert on International taxation, but wonders if to be completely correct, I would need to pay tax in every country? Clearly this is pretty difficult. I have, for $33 dollars so far, got nearly 1800 individual lines in the spreadsheet, each one with a country against it.

So I really don't know what to expect in terms of payments at all. The hopeful side of me expects thousands, the practical side expects a few hundred - so it's not fun waiting. What is very clear is that everyone with a back catalogue of music they've produced, doing nothing really should put it out there. There's another side to this. Looking just at the data so far, the titles that are on tiktok are getting shazzamed - Luckily I ticked the Shazzam option on Distrokids. People hear the music, Shazam it and then some of them play it from Spotify and iTunes, Apple Music. So far Spotify is the leader, followed by Amazon, with the others smaller. So Tiktok generates Spotify streams, and my own material on Spotify is going up steadily. Not even thousands, but in the hundreds and climbing. Spotify seem to be paying on average 0.015 cents per stream, and that is the same for the covers and the own compositions. I've stopped doing albums of music, I'm releasing each track as a single, with the artwork - and this seems to work better. People stream singles from albums, but I have sold just one whole album - $5.99 was paid. Individual tracks work better for Facebook too.

I have also started to list these with PRS and PPL in the UK, our old rights organisations, and so far there, just one track has appeared, so if you rely on the old rights agencies, they are very behind on electronic downloads/streaming. Process wise, the Distrokids code is accepted by them fine.

One anomaly is that I've been releasing a series of classical music titles - but on Distrokids, you cannot use that as the genre - Spotify apparently cannot deal with classical releases from Distrokids. Most of it I'm putting under chill-out, or ambient, or world - but Classical would have been preference. The classical stuff is also a problem because it's public domain, and Distrokids advice for listing is that you must list public domain as if you wrote it yourself - essentially as it's your arrangement, and that kicks off new protection. It's a bit odd having to list Beethoven's music as my own composition, but that's how it's done apparently.

I started doing electronic versions of well known light classics - inspired by Tomita who did it in the 70s, these seem to be quite popular.

I do have one weird thing to report - there is a popular Dance Music producer called Paul Johnson, and we're often sharing artist categories now - he's of course quite famous, and I'm not, but our music is often mixed up in listings - people search Google for Paul Johnson Moonlight Sonata, and after me, get a decent dance tune!

If you have a catalogue of music doing nothing, stick it out there - it costs you a little but exposure can be crazy. I never, ever thought my music, which is always functional rather than truly creative, would be getting listened to by getting on for 5 million people - it's just madness, but music really has evolved into a worldwide thing. The idea that a piece of sad classical music is being Shazzamed in Tel Aviv is mind boggling. I know the people are not even aware of the music backing a silly video, but when people ask if I am a real composer, I can now smile and say yes!

Can somebody else please have a go so we can compare notes in a few months. I need to know if my experience was just pure luck?

Boswell Sat, 12/19/2020 - 15:15

For UK VAT purposes, music streams are treated as electronic media (like downloaded programs), and are normally taxed at source since there is no way of tracking the export. This is called a "distance sale".

For sales up to 31/12/20, you will need to work out the proportion of sales that are made to the EU and account for UK VAT on those. After that date, all exports may be the same, depending on what is agreed in the next day or two. I would check with your accountant whether in your case you accrue any liability for tax on exports to other countries, based on whether the income would be construed as many individual sales or amalgamated as a single sale in each tax year.

paulears Sun, 12/20/2020 - 01:24

Cheers for this - I'm trying at the moment sorting data to see if I can isolated it to countries, which appears to be possible - so I should be able to able to pull out UK income, although strictly speaking I should have registered for VAT in each of the EU countries individually to recover EU VAT. I suppose EU sales I'll have to hand the VAT over to the UK HMRC, and wipe it off up to Brexit date, but after January, EU sales will be outside the scope of UK VAT, so that will be better. I'm not quite sure how to do this in the software I use, as the EU boxes on the return are largely sitting at zero apart from a small number of German purchases, which have been traditionally been invoice excluding VAT content.

As it's a lot of work that could not actually needed if I don't get a huge amount - I guess I have to wait. Practically, I wonder if it's best to completely empty the account on the 31st to leave a zero balance for the new Brexit starting period. Dealing with a zero balance probably isn't necessary to an accountant, but it might help my brain. I've had lots of advice from various sources, but none really related to this? Cheers!

mdabdussuku Mon, 12/19/2022 - 01:41

TikTok is the most interesting social media app because it’s the newest and most unusual among the biggest ones. The speed with which it gained its popularity really surprises me, and I think there’s something to it that makes it so attractive to various people.
And it seems like the core of the app is the algorithm that recommends videos to the people who are most likely to like them, comment, and share them. It makes advertising or spreading viral songs much easier than in other apps. That’s what we’ve been noticing in the last couple of years – there are a number of songs that gained popularity because of TikTok. That’s why it really makes sense for creators to use tools like to gain popularity on TikTok and to claim the money for their music.

paulears Mon, 12/19/2022 - 02:54

....... and the end result was that tik-tok was indeed exactly what I initially thought. The expected income was frozen, then removed and the distributor banned me. It seems that the music  being used so crazily was being used on accounts that were basically fraudulent. Mine were predominantly Russian in origin and were being helped along with their 'virocity'  - I think I just made that name up, but people paying organisations to artificially push and inflate downloads that because of the algorithms then get promoted and explode. My music hitching a lift was then also deemed artificially generated and while music distributers warn you NOT to use anything that pushes your sales, and charges for it, it also applies to tik-tok hits. People don't get paid directly for tik-tok traffic, but it seems the scope for indirect income is high. Product placement and the audio content in words and the music is an earner. A million tiny payments from the audio can be distributed back to the creator from grateful music providers. It seems to be legit, but the content is usually trivial, but the creators are making what people seem to want to consume. Very strange. Maybe we should all create a really ridiculous annoying video clip, use one of our own pieces of music  and then all share it to our friends. Then sit back and watch the music royalties roll in in three months/six months time.

iTacos Tue, 08/22/2023 - 07:11

Your music taking off on TikTok is such a pleasant surprise. It's amazing how your track gained so many streams and likes. Who would've thought, right? 🎶 The potential for exposure on that platform seems immense. And hey, if it brings in some extra bucks, that's even better.

paulears Thu, 11/16/2023 - 06:28

and the Total I earned from it was ZERO. distrokid cancelled my account and after much messing around, all my music has now been distributed by songtradr and I get regular monthly payments for thousands not millions of streams. Annoyingly distrokids still claim the track used on tik Tok - and I have no idea at all how I can ever remove that track from tik Tok. I've written it off.

paulears Thu, 11/16/2023 - 11:44

The takedown thing is common on Distrokid, but the other aggregators include warnings. Basically you can pay online for services that automatically click on your recordings and artificially generate hundreds of thousands of plays which then get promoted even more, So for a few hundred Dollars, they will generate stats, that mean you are top of the roll. If you get paid for these artificial streams, it's fraud - so Distrokid monitor your status carefully and if your growth is flagged as abnormal, they reserve the right to just kill you dead. Not just one track, but ALL of them. Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes cut all my recordings in just a few hours.

Im my case, Tik Tok had my recordings for people to use on their videos. They pay the music creators, which is great. I had no control.

a quick search of tik Tok - for videos with Paul Johnson mr blue sky reveals millions of streams of one track used on videos. Clearly as it's a cover, I'm on a spilt of rights Money, but there are I think over 12 million views. 

The music is now licensed via songtradr - but distrokid still get the returns from tik Tok on the tracks from 2020 or so, despite them now being licensed by songtradr.

The concern is that if I try to change things, I'll get a ban again. Not much I can do, apart from hope another title gets picked up and runs. It's sort of nice to know millions of people have heard the track - which is an instrumental and up tempo, but is a faithful version of the well known song. 

Songtradr, at the publish stage ask you to tick a box to confirm you have not paid for promotion - I assume if they found you had, you'd be out - but distrokid were in error. I had not even heard of the false promotion  system?


Just be careful if you publish music because distrokid allow me to access my account still, but there are no stats, no past payments and no listed music. talking to them is impossible.

RickyLou Sun, 11/19/2023 - 16:37

I wonder how Distrokid handles a video that goes completely viral, like the fellow with the song about Rich Men of Richmond ?    He got something like 20 million views in a couple of weeks on Youtube.   If he had a placed the music on Distrokid, would they have closed his account?   

It would seem they are looking for a lawsuit by denying an owner of the music from recovering their due.   Unless they can prove the use of an automated / bot system, it seems they would be on very shaky ground.

paulears Wed, 11/22/2023 - 14:08

it does seem that not only is it you who must not inflate stats, if your music goes onto TikTok and their users inflate their video clips, then you're bundled in with them.

It's also impossible really, to take a non-uk company to court, so they just do their thing. If I asked them to take down my music they still have live, would they then take it down from the other platforms? I don't know and can't risk it.


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