How much money will Taylor Swift make from sales of Ryan Adams’ album?

Revenue from licensing music for digital streaming has meant big revenue bumps for agencies like BMI and Ascap. Perhaps it’s time for the “B” in BMI to stand for “billion”—as in $1 billion in annual revenue. The music agency, whose full name is Broadcast Music Inc., announced Thursday that it set an industry record by raking in $1.013 billion over the year ending June 30. That’s BMI’s highest yearly revenue ever, and it squeaks by the $1.001 billion reported earlier this year by ASCAP, BMI’s main rival for handling music licensing and artists’ songs for play on radio, television, streaming media, and other platforms. BMI and ASCAP — the latter of which said it was the first performing rights organization to top $1 billion — have increased their revenue in recent years even as the music industry on the whole remains in flux due to evolving distribution models. The increase comes amid higher consumption of digital music, which requires streaming services like Pandora P 0.38% , Spotify, YouTube GOOG 1.15% , and Apple Music AAPL 2.09% to pay BMI and ASCAP royalties to stream songs by their songwriter members. Together, ASCAP and BMI represent a reported 90% of songs released commercially in the U.S. BMI's roster of artists includes Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Lil Wayne.
Revenue from licensing music for digital streaming has meant big revenue bumps for agencies like BMI and Ascap.
Photograph by Jamie McCarthy — Getty Images

Taylor Swift’s 1989 album is experiencing some déjà vu – and it is poised to be very profitable phenomenon for the singer-songwriter.

The Internet is abuzz with the debut of a Ryan Adams cover album of Swift’s wildly popular 1989 album, which features hit songs like “Shake It Off” and “Bad Blood.”

But how much will Swift make from the album? That can’t be determined just yet, because we don’t know how well the Adams version will sell.

We can make an educated guess. Swift receives a royalty from each sale of Adams’ cover album, as well as any sales generated from individual tracks. The royalty for the 13-track 1989 is estimated at $1.183, though part of that must be split with the music publisher, in this case Sony/ATV. The most common artist-publisher split is 50:50, though some artists get more favorable terms, and it is safe to assume Swift – one of the most powerful artists working today – would get a better split.

Let’s assume she and her co-writers were to get 59 cents per album sold. After splitting that with her co-writers, Swift would make around 20 cents per copy.

Over the summer, Swift’s 1989 sold more than 5 million copies in the U.S. alone. If the Adams album were to sell, say 5 million globally, Swift could pull in $1 million. And that still excludes any sales of singles.


Interestingly, Swift will also indirectly profit from plays on Spotify, a music-streaming service the artist has previously quarreled with. Swift removed almost all of her songs from Spotify, as she contends the service doesn’t adequately compensate artists. But the Adams version of the 1989 album is currently listed on Spotify.

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