Last year, I wrote a blog about some ambient music that I decided to do in my spare time.  

After years of making music for other people (which I still absolutely love doing) I realised I hadn’t made any music just for the fun of it.  I was going through a bit of a stressful time and so I turned to one of my true loves in music – ambient.

I’ve always loved lush, atmospheric sounds, particularly on the guitar, and under the name Smoky I quickly improvised three EPs under the volumes “Night Music / Ambient Haze” and put them out quietly; just knowing that they were out there was good enough for me.

What happened next was…weird.  

In February last year, I decided to check my Spotify statistics.  On Monday, I’d had about four plays, Tuesday was nine, Wednesday six plays, Thursday FIFTEEN THOUSAND PLAYS, Friday ELEVEN THOUSAND PLAYS.

Thinking there was clearly some kind of mistake, I looked at Spotify and realised that one of my tracks, Penarth Pier, had been added to an official Spotify playlist, Dreamy Vibes, which over 200,000 people had subscribed to.  From then until now, it has never left the playlist and still maintains a few thousand plays per day.

No one knows the names of the people that create these playlists.  There is no way of pitching your music to them and, honestly, I have absolutely no idea how my music got picked up.  Anonymous playlisters are now the unreachable gatekeepers that used to be the realm of record label A&R.  One song on the right playlist can catapult an artist from nowhere to somewhere very interesting.

So.  The question I get asked all the time is – have I made any money from it?  Yes, I have.

Spotify royalties are tricky to decipher as there is no standard rate.  People estimate it as being 0.5 of a cent per stream but in reality it’s an ever-changing figure depending on how many subscribers Spotify has at the time, how many songs are being listened to, what the interest rate is like, etc.

Since February 2017, I’ve had just over two million streams on Spotify and have made £5,332.84.  I’m only putting this information up here to be transparent, because I’m finding it difficult to find any good statistics online about how much independent artists can make from streaming.

I get that my case is the exception rather than the norm.  In fact, Smoky is the tip of the iceberg of the hundreds of projects, bands etc that I’ve done over the years.  In fact, I have put out lots of other ambient music in the past year which is getting very few plays, even though the quality is the same, so it really is the luck of the draw!

The thing that encourages me, though, is that Penarth Pier was music direct from the heart, created for fun, rather to please someone else.  The fact that it now appears to be pleasing thousands of people is very rewarding.  

And it’s confirmed something to me that I’ve always thought, which is that if you play the music that feels right to you, rather then playing something just because you think it will sell, that’s the most important thing.  Because even if it doesn’t get any streams or sales at all, it’s still great music, and you created it, and you can listen to it and love it, because it’s awesome!

(If you’re interested in listening to Smoky, here’s the Spotify link or click below.  Do not listen to whilst driving or operating heavy machinery.  Do not expect anything particularly interesting to happen.  But life might just feel a little nicer.)