The main points in a nutshell

  • Swiss musicians earn CHF 0.0018 for every song streamed
  • Musicians need to generate around 1,111 streams to sell one CD
  • Concerts are where they make most of their money

We are in the middle of a golden age for Swiss music. Aside from the usual old-fashioned Swiss-German rock, there are now innovative local musicians to discover wherever you look. Rap, rock, indie pop and a few electro hipsters keep us entertained with live shows, mix tapes, Spotify playlists, 24/7 Insta stories and must-have merchandise. Our favorite stars are omnipresent. But do they make a living out of their music or do they need additional jobs to top up the money they earn from concerts, streaming, merchandise, royalties and subsidies? The answer is probably the latter.

A CD is worth more than 1,000 streams

1,000 CDs sold

22,000 francs of income

1,111,111 streams

22,000 francs of income

If musicians receive an average of two francs per CD sold, they have to generate 1,111 streams to earn the same amount. In other words, 1,000 CDs sold are equivalent to 1,111,111 streams.

Lo & Leduc fill concert halls, dominate the charts and are dream sons-in-law, but even they have part-time jobs in communications – they don’t want to be financially dependent on music as the pressure would take away the joy they derive from it. Luca Hänni, by contrast, is concentrating entirely on his celebrity career, with TV shows such as Let’s Dance being among his sources of income – the 25-year-old has long since stopped working in his original profession of bricklaying. And rapper and Swiss Music Award winner Steff la Cheffe has had stints working in a cheese store.

A full stadium and an empty wallet

So how do musicians make money if it isn’t through streaming? Believe it or not, they still generate most of their income from ticket sales for concerts. As a result, the cancellation of the vast majority of performances in spring and summer 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic has left many of them in a precarious situation. The rest of their income comes from royalties, i.e. commercial use of their music, for instance in advertising, and sales of merchandise. With a bit of luck they might also receive “cultural support,” in other words subsidies. Fortunately, however, most artists would rather write songs than applications, so they are still reliant primarily on the support of their audiences, i.e. us. In other words, if you would like your favorite musician to be able to concentrate more on their music and less on worrying about existential issues, go to concerts, order a band t-shirt and stream as hard as you can, ideally dancing round your living room until you drop from exhaustion.

The Montreux Jazz Festival – unforgettable live songs as a playlist

The Montreux Jazz Festival lets you enjoy a little of its magic from the comfort of your home. Ray Charles, Wu-Tang Clan, Johnny Cash, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Deep Purple, Carlos Santana and more: over 50 concerts from the festival are available to stream. 

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