Each stream on Apple Music is worth one penny.
According to a letter from Apple Music posted on its artist dashboard and first published by the Wall Street Journal, the company's payment rate for artists and labels is fundamentally a penny per stream. That payment rate is higher than Spotify's per-stream rate, which is based on a complicated variable rate system that effectively ends at a half-penny.
Announcing a penny-per-stream fee is a good PR win for Apple Music since it is 1. really straightforward and 2. Spotify despises talking about its per-stream payments, which the company claims are deceptive. Seriously, it just launched a website called Loud&Clear last month to help artists and fans understand how payments work, and a large portion of it is dedicated to explaining why per-stream rates aren't the best way to go. There's a ton of copy that looks like this:
“In the streaming era, fans do not pay per song and services do not pay per stream, so we don’t believe a “per stream rate” is a meaningful number to analyze. Still, we understand that artists find it useful to calculate an effective “per stream” rate or, in other words, a revenue-to-streams ratio — dividing the total size of the royalty pool on Spotify (the numerator) by the total number of music streams on Spotify (the denominator). Both of these numbers are growing incredibly quickly every year.
“There are a number of factors that contribute to that ratio looking small, which we understand can seem problematic.”
That's right. It's worth noting that Spotify has a large ad-supported music service with somewhat different economics than the paying Spotify Premium tier, while Apple Music is only available as a paid service. And Spotify has a much larger user base, with 345 million total users, including 155 million paying Spotify Premium subscribers. (It's difficult to quantify Apple Music's current size; the company's most accurate public figure was "more than 60 million subscribers" in June 2019, and more recent figures placed it at 72 million.)
In any case, Spotify's point is that it pays lower variable rates on a much larger number of streams, while Apple is content to state that it pays a higher, simpler rate on a smaller number of streams. Neither point addresses the core economic issue of streaming, which is that most musicians can't make a living solely from streaming royalties, which is why everyone is selling NFTs and hoping that the concert industry returns eventually.