What are ‘music stems’ from Euphoria, and how easy is it to sell them?

Bruno Cooke January 17, 2022
What are ‘music stems’ from Euphoria, and how easy is it to sell them?


In last night’s episode of Euphoria (season 2, episode 2), Rue introduces Jules to Elliot who, she says, “makes a ton of money selling music stems online”. What are music stems, and how realistic is it that Elliot makes so much money selling them?

What are music stems? Meaning explained

Put simply, stems are the individual audio files for different elements of a song. 

They’re different from tracks because a stem can consist of multiple tracks. Note that in the context of audio production, individual tracks are mono or stereo recordings of individual elements, such as bass drum, hi-hat, a single vocal, etc. In this way, they’re different from the final track – as in x track by y artist.

For example, the music stem called “vocals” might contain three individual tracks in harmony. There might be a separate stem for “drums”, “keys” or similar. 

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Euphoria | Season 2 Official Teaser Trailer | HBO

Euphoria | Season 2 Official Teaser Trailer | HBO

Most songs consist of multiple layers of instruments – multiple stems, some of which may contain several tracks – working together. Having access to song stems is useful because it allows people using them to adjust the song, element by element, rather than having to live with a part they don’t want.

An example Soundstripe gives is a film editor might want to use a song during a scene but without the vocal track as it would distract from the dialogue.

Per Music Gateway, working with stems is often simpler than working with individual tracks, since there should be fewer of them.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO

Why has Euphoria’s music stems reference got people so worked up?

Elliot (played by Dominic Fike) apparently makes a “ton of money” selling music stems. Fandom lists his occupation as “musician”, as well as high-school student.

One Twitter user, who presumably has experience of what it’s actually like selling music stems in the real world, called it “the ultimate fantasy” at Euphoria High.

Another labelled it “the most unrealistic part” of the series.

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Does anyone make money from selling music stems like Elliot from Euphoria?

The sale of premium stem licences from music producers has apparently increased in recent years, especially to rappers and/or singers.

Purchasing the stem files for an instrumental rather than the aggregate file gives artists more creative control over mixing the final song.

There are websites that specialise in connecting buyers and sellers of music stems, such as Stem Sounds. Others, like Audio Jungle, cover more bases but also facilitate the selling of music stems.

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.