Tracking down the most streamed artist of all time is like finding a needle in a haystack. Between the dozens of different streaming services and lack of transparent reporting, it’s hard to nail these numbers down.
So let’s set some guidelines here. We’ll be looking at the most streamed artists on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube over the last few years.
Spotify made this easy last year when the music streaming service celebrated its 10th anniversary. The service revealed streaming data over the last ten years, with the likes of Drake and Ed Sheeran topping the lists.
Top Artists on Spotify’s Global Top 200
|2||Ed Sheeran||UK||16.76 billion|
|3||The Weeknd||CAN||16.50 billion|
|6||Ariana Grande||USA||11.8 billion|
|7||Justin Bieber||CAN||10.44 billion|
|9||Post Malone||USA||9.90 billion|
|10||Kanye West||USA||9.82 billion|
Drake is by far Spotify’s most streamed artist of all time, though Ed Sheeran is giving the Canadian a run for his numbers.
Most Streamed Artist on Spotify By Year
- 2008: The Killers – Human
- 2009: The Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta Feeling
- 2010: Eminem, Rihanna – Love The Way You Lie
- 2011: Don Omar, Lucenzo – Danza Kuduro
- 2012: Gotye, Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know
- 2013: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Can’t Hold Us (featuring Ray Dalton)
- 2014: Pharrell Williams – Happy (from Despicable Me 2)
- 2015: Major Lazer, Mo, DJ Snake – Lean On
- 2016: Drake – One Dance
- 2017: Ed Sheeran – Shape of You
- 2018: Drake – God’s Plan
What about Apple Music?
Getting data from Apple Music is a little bit more tricky. Apple keeps its official numbers close to its chest, so we only have ranking information here. The service also launched in 2015, so we don’t have ten years of data to examine like we do with Spotify.
Still, looking at the 2017 and 2018 data paints a pretty good picture of top artists.
Top 10 Most Streamed Artists — Apple Music 2017
2. Kendrick Lamar
3. Taylor Swift
4. Ed Sheeran
5. The Weeknd
6. J. Cole
7. Bruno Mars
10. Post Malone
Top 10 Most Streamed Artists & Albums — Apple Music 2018
1. Drake — Scorpion
2. Post Malone — Beerbongs & Bentleys
3. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy
4. Migos — Culture II
5. Travis Scott — ASTROWORLD
6. XXXTENTACION — ?
7. Post Malone — Stoney
8. Chris Brown — Heartbreak on a Full Moon
9. J. Cole — KOD
10. Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd & SZA — Black Panther The Album
Apple chose Drake as its top artist of 2018, with JuiceWRLD as its top break-out artist of 2018.
Apple likes to use its data to make clever points, too. Case in point: this year, Apple celebrated International Women’s Day by revealing the top female streaming artists of all time.
Top 10 Female Streaming Artists — Apple Music
1. Ariana Grande
2. Taylor Swift
5. Nicki Minaj
6. Cardi B
9. Lady Gaga
Once again, no numbers here, but that’s to be expected with Apple Music. In addition to the top streaming female artists, Bad Bunny is the top streaming Latino artist on Apple Music. Singer Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio rose to that point thanks to hosting six episodes of Trap Kingz, the first Spanish-language Beats 1 Radio show.
What about YouTube?
YouTube’s contribution to this list is interesting since it’s a free service that everyone in the world can access. While Spotify and Apple Music are freemium/premium services, all of YouTube’s content can be experienced without a YouTube Music subscription. That leads to some interesting chart-toppers for the most streamed music videos of all time.
Most Streamed Music Videos Of All Time — YouTube
(It’s worth noting that number five on this list isn’t a music video at all. It’s a Russian children’s cartoon that has taken the world by storm.)
1. Luis Fonsi — ‘Despacito featuring Daddy Yankee’ | 6.2 billion views
2. Ed Sheeran — ‘Shape of You’ | 4.2 billion views
3. Wiz Khalifa — ‘See You Again’ | 4.1 billion views
4. Mark Ronson — ‘Uptown Funk featuring Bruno Mars’ | 3.5 billion views
5. Masha and the Bear — ‘Recipe For Disaster’ | 3.5 billion views
6. Psy — ‘Gangnam Style’ | 3.3 billion views
7. Justin Bieber — ‘Sorry’ | 3.1 billion views
8. Maroon 5 — ‘Sugar’ | 2.9 billion views
9. Katy Perry — ‘Roar’ | 2.8 billion views
10. Taylor Swift — ‘Shake It Off’ | 2.7 billion views
Whew, that’s quite a bit of discrepancy between YouTube and streaming music services like Spotify and Apple Music. Looking at ‘God’s Plan’ by Drake, it still hasn’t crossed 1 billion listens on YouTube despite being over a year old.
Some of the songs on the list were also boosted by other events. Wiz Khalifa’s ‘See You Again’ was featured in Furious 7 as a touching tribute to the late Paul Walker.