1% of Artists Generate 90% of All Music Streams, Latest Data Shows

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Photo Credit: Lê Tân

A new study has found that one percent of artists generate 90 percent of all music streams – with the remaining 99 percent of creators garnering only 10 percent of plays.

Analytics firm Alpha Data recently disclosed the telling statistic in an analysis of the contemporary streaming landscape. Of the 1.6 million or so artists who have made their music available on streaming platforms during the last year, approximately one percent – 16,000 individuals – have secured 90 percent of listeners’ plays, per Alpha’s figures.

And according to the same source, the upper 10 percent of artists (160,000) claimed 99.4 percent of the music streams, leaving .6 percent of the plays to 1.44 million members of the music community.

The tremendous imbalance in total streams is especially significant because of the low per-play compensation offered by Spotify and today’s other digital music platforms. Digital Music News has drawn from a massive set of artist payouts to calculate Spotify’s current royalty rate, which is roughly between $.003 and $.005 per stream, for most musicians. Plus, approximately 40,000 new tracks make their way onto the service each day, amplifying competition within the aforementioned “bottom 99 percent” for a minute portion of overall listens.

On the other side of the coin, the statistic underscores just how much the top one percent of artists stand to gain from their advantageous positions. Towards this year’s start, for instance, Metallica – once a vocal Spotify holdout – announced that its music had been streamed a whopping one billion times. Running with the above-noted low end of Spotify’s royalty rate, these plays could have brought with them a $3 million check, or over $8,000 per week since the act’s late-2012 arrival on streaming services.

The earning potential of newly released smash hits is even more substantial. Tones and I’s 16-month-old “Dance Monkey” track has scored north of 1.8 billion plays on Spotify alone – likely generating at least $5.44 million (calculating at $.003 per stream once again).

Furthermore, streaming’s continued growth means that the most popular artists (in play volume) may well experience additional income upticks moving forward. Last month, Kobalt Music subsidiary AWAL claimed that “hundreds” of its musicians bring home in excess of $100,000 from streaming annually. The London-headquartered company also specified that “dozens” of its artists – the AWAL roster includes deadmau5, Finneas O’Connell, and other prominent figures – receive $1 million or more in streaming royalties yearly.

Yesterday, we covered a former Spotify exec’s explanation as to why (most) artists earn so little from music streams. As you might expect, his comments reignited debate and conversations on the topic.

5 Responses

  1. Johnny

    The music business is so thoroughly corrupt and yet the public has no clue what goes on. Radio stations are bought and paid for by the large and powerful record companies and then the music fans buy whatever they hear on the radio. And instead of the best music making it on to the radio, it is the music that is bought and paid for that gets priority. I wrote the best song in the history of music then took it to 100 radio stations and not one station would play my song! They have no interest in the quality of music, only the amount of money they receive to play new music. If you are not with the majors you are not going to get your music played. No way! And then you wonder why the 1% gets 90% of the streams! And the small guy stands no chance of competing!

  2. BAC


    1960 called. They want to know when the radio stations will stop being corrupt.

    Who listens to radio stations these days? Other than when you’re in the dentist’s chair.

    Are you going to complain that nobody saw your classified ad in the newspaper?


  3. SiFr

    Who listens to radio stations these days? In any given week in the US, 90% of the 18-34 demographic listen to the radio, according the most recent Pew Research figures. But hey, don’t let me stop you from trying your hardest to appear contrairian.