Just 13,400 Spotify Artists (Out of 7 Million) Make More Than $50,000 a Year

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Photo Credit: Sara Kurfeß

About 13,400 artists generated $50,000 or more in Spotify royalties during 2020 – though there are an estimated total of approximately seven million acts with music on the platform.

Spotify shed light upon artists’ earnings, factoring for both recording and publishing royalties, in a breakdown entitled “Loud & Clear.” The resource “aims to increase transparency by sharing new data on the global streaming economy” – likely in response to criticism of and investigations into streaming royalties.

To be sure, musicians earlier this week rallied outside of Spotify’s offices to protest the service’s per-stream royalty rate as well as the alleged lack of transparency surrounding its deals with the Big Three record labels. Moreover, Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin founder and guitarist Jimmy Page, and “Cars” singer, songwriter, and producer Gary Numan are among the prominent musicians who’ve publicly taken aim at streaming payments in recent months.

Spotify has paid north of $23 billion in royalties to rightsholders to date, according to the Loud & Clear report, including over $5 billion in 2020 (up from $3.3 billion in 2017). Building upon the point, the Stockholm-based platform proceeds to relay that some 184,500 creators earned at least $1,000 from recording and publishing royalties on Spotify in 2020, an increase of 46,200 from 2019.

Additionally, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek revealed during his company’s “Stream On” investor conference that there were eight million “creators” on the platform at the end of last year. However, “creators” in this instance refers to both artists and podcasters, and Spotify users could choose from roughly 2.2 million podcasts at 2020’s conclusion, according to the business’s Q4 2020 earnings report.

Thus, some sources have estimated that there are presently seven million or so artists on Spotify – meaning that the aforementioned 184,500 artists who earned at least $1,000 in royalties in 2020 might represent just 2.64 percent of those whose music is available to fans via the service.

And as a separate aside, it takes about 200,000 streams to make $1,000 on Spotify, calculating for the high end of the service’s reported per-stream royalty rate, one-third of a penny to one-half of a penny.

67,200 artists (.96 percent) generated $5,000 or more in Spotify royalties during 2020, and the figure falls to 42,100/.6 percent at $10,000+ in royalties, 13,400/.19 percent at $50,000, 1,820/.026 percent at $500,000, and just 870/.012 percent at $1 million.

While the multibillion-dollar royalty-payments growth across 2017 and 2020 is positive, it’s possible that Spotify’s per-stream payments – and, in turn, the portion of artists in the above-mentioned earnings brackets – could decrease in the coming years as the creator community continues to expand. For instance, Daniel Ek also stated during the Stream On event that “by 2025, we could have as many as 50 million creators on our platform.”

In an effort to increase earnings from a potentially plateauing userbase, Spotify in recent weeks has rolled out a HiFi option, started playing ads to premium users during podcasts, and explored the possibility of raising subscription prices in the UK. That said, Ek reiterated in February that Spotify’s monthly cost won’t increase in the United States anytime soon.

10 Responses

  1. BAC

    Oh isn’t it terrible that every shit musician on Spotify who is too lazy to promote their crap isn’t earning $15 an hour?

    What could possibly fix such an injustice in the world? Yes, a lecture from a bunch of old dudes worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

    When was the last time Jimmy Page did anything new? The Firm? That was nearly 40 years ago.


  2. Will

    This isn’t proof of anything other than:

    1. music today sucks
    2. artists don’t know how to promote themselves

  3. Herr Funkheimer

    Why do musicians feel the world owes them a living?

    If you want guaranteed income with job security, work for the government.

    • Wil

      The world “owes” them nothing. But the powers that run the rip-off streaming companies owes them fair compensation for their time and work in creating the backbone of the streaming companies existence. Just like you’d expect for your time, hypocrite.

    • Jacob

      You’re incorrect on both counts, actually. Artists just want to be paid for their work, as opposed to having it stolen from them.

      Government jobs are not secure in many cases as they depend on approved budgets. Look into it. Jobs in that sector are cut all the time.

  4. Roberto

    “About 13,400 artists generated $50,000 or more in Spotify royalties during 2020“
    The huge majority of money generated goes to Record Companies and not to Artists. Close to 90% and is this $50,000 figure based on most artists receiving nothing since they have to spend many years paying back their recording contract advances

    • Jim

      When you’re talking about 7 Million artists, you aren’t talking about repaying record company advances.

      Somewhere between “Most” and “Almost All” are regular folks who put their stuff on Spotify. There is no record company involved.

      There just aren’t the barriers to entry that there used to be, It’s just not hard to record these days, and not hard to put stuff on Spotify or youtube.

      If there were 7 million different artists, or 70 million different artists or 700 million different artists, you wouldn’t think that the number of artists making $50K a year would go up, right? More competition doesn’t mean more people making big money, it means fewer people making big money.

  5. Tom

    Around the year 2000, the entire music industry released approximately 52,000 albums a year — about a thousand a week — and about 100 of those albums were financially successful.

    These numbers from Spotify are a decided improvement on the past, both in quantity and quality.

  6. jfram

    Just because you have fruity loops and a computer doesn’t mean you are entitled to earn thousands.

    Where do these millions of musicians think the money is gonna come from to pay all of them ‘fairly’. Spotify would have to be $199/month for that to happen. At some point musicians are gonna have to accept that living off your royalties is a pipe dream and reserved for the top 1%.

  7. Miss Credit

    “it takes about 200,000 streams to make $1,000 on Spotify”
    Youtube: Hold my beer!