Major labels earned an eye-watering $4bn from Spotify alone last year.
Streaming giant Spotify announced yesterday that 130 artists made over $5 million from royalties, with 1,000 artists making over $1 million. According to Spotify’s Loud&Clear platform that aims to “increase transparency” around its payments, over 50,000 artists generated $10,000 from Spotify alone, and likely over $40,000 across all recorded sources.
It was also announced that Spotify paid $7 billion to music industry rights holders last year, which accounted for almost a quarter of the industry’s entire revenues.
The website said that major labels earned a sizeable $4 billion in profit from Spotify alone last year and that for the second year running, Spotify paid out over a billion to publishing rights holders.
It also said that during the height of the CD era, nearly 25 per cent of US album sales were taken up by the top 50 artists, but on Spotify, only 12 per cent of US streams were from the top 50 artists. Thanks to streaming, the site says, more artists are thriving in today’s music economy than ever before.
While there is some truth to this, it does not paint the full picture. An artist whose music earns $10,000 in Spotify royalties may only get $2,000 once the record label and publishers take their share. For a seven-piece ensemble like BTS, that $2,000 will have to be split seven ways. Songwriters and session musicians are often paid even less.
Obviously, BTS will be dealing with a lot more cash than a measly $2,000, but for many up-and-coming bands, this is the reality of streaming royalties.
Spotify did not name the artists who had received the big bucks last year, but their most-streamed artists of 2021 were Bad Bunny, Taylor Swift, BTS, Drake, and Justin Bieber. Earnings after that fall into the following brackets:
- $10,000 – $49,999: 36,100 artists
- $50,000 – $99,999: 7,000 artists
- $100,000 – $499,999: 7,330 artists
- $500,000 – $999,999: 1,130 artists
- $1,000,000 – $1,999,999: 590 artists
- $2,000,000 – $4,999,999: 320 artists
- $5m and above: 130 artists
According to the BBC, about 28% of the artists who earned more than $10,000 last year (some 15,140) uploaded their own music via the likes of TuneCore, Ditto, DistroKid and CD Baby – which means they will have kept the bulk of their earnings.
However, this merely represents a tiny portion of the number of people who upload music to Spotify. The platform has said that around 8 million people have uploaded tracks to its service, with 60,000 new songs a day. This means that 99.3 per cent of artists on Spotify are earning less than $10,000 a year.