52,600 artists generated over $10k on Spotify last year – and 15,140 of them uploaded their own music

Credit: Thibault Penin

MBW’s Stat Of The Week is a series in which we highlight a single data point that deserves the attention of the global music industry. Stat Of the Week is supported by Cinq Music Group, a technology-driven record label, distribution, and rights management company.

How many artists are earning enough to live from Spotify and other streaming services?

It remains one the music industry’s most contentious questions. Today (March 24), Spotify moved one step closer to giving us the answer.

The streaming platform has updated its Loud & Clear website with a string of revelatory fresh stats concerning what artists earned from its service in 2021.

Those stats reveal that, over the course of last year, Spotify paid out $7 billion (across publishing and recorded music) to music industry rights-holders.

That figure was up by more than double the $3.3 billion that Spotify says it paid out to the same recipients in 2017, and up by around $2 billion on the “$5 billion-plus” that Spotify has previously claimed to have paid out in 2020.

Spotify claims: “Even adjusting for inflation, that $7 billion total [paid in 2021] is the largest sum paid by one retailer to the music industry in one year in history — including any single retailer at the height of the CD or digital download era.”

Loud & Clear also enables us to drill down into how many artists generated exactly how much in royalties (inclusive of both publishing and recorded music) from Spotify in 2021.

For example, Spotify now says that 52,600 artists generated over $10,000 on its platform in 2021.

Spotify also notes that 15,140 of these 52,600 artists – around 28% – uploaded their own music via the likes of TuneCore, CD Baby and DistroKid.

Spotify further segments how many artists passed certain revenue thresholds in 2021 into various groups. For example, the Loud & Clear site says that, of the 52,600 artists who generated more than $10k last year:

  • 16,500 artists generated more than $50k;
  • 9,500 artists generated more than $100k;
  • 2,170 artists generated more than $500k;
  • and 1,040 artists generated more than $1 million.

The 52,600 figure (for $10k+ artists) is up by 10,100 versus the equivalent stat from 2020. (Note: Spotify has restated/updated some of its 2020 stats previously published on the original Loud & Clear site.)

In addition, the 52,600 figure is more than double the size of the number of artists generating $10k or more on Spotify in 2017 (23,400).

So what of the 16,500 artists generating over $50k on Spotify in 2021?

This 16,500 figure was up by 3,100 on the equivalent number from 2020 (13,400) and, again, up by more than double the figure from 2017 (7,400).

We must be wary of misunderstanding Spotify’s latest stats, however, as they duplicate artists into multiple revenue groups; i.e. an artist generating over $100k a year is also counted as generating over $50k and $10k etc.

As such, MBW has made a more granular calculation: how many artists fell into specific revenue-generation brackets on Spotify last year, and how did that compare to 2020?

From our calculations, we’ve learned:

  • 36,100 artists generated between $10k and $50k on Spotify last year – up from 29,100 in 2020;
  • 7,000 artists generated between $50k and $100k on Spotify last year – up from 5,600 in 2020;
  • 7,330 artists generated between $100k and $500k on Spotify last year – up from 6,000 in 2020;
  • 1,130 artists generated between $500k and $1 million on Spotify last year – up from 940 in 2020;
  • 1,040 artists generated over $1 million on Spotify last year – up from 860 in 2020.

Spotify has additionally told us how many artists generated over $2 million and $5 million in royalties (recorded music plus publishing, remember) on its platform in 2021.

Those magic numbers are 450 and 130, respectively.

There are many other interesting stats to be found on the updated Loud & Clear site today, including:

  • Of the 52,600 artists who generated more than $10,000 on Spotify in 2021, 34% live in countries outside the IFPI’s top ten music markets (Australia, Canada, China, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the U.K., and the U.S.).
  • 718,000 songs have now surpassed a million streams on Spotify, and 238,000 songs received a million streams in 2021 alone. Over 230 songs have even reached a billion streams.
  • Over 10% of artists (5,300) who generated more than $10,000 on Spotify in 2021 released their first song ever in the last two years. In 2021, 350 of these newly-releasing artists generated $100,000 from Spotify.
  • In 2021, Spotify says it accounted for more than 20% of recorded music revenue (up from less than 15% in 2017). The firm says: “For a rough estimate, you can multiply the Spotify revenue by four to approximate how much artists generated from all recorded revenue sources in 2021.”
  • Spotify adds: “Based on our analysis of RIAA data, the music industry in the CD era favored superstars twice as much as it is today. At the peak of the CD era, 25% of US sales were accounted for by the top 50 artists. In 2021, only 12% of US streams on Spotify are of the top 50 artists — meaning that revenue opportunities now reach far beyond the biggest stars.”

Another intriguing new piece of information: Spotify has made an estimate of the number of artists with music on its platform that it considers to be “professional or professionally aspiring recording acts”.

The company notes that “of the eight million people who have distributed any songs to Spotify, 5.4 million of them have released fewer than ten tracks all-time”.

It notes that many of these 5.4 million artists “are likely early in their career, hobbyists, or may not be leveraging streaming as part of their career path.”

Spotify estimates that there are around 200,000 “professional or professionally aspiring recording acts” on its service globally today.

The company reasons: “There are 165,000 artists who have released at least ten songs all-time (meaning they have a body of work to earn from) and average at least 10,000 monthly listeners (meaning they have been able to attract an audience). We also see this through our integrations with Songkick, Ticketmaster, and dozens of other live and virtual ticketing partners: 199,000 artists had any gig, event, or virtual event listed at some point during 2019 (the last year not impacted by pandemic cancellations), demonstrating commercial activity outside streaming.

“That data suggests a population between 165,000 and 199,000 artists, but to account for a margin of error in our methodology, we consider 200,000 to be a reasonable estimate — though of course, we acknowledge the difficulty in assuming any artist’s professional intent just from data.

“Based on this estimate, you could calculate that more than a quarter of professional or professionally aspiring artists generated $10,000 in 2021 from Spotify alone (and likely over $40,000 across all recorded revenue sources).”

Cinq Music Group’s repertoire has won Grammy awards, dozens of Gold and Platinum RIAA certifications, and numerous No.1 chart positions on a variety of Billboard charts. Its repertoire includes heavyweights such as Bad Bunny, Janet Jackson, Daddy Yankee, T.I., Sean Kingston, Anuel, and hundreds more.Music Business Worldwide

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