On Spotify, Economic Power is at the Top

Here are some interesting statistics about Spotify as of March 2021:

There are 4.47 million artists on Spotify who have at least 1 monthly listener.

The median acts (in the 50th percentile of popularity) have only 16 listeners.

Acts in the 80th percentile have 7100 listeners.

Interesting, right? Of that 4.47 million acts, how many acts would you guess made 6 figures ($100,000 or more?) The answer: .17%. A total of only 7800 acts made $100k+. To make that kind of money, these acts have at least 1 million monthly listeners.

13,000 acts have at least 500,000 mostly listers (read: making $50k/year) and 44,000 artist have at least 100,000 monthly listeners (read: making $10k/year.)

So that means artist who have TEN THOUSAND MONTHLY LISTENERS are only making ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS PER YEAR. Does that seem like a lot of listeners to have in return for a paltry income? It does to me!

Spotify is under a lot of scrutiny right now, and has been trying to create more transparency about the “complicated economics” of streaming payouts. Spotify has always said that the more money they make, the more they will be able to pay out to artists, and that certainly has shown to be true, but it seems like the winners take all.

870 acts made $1M last year, while 184,500 acts made $1k.

All that to say, if you have some favorite small and mid size artists who you love listening to on Spotify, consider connecting with those artists outside of Spotify and doing what you can to support them. Perhaps purchasing some merchandise to show some love, because if you’re one of only 10,000 or 20,000 people listening to them every month, they ain’t making much money from Spotify!

I’d love to hear anybody’s thoughts on this subject, so please drop a comment below.


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Great post, Luke! I never knew what the numbers looked like behind Spotify. Thank you.

– Slim

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Thanks for that Luke. I knew Spotify wasn’t good for many artists, but those numbers really make it clear. I’m a bit of a dinosaur since I still purchase through iTunes when I hear something I really like. Do you happen to know off hand how iTunes is for their treatment of artists?

Right on slim. Glad you enjoyed. Thanks for the note.
Rock on!

Well, like with terrestrial radio, it’s arguable that Spotify is good for artists in that it helps them to gain exposure.

On iTunes, depending on what digital distributor the Artist is using, about 70-80 cents / dollar is going to the artist. But even the HUGE artist who have songs with 1 Billion streams are doing maybe 100,000 downloads?

For the flip side of iTunes, Apple Music, Apple’s subscription-based model, I’m guessing the numbers look similar to Spotify’s.

As always, new technologies are disruptive, but as we move further into the Information Age, in my opinion, independent recording artists are going to be getting more and more help financially from sync fees and mechanical royalties from the use of their music in film, tv, video games, advertising, and the like.

I see that a lot right now.


Wow… Much food for thought.