Spotify’s 2021 royalty report paints a rose-tinted vision of the music streaming industry

Spotify continues its efforts to provide some transparency to musicians unhappy with streaming speeds† The company updated his “Loud & Clear” website today, with a breakdown of some 2021 stats for how artists, publishers, and rights holders actually monetize Spotify streams.

As you might expect, Spotify chooses to mention positive improvements over 2020 here. Spotify paid out more than $7 billion to artists, labels and the other moving parts of the music industry last year, up from $5 billion last year. More than 16,500 artist catalogs earned at least $50,000 in royalties in 2021, compared to 13,400 in 2020, and more than 1,000 artists made $1 million through Spotify streaming for the first time (versus 870 artists who reached that high watermark last year). Meanwhile, more than 52,600 artists earned at least $10,000 from Spotify streams last year, compared to 42,500 in 2020.

And just like last year, there’s still a calculator where artists (and fans) can enter their monthly number of listeners or song streams to see how their stats compare to the rest of Spotify.

Of course, Spotify seems to specifically pick songs that showcase its contributions to the music industry in the best light – nothing on the Loud & Clear website portrays Spotify’s royalty rates as anything but a net positive for the industry, something musicians clearly don’t. not to see eye to eye (if a recent protest in LA shows).

Spotify’s site highlights those big wins, but is quieter in highlighting the context of the much larger number of artists who don’t get thousands of dollars out of the streamer every year. According to Spotify, there are more than 8 million artists on the platform, of which about 2.6 million have uploaded at least ten songs. And of those 2.6 million artists, of which only 165,000 have an average of at least 10,000 streams per month — compared to the 52,600 artists who made at least $10,000 through its platform last year, according to Spotify, a gap that speaks to the spectrum of success on the platform.

Overall growth is encouraging, but as Spotify gains popularity, the relative numbers for “success” are shifting. And since Spotify splits revenue based on how well a song or artist does compared to the rest of the platform, it doesn’t just matter how popular the artist catalog is — it’s also how popular it is compared to everything else. on Spotify. The company cites as an example that more than 230,000 songs broke 1 million streams by 2021, something that would have been an exceptional feat in the early days of the service when it had far fewer listeners.

Spotify’s greater transparency is a good thing, especially as the music industry continues to hold streaming platforms in increasing control over how they pay artists. But clearly there is still a lot of work to be done to translate the success of streaming music into monetary success for most of the artists on the platform.

Correction March 24, 12:10 PM: This article originally stated that Spotify was not providing context for the total number of artists on its platform compared to its revenue targets. That information has been added to this post. We regret the mistake.

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