Spotify Usage and Revenue Statistics (2020)

Mansoor Iqbal

Updated: October 30, 2020

Spotify is the world’s biggest music streaming platform by number of subscribers. Users of the service simply need to register to have access to one of the biggest-ever collections of music in history, plus podcasts, and other audio content.

It operates on a freemium model. Free Spotify access comes with lower sound quality, and advertisements, and requires an internet connection. Those who pay for Spotify Premium can listen uninterrupted to high-quality recordings, and are able to download songs to any device on which they have the Spotify app.

Spotify was founded in 2006 in Stockholm, Sweden, by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. The two wanted to create a legal digital music platform to respond to growing challenge of online music piracy in the early 2000s.

Eventually convincing record labels to agree to share content in return for an aggregate 20% stake, Spotify was launched in 2008. It was an instant success, with a Facebook partnership helping it rise rapidly to prominence. Surviving the transition to mobile technology, Spotify went public in April 2018, with a market cap of $26.5 billion after the first day of trading.

It has drawn criticism from recording artists, who complain that it pays too little. Claims to democratize the music industry have also been questioned, with the world’s biggest four music labels responsible for 87% of content available on Spotify.

Unfair or not, with the days of physical music long behind us (with the exception of vinyl junkies), Spotify dominates the way we consume music in the 21st century. It does not have the run of the market, however. Its rivals include Deezer, Pandora, and most ominously Apple Music, which is aggressively seeking to gain market share.

Want to know more about Spotify, who Spotify’s users are, what Spotify is worth, and more? Then keep reading…

Table of Contents

Spotify User Statistics

Spotify Usage Statistics

Spotify Content Statistics

Spotify Revenue Statistics

Key Spotify Statistics

  • 286 million monthly active Spotify users
  • 130 million of these are Spotify Premium subscribers
  • Spotify’s can lay claim to 36% of the global streaming market
  • Average hours spent listening to Spotify per month stands at 25 hours
  • 44% of users listen to Spotify on a daily basis
  • Over 50 million tracks available on Spotify
  • Drake, WizKid and Kyla”s “One Dance” the first song to surpass 1 billion streams
  • Post Malone was the most listened-to artist of 2019 with 6.5 billion streams
  • Sheeran’s “Shape of You” most listened song in Spotify’s history with close to 2.5 billion streams (April 2020)
  • Sheeran is also the most followed artist, with 62.9 million followers (April 2020)
  • Drake currently leads the way in monthly streams, at 43 million
  • Around a third of Spotify listening time is spent on Spotify-generated playlists, with another third going on user-generated playlists
  • “Today’s Top Hits” playlist is followed by 26 million people (April 2020)
  • Other influential playlists include “RapCaviar” with over 12.8 million followers and “¡Viva Latino!” with 10.6 million followers (April 2020)
  • Average users listen to 41 unique artists per week
  • Spotify quarterly revenue in Q1 2019 stood at €1.85 billion ($2 billion), €1.7 billion ($1.84 billion) of which came from Spotify Premium subscribers
  • Spotify quarterly revenue in Q1 2020 stood at €1.85 billion ($2 billion), €1.7 billion ($1.84 billion) of which came from Spotify Premium subscribers
  • Gross profit in the same quarter was €472 million ($511 million), with operating loss at €17 million ($18 million)
  • Spotify annual revenue in 2019 at €6.7 billion ($7.3 billion), with gross profit of €1.7 billion ($1.8 billion)
  • Estimates vary on how much a Spotify stream is worth to artist: from $0.006-0.0084 to as low as $0.00318/stream
  • Spotify went public in April 2018, with a valuation of $26.5 billion by the end of the first day’s trading
  • Spotify market cap in early May 2020 was $26.9 billion
  • Highest market cap to date is $35 billion during Q3 2018

Spotify User Statistics

There were 286 million monthly active users of Spotify according to the company’s Q1 2020 report. Of these, 130 million were Spotify Premium subscribers.

This is up from 271 monthly active Spotify users and 124 million Spotify Premium subscribers in Q4 2019. Year-on-year, it’s a 69 million increase in users (32%), and 30 million increase in subscribers (30%) – a growth rate that has been fairly consistent in recent years.

The current percentage of subscribers out of total MAUs stands at 45% – slightly lower than the 46% it has been hovering around since mid-2018.

For a bit of historical context Spotify subscribers as a percentage of MAU in Q4 2015 stood at 31%, in Q4 2016 at 39%, by Q4 2018 at 46%.

Spotify MAUs vs subscribers 

Spotify MAUs vs subscribers 

Data source: Spotify

Both total Spotify user numbers and subscribers fell into the ranges predicted in the previous quarter, of 279-289 million and 126-131 million respectively.

Spotify anticipates that total monthly users will increase to 289-299 million, and Spotify Premium users to 133-138 million in the first quarter of 2020. By the end of the year, Spotify is hoping to report 328-348 million MAU, and 143-153 Premium subscribers.

These figures are deliberately conservative, Spotify said, with its key podcast strategy still coming to fruition. The forecast for the year were made before the coronavirus pandemic and concomitant social distancing measures took hold in Europe and North America. The coronavirus pandemic has cast uncertainty over Spotify as it has with many companies.

We might speculate that we see surges in Spotify usage as concerts and festivals are cancelled, and working from home becomes the norm. Or on the other hand, squeezes on disposable income may result in current and prospective users channelling money elsewhere.

The below chart shows Spotify user growth from launch until 2018, marking the introduction of new features such as the family payment plan, and Uber integration (users can choose to play their own music when taking an Uber). We might note a sharp uptick in both users and subscribers around 2015.

The introduction of new playlist features is notable here – Spotify-curated playlists are responsible for a huge proportion of listens on the platform.  More on this in the Spotify Usage Statistics below.

Other more recent features we might consider after this point is the annual ‘Your Top Songs’, customised to each user based on their year’s listening. This comes along with ‘Spotify Wrapped’, which shows users their favourite genres, bands, total minutes listened etc. In 2019, this was combined with a decade roundup for the 2010s.

In 2019 more than 60 million users engaged with this feature, sharing content 40 million times and streaming 6.5 billion songs from the playlists.

We might also include the $500 million investment in original podcasts, which certainly may have served to bring in a different demographic of less-musical users. Spotify has following the lead set by Netflix and moved into original podcasts. These include Fausto, which has risen to become top podcast in Mexico.

In Q4 2019 this saw daily podcast recommendations being sent to users in key markets. In April 2020, Spotify launched editorially-curated playlists, to mirror its hugely influential music playlists.

Over 16% of Spotify MAUs engage with podcast content, with over 700,000 titles available.

In 2020, Spotify introduced Spotify Kids in select markets – another potentially significant addition. An anticipated new feature called Spotify Tastebuds will facilitate social music discovery through users’ friends.

Spotify long-term user growth + features

Spotify long-term user growth + features

Source: Goodwater Capital 

Spotify users and subscribers by region

Globally, Spotify is available in 79 markets.

Breaking it down by region, it seems there’s not a huge difference in the geographies of Spotify users and Spotify subscribers. Europe is the biggest market in both cases, followed by North America. We see a greater bias towards these two more affluent regions in terms of subscribers (39% European vs 35% of MAU and 29% North American vs 26% of MAU).

Spotify reports that the fastest growth is occurring in less-established ‘rest of world’ segment (which encompasses Asia). Indeed, Spotify picked up two million users in India within two months of its February 2019 launch there.

User growth in the more established regions (a grouping into which Latin America was only relatively recently introduced in Spotify’s quarterly reports) reaccelerated in Q4 2019, with North America seeing its highest quarterly level of growth since 2018.

Spotify users by region, Q4 2019Spotify MAU by region

Source: Spotify

Spotify subscribers by region, Q4 2019

Spotify subscribers by region, Q4 2019

Source: Spotify

Compare growth in Spotify MAU in various regions we can see how growth in the rest of the world and Latin America has come to accelerate in recent years, while North American growth has been more steady. This is unsurprising, given this is the most crowded market, with Apple Music and Pandora (North America only) encroaching on Spotify’s territory.

Europe, on the other hand, has also seen accelerating growth in MAUs, with Q4 2019 representing a standout quarter. While it is not beyond the realms of possibility to see Latin America or even eventually the rest of the world overtake North America, Europe’s continuing place on the top of the pile seems assured.

We’ve calculated these figures using Spotify’s regional percentages versus total MAU, and rounded to the closest million.

Spotify MAU growth by region, 2016 – 2019, millions

Spotify MAU growth by region, 2016 - 2019, millions

Data source: Goodwater Capital and Spotify

Looking back over the last four years, we can see this expressed in proportional terms. Europe’s proportion of total MAUs has fallen slightly, from close to 40% to 35%.

This is more due to an increased share of Spotify MAUs in Latin America (increasing from 19% to 22%) and particularly the rest of the world (more than doubling from 7% to 16%).

North America’s share of Spotify MAUs has fallen to 26% from 35% over the period in question.

Spotify MAU growth by region, 2016 – 2019, proportional

Spotify MAU growth by region, 2016 - 2019, proportional

Data source: Goodwater Capital and Spotify

While North American MAU growth may be slightly slower, it’s worth considering that when it comes to subscribers and related revenue generation, with 37 million subscribers (approximate) in Q4 2019. This compares to 50 million in Europe, 25 million in Latin America, and 12 million in the rest of the world (nb. These are rounded up/down figures, to the nearest million).

In proportional terms, these Spotify stats have remained consistent over the two years covered, bar a 1% gain from the rest of the world from North America in Q4 2018, and a 1% gain from the rest of the world from Europe in Q1 2020. Otherwise Spotify subscriber growth has been proportionally even.

Spotify subscriber growth by region, 2018 – 2019, millions

Spotify subscriber growth by region, 2018 – 2019, millions

Data source: Spotify

Spotify vs. other music streaming services

In the US, Spotify was overtaken by Apple Music as the biggest subscriber music service in July 2018. Both services reported around 20 million subscribers at the time. In April 2019, Apple was reported to have pulled further ahead, with 28 million US subscribers to Spotify’s 26 million. More recent figures for Spotify were not available at the time of writing (April 2020), but eMarketer estimates the subscriber only Apple Music at 33.7 million users in 2019 (year end).

Spotify is a global enterprise, however. In 2018, it launched across 13 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and in 2019, launched in India. Spotify reported that Mexico City played host to the biggest concentration of Spotify users (after launching in 2013), though without specifying just how many.

Looking at the global picture, Spotify remains comfortably in the lead with 108 million subscribers to Apple Music’s 60 million, as of June 2019. Spotify increased subscribers to 130 million in Q1 2020, while Apple Music is estimated to be somewhere near the 70 million mark as of February 2020.

As of April 2019, it was thought that Apple is growing at a slightly faster rate than Spotify (2.4-2.8% compared to 2-2.3% respectively).

Spotify vs. Apple Music global subscribers, 2015 – 2019

Spotify vs. Apple Music global subscribers

Source: Statista

Stats from Counterpoint looking at the full-year 2019 estimate total global streaming subscriptions at 358 million.

Spotify claims a 35% market share, leading Apple Music (19%) and Amazon Music (15%). Tencent Music logs an impressive 11%, despite its heavy domestic focus (where it is split over a suite of four apps), while YouTube clocks 6%. The last figure is also impressive given the service is primarily associated with free, ad-supported content. Getting people to pay for such services is a noted hurdle.

Global music streaming services market share, H1 2019

Global music streaming services market share, H1 2019

Source: Counterpoint Research

A snapshot taken at midway through 2019, looking back at the first half of the year (albeit one that estimates Apple Music subscribers at a lower 55 million than the 60 million figure quoted above for June 2019), is broadly in line with the above.

Spotify was estimated to have a 36% market share of the then 305 million total streaming service subscriptions globally.

Apple on 18%, with the above caveat, comes in second, followed by Amazon on 13%, and China-specific Tencent Music on 10%. Various other smaller services feature, including Deezer on 3% and US-specific Pandora on 2%. YouTube does not feature here, presumably folded in ‘others’.

Apple and Pandora have lost market share since H1 2018 by this estimation, despite adding users while Amazon has gained slightly. Tencent Music seems to be the biggest winner, increasing its share from 8 to 10%, while increasing its userbase by 76%.

According to these Spotify stats, while the Swedish company leads the way in revenue terms, Apple is brining in more revenue proportionally. We might put this down to Apple’s relative strength in the lucrative US market, compared to Spotify’s more diverse userbase.

Global music streaming services market share, H1 2019

Global music streaming services market share, H1 2019

Source: Midia

Of course, preferring one platform over another does not mean you are solely dedicated to it – especially when certain services are offered free for users, or others might have exclusive access to certain popular artists.

In H2, GlobalWebIndex carried out an analysis of cross-platform listening, which among other things finds the as-yet unmentioned Google Play Music the most popular service. Alphabet’s service, alongside Spotify, counted on the most loyal bases.

Clearly users could find everything they wanted on these services. These two services are also the most popular with users of other apps. Interestingly, 44% of Apple Music listeners also used Spotify, alongside 32% of Amazon Music listeners and a huge 55% of Deezer users.

In the case of Spotify, by far the biggest crossover was with Google Play Music, which 40% of Spotify users also used. Flipping it around, 32% of Google Play Music users used Spotify.

We might note both services offer ad-supported free options, which no doubt went some way to facilitating this crossover.

(columns represent users of single app, so 28% of Apple Music users use Amazon Music)

Cross-platform streaming

Cross-platform streaming

Source: GlobalWebIndex

Returning to the US, eMarketer reports that Spotify overtook domestic service Pandora in 2017, with 65.4 million Spotify users (rather than subscribers) to Pandora’s 63.1 million. The two services’ userbases are then predicted to travel in divergent directions, with Spotify continuing to add users while Pandora loses them.

Interestingly, a surge in US Spotify users is forecast towards the end of the forecast period in 2023. The stronger growth for Spotify has been ascribed to factors including smart speaker integration as well as the podcast strategy, mentioned above.

Amazon is the next biggest service in the US, counting 38.7 million users in 2019. Amazon’s growth of 27% in 2019 actually outstrips Spotify’s 25.8%, though as with all Amazon services, Amazon Music comes bundled with various Prime offers. Beyond this, various subscription levels are offered, as well as an ad-supported free service, and it is of course completely integrated with Amazon Echo speakers. eMarketer predicts US Amazon Music listeners will increase to 43.3 million over 2020

Apple Music grew 18.5% over 2018 to reach 33.7 million. It is predicted it will grow to 37.1 million over 2020. This may be a slower rate of growth, though Apple’s service is subscriber only.

US Spotify users vs Pandora, 2017 – 2023

US Spotify users vs Pandora, 2017 - 2023

Source: eMarketer

According to Verto Analytics/Statista stats, Spotify was the fifth most popular mobile music and video app by reach in the US, as of September 2019, on 23.7%. This puts it just a shade behind Apple Music, which enjoys reach of 23.8%. Pandora is slightly behind on 16.9%, while Google Play Music on 11.7% and Amazon Music on 8.8% are further back still. This list also features iHeartRadio, which on 13.9% actually enjoys deeper penetration than the offerings from Amazon and Google.

No music streaming app can compete with YouTube’s reach of 87.7%. While the video streaming app is not dedicated to music, music accounts for a significant share of YouTube viewing, particularly in the upper echelons of the most-viewed videos. Netflix, on 24.9%, is also marginally ahead in penetration terms.

US music apps reach, September 2019 US music apps reach, September 2019

Data source: Verto Analytics/Statista

Spotify users by age

Looking at a survey of US streaming service users dating to late 2017 (new data was unavailable as of April 2020), we can see that Spotify is the most-popular channel with under-30s, with only US-specific Pandora coming close. Notably, nearly twice as many under-30s used Spotify as used Apple Music in the three months prior to the survey – perhaps something to do with the free service.

Spotify also edges out every channel but Pandora and Amazon Music (only by 1% in the latter) in the over-30s category.

Spotify users: under-30s vs. over-30s

Spotify users: under-30s vs. over-30s

Source: Goodwater Capital 

Further breaking down US Spotify users by age, we see, as with so many apps, that younger demographics dominate. The 25-34 age bracket edges out the 18-24 in this case, perhaps reflecting the more universal nature of music across age groups. This sees a less pronounced skew towards youth than we see with some apps. Interesting, the third-biggest age bracket is the over 55s. Perhaps retirement or increased leisure time is giving them more time to reacquaint themselves with the vast catalogue of music available on Spotify – if not discover something new.

US Spotify users by age and gender vs Apple Music and Pandora

Spotify user demographics

Source: Verto Analytics

Confirming what was found above, we see that Spotify has the most youthful user base of the three platforms, with over half of users aged 34 or under, compared with 40% of Apple and 39% of Pandora users. Apple Music and Pandora seem to possess broadly similar user demographics in this analysis, while Spotify stands out for its younger listenership.

Spotify users by gender

The above graphic also breaks down each service by gender. Interestingly, it reveals that Spotify is the most male-dominated platform. Apple music flips the percentages exactly, with as many female listeners as Spotify has male. Both come closer to parity than Pandora, for which close to six in 10 listeners were female.

A different US analysis corroborates the above, showing that around 23% of male respondents, and 20% of female reported that they were members of Spotify as of March 2018.

US Spotify subscribers by gender

US Spotify subscribers by gender

Source: Statista

Spotify vs radio

While physical media might be being outpaced by streaming, another industry that is increasingly finding its consumer base eroded by Spotify is commercial radio. Indeed, if we look to the UK, we can see that Spotify has a far greater reach than any commercial radio station.

Spotify vs radio reach UK

Spotify vs radio reach UK

Source: the Drum

Spotify also overtook BBC Radio 1 in early 2017, making it the most-listened to radio station overall in the UK. Notably, a handful of prescient key staff members had jumped ship from the public station to Spotify in the years preceding the coming into being of this new paradigm.

Spotify Usage Statistics

Spotify data showed that between 2014 and 2017, the average listener increased the number of unique artists to whom they listened by 37% from 30 to 41 per week.

We don’t have an update on this figure, though Spotify did reveal in December 2019 that 60% of listeners discovered an artists from outside their home country in the past month. Leaving aside the fact that 40% of listeners are trained solely on domestic artists, this shows that listeners are diversifying their Spotify listening.

Number of artists to which average Spotify user listens

Number of artists to which average Spotify user listens

Source: Spotify

The 2017 increases in artists listened to seems to chime with an increase in the number of hours spent listening to Spotify, which increased 25% over the same period.

Average listening hours on Spotify

Average listening hours on Spotify

Source: Spotify

Spotify itself reports that ad-supported listeners listen to 2.5 hours per day on average (as of 2018). This is a high figure, though not inconceivable given music can be streamed in the background of other activities. We might presume Spotify Premium subscribers listen to more than this, having paid for the pleasure of ad-free, high-quality streaming.

In early 2016, it was widely reported that the average Spotify listened to 148 minutes of music per day. So more or less unchanged.

Regional figures from GlobalWebIndex dating from H2 2018 give us slightly lower totals, with no region quite reaching the 148 minute mark:

RegionAverage daily listening time (h:mm)
APAC1:50
Europe1:39
Latin America1:57
Middle East & Africa2:04
North America2:20

Source: GlobalWebIndex

This is a high figure, though if we assume users put on music every day in the background, it’s not inconceivable.

Goodwater Capital give us a lower figure of 25 hours of content listened per month for the average Spotify user, in the last quarter of 2017.

This figure did seem to be on the up, with users listening to more and more music and other audio content on Spotify. This represents an increase of nearly a third since 2015.

Average content hours per Spotify MAU

Average content hours per Spotify MAU

Source: Goodwater Capital 

The same source indicates that 44% of these monthly-active users use Spotify on a daily basis.

Spotify user satisfaction

Spotify is well out in front when it comes to user satisfaction.

A PC Mag survey (end of year 2019) gave Spotify a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 66. Google Play Music, which it describes as nearly defunct, came in second with 60, and Pandora third on 55.

NPS measures how likely a customer is to recommend a product or service. Going back a few years to the last three quarters of 2017, Goodwater Capital published a wide ranging NPS scores of rival music streaming services. Spotify lead the way in each quarter, with scores in the region of 22-28 (being at a different time and with a different respondent base this is not comparable to PC Mag’s)

Apple Music, on the other hand, did not get a score higher than 5, while Google Play Music was in negative figures. Pandora’s 14-17 range puts it in second place, while Amazon trailed off shockingly after a decent Q2 score of 14.

Spotify user satisfaction

Spotify user satisfaction

Source: Goodwater Capital 

Spotify’s lead was even stronger among users under the age of 30. The younger demographic consistently more generally gave higher scores across platforms, apart from Pandora, which seems to score very well with over-30s.

These scores are reflective of the far higher level of comfort with streaming among younger users. We might presume, however, that in the intervening years that older users may have grown more comfortable with streaming platforms such as Spotify, as they become a more familiar part of the music landscape.

Spotify user satisfaction by age

Spotify user satisfaction by age

Source: Goodwater Capital 

Spotify devices

GlobalWebIndex Spotify stats from H2 2018 break down Spotify listening into mobile vs desktop per region, allowing overlap where users use both.

In each region, Spotify listening is dominated by mobile. The most pronounced example of this comes in the APAC region, in which 67% of Spotify listening happens on mobile devices, compared to 39% on desktops. In MEA and North America we see the highest preponderance of desktop Spotify listening, on 46%, with MEA also reporting the lowest mobile listening figure of 56% (compared to North America’s 61%).

Spotify devices by region

Spotify devices by region

Source: GlobalWebIndex

Breaking down streaming services by operating system gives some unsurprising results. iOS users are more likely to have used Apple Music, while Android users are more likely to have used Google Play Music.

Spotify, which seems to be (or have been in the last three quarters of 2017 by US users), is popular with users of both platforms, scoring behind only the native streaming services and Pandora in either instance.

We know in the intervening years that Spotify has come to supersede Pandora in terms of users, and that Google Music has faded to relative insignificance. Accordingly, Spotify may well have increased its scores in these metrics

iOS users steaming services used in three months preceding survey

iOS Spotify usage

Source: Goodwater Capital 

Android users steaming services used in three months preceding survey

Android users steaming services used in three months preceding survey

Source: Goodwater Capital 

Spotify Content Statistics

Spotify currently lists over 50 million songs, as well as over 700,000 podcast titles. Reportedly, 40,000 new songs are added to the platform every day – so that ‘over’ is doing a lot a legwork.

This, however, is not enough to give it the largest music library available. Both Apple Music and Amazon Music claim libraries of over 60 million songs. Deezer offers up a more precise 56 million, while Google Play Music is a little way behind, on 40 million.

We don’t have up-to-date figures on Pandora, but it counted 40 million in 2017 – which was around the same level as Spotify and Apple Music at the time.

Reported number of songs on Spotify vs. rival platforms, millions

Reported number of songs on Spotify vs. rival platforms, millions

Data source: Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Google, The Verge, Deezer

Most streamed on Spotify

In May 2018, the Seeb remix of Mike Posner’s “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” became the 10th song to surpass one billion streams of Spotify. The first was Drake, WizKid and Kyla”s “One Dance” in December 2016.

These were the first 10 songs to cross the 1 billion steams threshold:

Drake – “One Dance (ft. WizKid and Kyla)”

Ed Sheeran – “Shape of You”

The Chainsmokers – “Closer (ft. Halsey)”

Major Lazer – “Lean On (ft. DJ Snake and MØ)”

Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”

Justin Bieber – “Sorry”

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee – “Despacito (ft. Justin Bieber)”

Justin Bieber – “Love Yourself”

The Chainsmokers – “Don’t Let Me Down (ft. Daya)”

Mike Posner – “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” (Seeb Remix)

It took eight years of Spotify for one track to reach 1 billion streams, and 10 years for 10 songs to reach this threshold.

Since then, however, songs seem to be flooding into this elite club. As of April 2020, 75 songs have been streamed more than a billion times on Spotify, showing a huge acceleration in songs reaching this point.

This could be ascribed to a number of factors, though we might speculate algorithmic and playlisting trends driving listeners to top tracks have something to do with it. Perhaps new users are more inclined to the popular music side of the spectrum, or we’re seeing an increase in businesses using Spotify for background music. Or maybe the last two years have just seen a profusion of some of the best and most-loved songs of all time. No doubt your preferred theory will be contingent at least somewhat on your age…

Most-listened artists on Spotify by year

Spotify most-played lists tend to be dominated by the same handful of artists. For many years the most-played artist of the year was an arms race between Drake and Ed Sheeran. The Canadian artist took the title three times to the Brit’s two.

The hegemony was finally broken in 2019, with Post Malone taking the honours, with 6.5 billion global streams. In second place, with over 6 billion streams, was Billie Eilish, with Ariana Grande in third. This represents the first time any female artists have broken into even the top five. Ed Sheeran may not have topped the list for a couple of years, but he yet to be ejected from the top-five, occupying fourth in 2019.

Even Post Malone’s 2019 figures, however, pale in comparison to Drake’s 8.2 billion streams in 2018 (and his 7.4 billion in 2016). His “God’s Plan” was the most-streamed song, and Scorpion the most-streamed album.

Post Malone was, however, second in 2018, followed by XXXTentacion (who died midway through the year), J Balvin, and Ed Sheeran, coming in a relatively (for him) poor fifth.

He finished the year in fourth place, with Post Malone and XXXTENTACION overtaking him. 2018 was a relatively poor year for Sheeran, who only managed to be the fifth most streamed artist.

Ariana Grande was the top female artist, followed by Dua Lipa, Cardi B, Taylor Swift, and Camila Cabello. No female artist made it into the overall top five.

Most-listened artists by year

YearArtistTotal streams
2019Post Malone6.5 billion
2018Drake8.2 billion
2017Ed Sheeran6.3 billion
2016Drake7.4 billion
2015Drake1.8 billion
2014Ed Sheeran860 million
2013Macklemore & Ryan Lewis/

Most-listened albums and songs 2019

Billie Eilish’s WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? was the most-listened album of 2019 – also a first for a female artist, with her “bad guy” the second-most streamed song. The number one in this case was “Señorita” by Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes, with Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower” in third. Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding was the second-most streamed album, with Ariana Grande’s thank u, next in third.

The hip-hop-focussed Joe Budden Podcast with Rory & Mal was the most-listened podcast, followed by the (self-explanatory) My Favourite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, and German comedy podcast Gemischtes Hack. Notably Budden signed a contract with Spotify in 2018, which sees the former rapper adhere to a twice-weekly schedule. Comedy was the overall most-listened podcast genre.

The 2019 breakdown also revealed that the top song not released in the current decade was Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Moving to new and emerging trends, we saw Modern Bollywood the breakout genre (reflecting the move into India), and Lil Nas X, Lizzo, and Lunay the breakout artists. BTS surpassed 5 billion streams over 2019, making them the first K-Pop band to do so.

Back in 2018, Imagine Dragons were the top group, followed by Korean boyband juggernaut BTS. German-language chatshow podcast Fest und Flauschig topped the podcast charts, while crime & mystery was podcast listeners’ favourite genre.

Spotify also reported that Toto’s “Africa” was the top ‘throwback’ song of 2018 – as anyone who has been anywhere near the internet in the past five year will be able to tell you.

All-time Spotify stats

2019 marked the last year of the second decade of the 21st century, thus Spotify revealed some stats about markers for the decade.

The most-listened artist, unsurprisingly, was Drake, followed by Ed Sheeran.

Most listened artists 2010s

  1. Drake
  2. Ed Sheeran
  3. Post Malone
  4. Ariana Grande
  5. Eminem

Ariana Grande is the only woman to make the top-five. The top five female artists of the 2010s also include such luminaries as Rihanna and Taylor Swift.

Most-listened to female artists 2010s

  1. Ariana Grande
  2. Rihanna
  3. Taylor Swift
  4. Sia
  5. Beyoncé

(The Weeknd is the fifth-most listened male artist, in case you’re curious about that)

The most-streamed song of the decade was Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”. Sheeran’s “Thinking out Loud” also makes the list, in fifth.

Most-listened songs 2010s

  1. “Shape of You”, Ed Sheeran
  2. “One Dance”, Drake, Kyla, WizKid
  3. “rockstar”, 21Savage, Post Malone
  4. “Closer”, Halsey, The Chainsmokers
  5. “Thinking out Loud”, Ed Sheeran

The 2010s roundup came only two years after Spotify marked its 10th anniversary in 2018, which also saw some stats being realised on the most-played songs over the course of its first decade. Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” had already risen to the top, while Drake topped the overall most-streamed artist list.

Sheeran and Justin Bieber are the only artists to feature in the top-10 tracks twice, reflecting the very real dominance enjoyed on Spotify by a relatively limited number of artists. Looking back over the decade, other tracks to be the biggest of the respective years were The Killers’ “Human” in 2008,

Aside from these two big hitters, this top 10 featured other notable titans of the music industry, including Rihanna (who along with Ariana Grande represent the only female artists on this list), Coldplay, and Kanye West.

In total, nearly 17 million years-worth of music was streamed over the first 10 years of Spotify

Top tracks first-10 years of Spotify

Spotify 10 years top tracks and artists

Source: Spotify

When it comes to the most-followed artists, Sheeran again takes it, with 62.9 million followers (as of late April 2020) – which would qualify as one of the world’s 25 most-populous countries, ahead of Italy. Drake (naturally) is second on 46.4 million (nearly as many people as live in Spain), and Ariana Grande comes third by virtue of her 45 million fans (more than, say, Argentina).

The top-10 most-streamed songs of all time, as of late April 2020, unsurprisingly closely resembles the top songs of the 2010s. We might note that, however, even over the course of four months, we have seen a change in the standings, with Post Malone’s “Rockstar” overtaking Drake’s “One Dance” – reflecting the younger musician’s rapidly increasing clout.

If we’ve seen a change in the course of a few short months, then it is perhaps to be expected that we saw changes over the two years since the 2018 decade of Spotify list.

The top-10 for all-time streams, we might note, contains two songs released in 2018, one released in 2019 (“Dance Monkey”), with second place going to a track released in September 2017, which didn’t even feature in the top-10 in 2018.

Taking a step further back, the only song not released in the second-half of the 2010s is Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”, which only dates as far back as 2014. There is, undeniably then, a newness bias in the songs that get streamed the most. The most-played song by some distance, Sheeran’s “Shape of You” (2.48 billion streams, nearly 600 million streams ahead of any other track), was only released in January 2017. It was already the most-streamed song by the end of 2018…

Queen’s 1975 hit “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the 35th most streamed song on Spotify. It is the sole representative of the 20th century in the top 100. Indeed, it is only track to feature released prior to 2011. Going by these trends, we might expect the list in 10 years’ time to look very different to now…

In the top-10, we again see the aforementioned hegemony of a select few artists, with Ed Sheeran represented three times, and Drake and Post Malone twice.

Justin Bieber is the most regularly-occurring artist in the top-100, represented no fewer than eight times. Bieber, Post Malone (6), and Ed Sheeran (5) account for nearly one in five tracks (albeit one of these, “I Don’t Care” is a collaboration between Sheeran and Bieber).

Most-listened songs Spotify all-time

Most-listened songs Spotify all-time

Source: Spotify

Spotify as a soundtrack

Spotify listeners frequently turn to the streaming service to soundtrack special occasions.

The most-streamed song in a single day is “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey, which racked up 12 million streams on Christmas Eve 2019.

It’s not just the festive season that gets listeners looking for class soundtrack. The following graphic shows where and when Americans were listening to Bonnie Tyler’s karaoke favourite “Total Eclipse of the Heart” during the solar eclipse of August 2017. With peak listenership roughly following the “path of totality” – where the moon was blocking out the sun – we can certainly see that Spotify users have a sense of occasion.

Total Eclipse of the Heart plays during Eclipse

Source: Spotify

Viewers of the football/soccer World Cup 2018 also were found to soundtrack pivotal moments from the tournament with their sporting anthems.

According to Spotify data, streams of “Cielito Lindo”, an unofficial Mexican football anthem, increased by 1,854% after the national team’s historic victory over then defending champions Germany. While that figure may be staggering, streams of “Gangnam Style” went up by no less than 2190% after they also deposed the winners of 2014.

It’s not just bombastic songs tied in with national identity that spiked during the World Cup 2018. Streams of Queen’s “We are the Champions” increased by nearly 300% in Belgium after they knocked out joint favourites Brazil, leaving no room for doubt over the prevailing national sentiment at the time. On the other hand, when by then highly-feared Belgians were narrowly knocked out by France, the latter turned to disco hit “I Will Survive” – which spiked by 800%.

Anyone who spent any time at all in England during 2018 World Cup will be able to relate to the following graphic, that measures listens to national football anthem “Three Lions” over the day in which England defeated Colombia in a penalty shootout.

England vs. Colombia – Spotify streams of “Three Lions”

Three Lions plays England vs. Colombia

Source: Spotify

Spotify playlists

Playlists are the backbone of how content is consumed on Spotify. Over 4 billion playlists exist on the platform, according to Spotify itself.

Around a third of Spotify listening time is spent listening to Spotify-curated playlists. Slightly more than half of that amount goes on playlists personalised to each listener based on their listening history.

Just over another third goes on listening to user-generated playlists.

Percentage of time spent listening to Spotify playlists

Time spent listening to playlists on Spotify

Source: Goodwater Capital 

Inclusion on a Spotify playlist can make or break an artist’s career. A study conducted by the University of Minnesota and European Commission Joint Research Centre found that inclusion on Spotify’s “Today’s Top Hits” playlists, with around 26 million followers, increases streams by close to 20 million. In financial terms this is worth $116,000-$163,000 to an artist. Artists have even found themselves catapulted up the Billboard Hot 100 by virtue of inclusion on a playlist.

Inclusion on the “New Music Friday” playlist was also found to substantially increase the likelihood that a song would be successful – even for unknown artists. Artists, of course, are more than aware of this; accordingly, Spotify’s vice president of content reports receiving thousands of emails a day from artists looking to be included on one of Spotify’s influential playlists – indeed, artists have even began to email his children asking them to petition their father to include them on one of these playlists.

The aforementioned playlists are not the only ones for which artists are vying for inclusion. The “RapCaviar” playlist, for example, has been noted as being particularly influential. Formerly curated by ex-MTV Tuma Basa, the playlist has over 12.8 million followers, and has even spawned a series of arena tours headlines by members of the hip-hop aristocracy such as Migos and Chance the Rapper.

Not too far behind RapCaviar is “¡Viva Latino!” with 10.6 million followers, brings Latin American music to the world. It was, however, on “Baila Reggaeton”, with a little under 10 million followers, that you would have found a certain “Despacito” featuring on the very first day of its release, as well as J. Balvin’s huge hit “Mi Gente”.

The structure goes a lot deeper. Spotify has a “pyramid” of around 500 Latin playlists, through which songs usually must work their way before reaching the pinnacle of ¡Viva Latino!  

While it commands nowhere near the legion of followers of RapCaviar or ¡Viva Latino!, the “Hipster International” playlist, curated by Napster creator Sean Parker is credited with launching the career of Kiwi artist Lorde, who has gone on to become one of the world’s biggest musicians. The power of the Spotify playlist cannot be understated.

In 2017, Spotify was accused of peppering mood-based playlists with fake artists, that had hundreds of thousands of plays, yet seemingly no other presence. A strong denial was issued, with an investigation by The Verge reporting that the music was largely composed by small artists working under aliases, many working for small labels that collaborate with Spotify.

Spotify playlists: content vs. context

Marrying the two above discussions, Spotify is known to create playlists based on both content and context. So, while many playlists are based around a certain genre or period of music, others are curated to fit in with events, activities, or other contexts that might call for a curated playlist of music.

An analysis by Chartmetric of Spotify’s “Genres and Moods” category of playlists (thus including both types of playlist) shows that in terms of sheer volume, we find a greater number of followers for content rather than context-based playlists. Perhaps this is logical, as music listeners perhaps find these playlists easier to navigate based on their tastes. It is in this category that we find the big-name Spotify playlists mentioned above, as well as a whole host of smaller niche lists.

Content vs. context playlists on Spotify

Spotify context vs. content playlists

Source: Chartmetric

If we look at them in terms of followers, however, we can see that context-based playlists seem to boast a far higher median follower count. Interestingly, though, both are outstripped by hybrid playlists, which are considered to take a little from each category (think “Latin Dance Cardio” or “Dance Party”).

Followers of content and context playlists on Spotify

Followers of content and context playlists on Spotify

Source: Charmetric

This is also borne out if we look at these playlists in terms of growth. Hybrid Spotify playlists outstrip content and context-based playlists in terms of both median and mean average growth. Taking them out of the equation, we see that content-based Spotify playlists boast a higher median follower gain, but a lower mean follower gain than context-based Spotify playlists. This reveals, then, that a concentration of highly-followed context playlists account for a significant share of followers. Followers of content-based playlists are more evenly spread out across the sample.

Content and context playlists on Spotify: Follower gain

Followers of content and context playlists on Spotify

Source: Charmetric

The Spotify algorithm

One of Spotify’s most-loved features is the user-specific playlists generated at first weekly and now daily for each listener, based on their listening history. The Spotify algorithm serves users tracks based on their crossover with other listeners’ histories, natural language processing (scouring the internet to look at terms associated with any given track or artist), and raw audio models, which are analysed using “convolutional neural networks”.

It’s complex and mysterious in its specific workings, but users are known to comment on the sometimes-disarming accuracy with which the Spotify algorithm, can identify new tracks and artists that any given user will love.

Below is an example of a “taste profile” of Quartz writer Adam Pasick, and an illustrative map showing how these focus areas are generated.

Spotify taste profile

Spotify taste profile

Source: Quartz

Spotify taste profile map

Spotify taste profile map

Source: Quartz

An AI system called BaRT is in charge of regulating the Spotify homepage, serving users a mixtures of customised playlists and suggestions based on their listening histories. This is very much the nexus of user engagement for Spotify.

Curated playlists and suggestions are based on users’ listening histories. 30 seconds is deemed to be the cut off point to determine whether or not a user is enjoying a suggested track.

Mainstream and alternative listening on Spotify

Ajay Kalia, Spotify’s product owner for taste profiles conducted research in 2015 on how listeners’ tastes change as they age. He found that between the ages of 14 and 35, our taste slowly moves away from the mainstream (that is artists who are more popular). After this point, it tends to stay fixed at a certain point, with a slight dip back towards more popular songs perceived at around 42.

Spotify taste by age

Spotify taste by age

Source: Skynet and Ebert

If we separate the results into male and female listeners, we see that female listeners tend to remain closer to the mainstream overall, and hit peak divergence a little older – at 42, with a few more lurches in and out. Male listeners, on the other hand, seem to stick at around the same level from their early 30s, perhaps indicative of more entrenched listening habits.

Spotify taste by age and gender

Spotify taste by age and gender

Source: Skynet and Ebert

Kalia also found that those who are parents tend to diverge further from the mainstream, and continue to move further and further away from popular artists as they get older. Perhaps to ensure that their children will never find them cool…

Spotify Revenue Statistics

In Q1 2020, Spotify revenue stood at €1.85 billion ($2 billion, May 2020 exchange rates used except where specified), €1.7 billion ($1.84 billion) of this coming from Premium subscriptions. This represents a small decrease on the €1.86 billion reported in Q4 2018, and a 22% increase year-on-year. It is not unusual for Q1 to be a weaker quarter for app revenue than the preceding Q4 so we can’t read too much into that small decline.

Spotify revenue by quarter, Q1 2016 – Q4 2019

Spotify revenue by quarter, Q1 2016 - Q4 2019

Source: Statista

Spotify gross profit for this quarter stood at €472 million ($511 million), which represents a very slight decrease on Q4 2019’s €474 million ($513 million). Year-on-year, we are looking at a €99 million ($107 million) or 29% increase.

Gross margin, at 25.5%, is more or less consistent with Q4 2019’s 25.6%, and up on Q1 2019’s 24.7%.

In terms of operating margin, Spotify remains in the red, though a deficit of €17 million ($18 million) and negative margin of 0.9% represents a quarter-on-quarter improvement on Q4 2019’s deficit of €77 million ($83 million) at 4.1% and a year-on-year improvement on Q1 2019’s deficit of €47 million ($51 million) and negative margin of 3.1%. This is expected to increase over 2020, however, with Q2 2020 loss estimated at €45-95 million ($49-103 million).

These losses have hit shareholder earnings, with earnings per share coming in -€0.20 (-$0.22), albeit this is an improvement on Q1 2019’s -€0.79 (-$0.86).

In November 2018, Spotify announce a plan to repurchase $1 billion of publicly-traded shares. Over the course of 2019, 3.7 million shares were repurchased for €422 million ($457 million), at an average cost of €131.81 ($142.77). This followed on from 0.7 million shares purchased in 2018 for €77 million ($83 million). No repurchase activity took place over Q1 2020.

The repurchase initiative is set to continue until April 2021.

Spotify predicts that revenue will come in at €1.75-1.95 billion ($1.9-2.11 billion) in Q2 2020, and €7.65-8.05 billion ($8.29-8.72 billion) over the course of the full year, revised down from €8.08-8.48 billion

Spotify warns that these predictions are subject to a large degree of uncertainty.

Spotify annual revenue and costs

Spotify 2019 revenue came to a total of €6.7 billion ($7.3 billion), with gross profit of €1.7 billion. This follows on from €5.3 billion ($5.9 billion) Spotify revenue in 2018, with gross profit standing at €1.4 billion ($1.6 billion), €4.1 billion ($4.6 billion) in 2017, with gross profit at €849 million ($953 million).

Spotify annual revenue and gross profit, 2015 – 2019, billions of euros

Spotify annual revenue and gross profit, 2015 - 2019

Source: Statista

Spotify’s total pre-tax losses came to €131 million over 2019 ($142 million), an improvement over 2018’s €173 million ($187 million) before tax, which itself was a considerable improvement on the €1.2 billion in 2017 ($1.3 billion). Total losses for 2020 are estimated to be slightly higher, at an estimated €150-250 million ($162-217 million).

In terms of costs, in 2019 Spotify spent €615 million ($666 million), on R&D, €826 million ($895 million) on sales & marketing, and €354 million $(383 million) on general & administrative. Cost of revenue was €5 billion ($5.4 billion).

Spotify Premium vs. ads revenue

Of Spotify’s revenue in Q1 2020, €1.7 billion ($1.85 billion) came from Premium subscribers, while ad-supported users generated €148 million ($161 million) – showing just how reliant on the subscriptions Spotify’s business model is.

Notably the second figure represents a considerable decline on Q4 2018, in which ads brought in €217 million ($236 million) worth of revenue. We might be able to ascribe this to advertisers looking for airtime during the Christmas period, in which Spotify no doubt has come to serve as a solution to soundtracking festive parties.

Cutting the festive period out of the equation, we might note that Q3 2019 saw €170 million ($185 million) ad revenue for Spotify, down on €175 million ($190 million) the preceding quarter.

Spotify artists and labels payments

Spotify pays out around 52% of revenue to record labels, who would then pay their artists anywhere from 15% to 50% of that, depending on their status.

As of September 2018, however, Spotify offers a service to artists who want to directly upload music to Spotify. They would then receive 50% of the net revenue generated, cutting the label out of the equation.

Over 85% of music streamed from Spotify belongs to four record labels: Sony, Universal, Warner, and Merlin (Merlin is actually a licensing agency for independent labels). In 2017 Spotify singed a deal to pay a minimum of $2 billion to two undisclosed labels (thought to be Universal and Merlin) in order to be able to negotiate better rates for itself.

Spotify claims to have paid €15 billion ($16.3 billion) out to music rights holders over the course of its existence.

Despite the size of this figure, Spotify has attracted a good deal of criticism over the years of its existence for the paltry sums paid out to artists.

Back in 2015, a Spotify stream was estimated to be worth about $0.006 to 0.0084 to an artist, meaning a million streams would translate as $7,000. Given most artists would struggle to make a living from such rates, it’s clear that Spotify’s model does not take artist income into account.

A more recent (2019) SoundCharts study looking at the average royalty payouts per stream reports that artists earn the considerably lower sum of $0.00318/stream on Spotify. This compares relatively poorly to royalties offered by its various competitors. Amazon are not always a company associated with generosity, but interestingly Amazon Music tops the list in terms of average payment per stream on $0.01196/stream. YouTube Premium delivers $0.00803, Apple offers $0.00563, and Google Play $0.00551. Pandora’s rate, on the other hand, is even lower than Spotify, at $0.00151.

Aside from Amazon, the highest figures are generated on a per stream basis by Napster ($0.00989) and Tidal ($0.00802).

After these stats were collated, Deezer changed its model to a user-centric payment system which sees artists get a fairer share of revenue.

We should also note that these figures are an approximation, with the reality of how payouts are calculated a little more complex, contingent on a number of variables.

Average payment per stream by platform

Average payment per stream by platform

Source: SoundCharts

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Taylor Swift are among the artists who have criticised Spotify for this in the past. Swift went so far as to remove her music from the platform, though returned a few years later after her 1989 album surpassed 10 million sales. Yorke poetically called Spotify “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”, and criticised its role as tastemaker, saying that it worked against smaller artists seeking a breakthrough.

Spotify claims to pay 70% of revenue back to the music industry, though it has been noted this applies chiefly to major label music, and not podcasts, for instance. It is estimated that three major labels make £19 million a day from streaming – a figure that will be of little reassurance to artists feeding on scraps of this. Back in 2017, Spotify had actually requested that labels reduce royalty rates in order to become financial stable. It also appealed against a decision from the US Copyright Royalty Board to award songwriters a 44% rate increase by 2022.

Artists petitioned Spotify to raise its royalty rates in March 2020, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, in order to help them survive. In the same month, however, Spotify had in fact asked for artists pay it money in exchange for on-platform promotion.

Those who view Spotify’s twin role as a distribution platform and tastemaker as something of a conflict of interest may find this news troubling.

Spotify label share value

In order to get Spotify off the ground initially, shares in the company were given to the aforementioned labels, plus EMI.

Labels’ initial shares in Spotify

Labels’ initial shares in Spotify

Source: Music Business Worldwide

In April 2018, Sony sold half of its stock in Spotify, worth a 6% of the company, for $750 million, promising to pay out proceeds to artists. Warner was not far behind in selling $400 million of stock – around 75% of its total equity, making a similar promise to distribute the money to recording artists. It would later go on to sell the remaining 25%, bringing the total to $504 million.

Merlin sold its entire stock the same month for an undisclosed sum, thought to be between $130 and $150 million.

Spotify ARPU

Spotify ARPU has been declining – to the chagrin of some invested parties (namely: record labels). Rolling Stone reported in January 2019, that the average user was paying $5.50/month.

The article suggests that the prevailing trends would resulted in ARPU going below $5. This has been borne out, with Spotify ARPU as of Q1 2020 at €4.42 or $4.79.

Several factors are at play here. Student/family subscriptions, for example, see discounted rates being applied. Expansion into new territories is another – subscriptions are cheaper in places like Asia and Latin America, to reflect different levels of disposable income. And, of course, there are various offers and deals.

Following the lead of Goodwater Capital (see below) we’ve compared Spotify ARPU against that other mainstay of the streaming world, Netflix, from Q1 2018-Q1 2020. Netflix has a good deal more subscribers at this point (183 million to Spotify’s 130 million).

We can see from this graph that Netflix reports considerably higher ARPU than the music service – over twice as high, in fact. Netflix, of course, delivers a very different service, and is also in the business of content creation and distribution.

Both show small fluctuations in the period covered but there’s no real discernible major trend, beside slight divergence in 2019 as Netflix ARPU increased and Spotify ARPU decreased.

Note that we’ve converted Spotify ARPU from euros into dollars for the entire period at April 2020 exchange rates. The dollar was considerably weaker against the euro at the start of the period measured in the graphic but has since recovered. In real terms the figure would have been worth more against Netflix. This would have resulted in a more sharply downward trend for Spotify based on exchange rate mechanisms alone.

Spotify vs. Netflix ARPU

Spotify vs. Netflix ARPU

Source: Spotify and Netflix

As we mentioned above, Goodwater Capital conducted the same exercise in 2018, looking back at the years 2013 and 2017

This tells a different story. Looking back to 2013, Spotify actually brought in more per user than Netflix. The intervening years, however, saw Spotify ARPU head steadily downward, while Netflix ARPU edged upward.

Of course, ARPU must be considered in context, and we might note that Netflix’s financials are not viewed as a bed of roses.

Spotify revenue per subscriber vs. Netflix

Spotify revenue per subscriber vs. Netflix

Source: Goodwater Capital 

Spotify revenue as share of global music industry revenue

It won’t be news to those who follow the music business that streaming has come to be the dominant medium through which music is consumed – overtaking physical records as a revenue source for the music industry in April 2018. Despite its pirate roots, streaming has become the engine room of revenue generated from recorded music.

The growth of the subscription model has seen consecutive years of revenue growth in the industry, which have seen revenue figures not too far off those we last saw when physical media was preeminent.

2019 marked the fifth consecutive year of revenue growth, according to the IFPI Global Music Report 2020. In total, industry revenue grew by 8.2%, reaching a total of $20.2 billion – higher than 2003 revenue. Coronavirus may put paid to this upward curve (unless it drives new users to streaming services in lieu of missed concerts), but it is to these strong figures the industry will hope to return.

In total, streaming accounted for 56.1% of music industry revenue – a total of $11.4 billion. Breaking this down, 42% was generated from 341 million subscriptions, with 14.1% coming from ad-supported streams. Total streaming revenue rose by 22.9%, with subscription revenue specifically rising by 24.1%.

IFPI figures do not break out figures by platform, but we can make our own calculations based on what we know. Spotify revenue came to $7.3 billion in 2019, which would give it a huge 64% share of total streaming revenue, from 36% of total subscriptions.

Spotify’s 2019 subscription revenue comes to €6.1 billion – or $6.61 billion. This would come to around 78% of total subscription revenue by this measure. Spotify 2019 ad revenue came to €678 million, or $735 million, accounting for 25%.

We should perhaps takes this figures as a guide rather than gospel, owing to the complications that tend to arise from comparing two different datasets from two different sources. It does seem to be far too high…

Perhaps the only safe assumption would be: Spotify is responsible for a good deal of global streaming revenue.

Streaming share of global music market revenue

Streaming share of global music market revenue

Source: IFPI

 Spotify market cap

Spotify went public in April 2018, listing on the New York Stock Exchange, opting for a direct listing instead of the standard IPO process.

The opening price of Spotify shares was $165.90, up on the guide price of $132. The day closed with stock priced at a shade under $150, giving Spotify a valuation of $26.5 billion.

Spotify stock price has been fairly tumultuous since then, rising to a high of $192.38 in July 2018, but coming down fairly hard from late September onwards. This culminated in a low of $106.84 in December 2019. Prices have been up and down since then, standing at $144.49 in early May 2020.

This gives us a Spotify market cap of $26.87 billion. This figure had risen as high as $35 billion in those heady days in the summer of 2018.

Spotify stock price history

Streaming share of global music market revenue

Source: Google

Final Thoughts

Spotify can be considered, along with Netflix, to be one of the key drivers of a sea change in the way we consume culture. Before, we would pay for each individual film or album (or even song), which would then be in our possession for as long as we took care of it.

That model would probably seem hopelessly antiquated to anyone coming of age in the third decade of the 21st century. The access model – whereby we pay for unlimited access to as many different works as we can consume, so long as we keep paying our monthly rate – is now clearly the dominant form of consumption.

There is a question, though, which separates Netflix and Spotify. The film industry seems to be in rude health. And importantly, Netflix is investing in the creation of original content – giving something back to the art form through which it rose to prominence.

Music, on the other hand, is a form which has hugely suffered from the move away from physical media. Certainly, grandee artists can get by on the strength of arena performances, licensing, and lucrative deals with record labels – raking in a little bit extra from streaming. For emerging artists, however, Spotify represents a problematic shift in the way the business operates. These smaller artists cannot rely on ticket sales, and certainly cannot expect to make a living from streaming revenue.

That Spotify has tried to reduce the amount it pays out to labels in order to ensure its own survival and will reassure few artists. Labels are hardly a model of benevolence, but it is they who actually put money in artists’ pockets.

To this we can add the issue of Spotify operating as a tastemaker, given the huge listenership attracted by its playlists and the influence of its algorithms. The idea that something as highly-valued as pop music is in the hands of a global tech juggernaut concerned mostly with its own bottom line is problematic for aficionados as well as artists – particularly when it is also the main distribution channel.

How the music industry and Spotify learn to work together will be on the key things which observers will be watching in years to come. The other, of course, will be the rise of Apple Music as a key rival. Apple are not a company anyone would want as a competitor. It remains to be seen whether Spotify can maintain its healthy lead – particularly given its somewhat tempestuous experience as a publicly-listed company so far.

While we should never turn away from these issues, we should also note, however, that Spotify is also a dream-come-true for music fans. Listeners have access to nearly the entire mainstream Western canon of music (and much from beyond it) available at a few clicks, in high quality. For all but seekers of rare obscurities, there’s enough music on Spotify to comfortably last the rest of any given user’s life. This would have been totally unimaginable 20 years ago.

Let’s not also forget that Spotify saw off the challenge posed by illegal downloading to the music industry. While musicians have certainly been hurt, at least the current model at least acknowledges that we should pay to listen to music if we can. That is a start at the very least.

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