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Who Are The Artists That Spotify Paid Big Bucks In 2023?

Updated: May 1

As reported by Billboard, Spotify, the world's leading music streaming service, paid out $9 billion in music royalties in 2023, with $4.5 billion going to independent artists. The company's latest Loud & Clear report, released on Tuesday (Mar. 19), revealed that the number of artists who made at least $10,000 in royalties from Spotify rose 16% to 66,000. This is twice the growth rate in artists earning at least $10,000 compared to the previous year. The report also revealed that 11,600 artists made $100,000 from Spotify in 2023, compared to 10,100 the prior year, indicating a 15% growth.

Spotify's fourth annual Loud & Clear report aims to allow one million creators the opportunity to make a living from their art, a statement that goes back to CEO Daniel Ek at the company’s 2017 investor day presentation. The report highlights how independent artists can make a living from streaming royalties.

Last year, a quarter of the 66,000 artists in the $10,000 club were self-distributed through do-it-yourself platforms such as DistroKid and TuneCore. Unlike artists signed to record labels, self-distributed artists can pocket the entirety of their streaming royalties minus any distribution fees.

The report provides an update on the company's goal of allowing one million creators the opportunity to make a living from their art. The number of artists who made substantial royalties on the platform continues to grow, with the number of artists who made $10,000 from Spotify (66,000) last year being 2.8 times the 23,400 who reached that level in 2017. The number of artists who reached the $100,000 threshold in 2023 (11,600) was 2.7 times higher than in 2017; and the number of artists who earned $1 million (4,300) last year was also 2.7 times higher. Over that period, Spotify’s annual revenue grew 3.2 times, rising from 4.1 billion euros ($4.6 billion) to 13.2 billion euros ($14.3 billion), according to the company’s financial statements.

Spotify's report states that the universe of working musicians is much larger than the 66,000 artists who earned $10,000 last year. The company says there are 225,000 emerging or professional recording artists globally.

Separately, 235,000 artists have released at least 10 songs in their careers, a group that averages at least 10,000 monthly listeners.

The Loud & Clear report also emphasizes that streaming is benefitting artists around the world. Of the 66,000 artists who generated at least $10,000 in Spotify royalties in 2023, more than half are from countries where English is not the first language. This is because Spotify is available in 184 countries and territories and has a major presence in large markets like India, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, and France, with strong local, non-English music scenes.

To gain a greater understanding of which artists might be in Spotify’s $1 million club, Billboard explored a list of Luminate’s top 1,000 U.S. artists ranked by audio on-demand streaming. The list references a few younger artists that have found success in the streaming era — such as Jelly Roll (No. 66), The Neighbourhood (No. 102) and PinkPantheress (No. 144) — and depend on streaming royalties more than more successful artists with greater touring exposure.  

The larger portion of top streaming artists are older musicians earning more from touring than streaming royalties: Fleetwood Mac (No. 54), George Strait (No. 97), AC/DC (No. 110), Elton John (No. 125), P!nk (No. 128), Billy Joel (No. 169), Journey (No. 172), Motley Crue (No. 395) and Garth Brooks (No. 489), among many others.   

The top 1,000 list also includes defunct bands and bands that haven’t released new music in more than 10 years. : the Beatles (No. 49), Queen (No. 87), Nirvana (No. 112), Creedence Clearwater Revival (No. 134), Led Zeppelin (No. 151), Abba (No. 318), Bee Gees (No. 328), The Smiths (No. 341) and the Grateful Dead (No. 444).

The received music royalties are of value, but these artists have found financial stability without them.

Other top-streaming artists are deceased: Juice WRLD (No. 15), 2Pac (No. 89), Frank Sinatra (No. 109), Elvis Presley (No. 146), Notorious B.I.G. (No. 150), Bob Marley (No. 167), Johnny Cash (No. 245), Dean Martin (No. 336), Prince (No. 362), Jimmy Buffet (No. 425), Tom Petty (No. 428), David Bowie (No. 441) and John Denver (No. 470).

There are also artists who have sold their rights to investors who are unable to pocket their Spotify proceeds for their work. Katy Perry (No. 82) sold her recorded music catalog to Litmus Capital. Kenny Chesney (No. 157) sold a majority stake in his recorded music catalog to Hipgnosis Song Management. Jason Aldean (No. 50) sold a portion of his recorded music catalog to Spirit Music Group. Primary Wave acquired a 50% stake in Whitney Houston’s master recording revenue. The list of contemporary artists who sold their publishing rights is long; the list also includes Future (No. 12), Bruno Mars (No. 57), Imagine Dragons (No. 58), and Metro Boomin (No. 132).  

However, a large number of artists fall short of the $1 million club. Those fortunate enough to be earning $1 million a year from Spotify have secured a good living by way of touring, merch, sponsorships, and other areas.

The aim of Loud & Clear is to point out the financial opportunities Spotify provides to those artists the report calls the “most dependent on streaming as part of their livelihood.” Though the number of artists who make a living from Spotify is still relatively small, the number increases yearly. For that middle class of artists, streaming pays much better than it used to.

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