For artists participating in the Big Tech-driven streaming economies of Apple Music, Spotify, and beyond, it's no secret that there's a vast chasm between the haves and the have nots. 

But how large is that gulf really? A new Rolling Stone piece published by Tim Ingham, founder of Music Business Worldwide, sought to answer that question by piecing together nuggets of data released by Spotify's own volition. Unfortunately, what unfolded was the revelation of deep inequality within an increasingly crowded digital landscape. 

It all starts from one sobering big picture statistic. Nearly 57,000 artists on Spotify are vying for their share of around $4.5 billion, which represents 90% of the royalties Spotify pays annually. According to Spotify's statistics outlined in their Loud & Clear value proposition, these artists are touted as a benchmark for success. But they collectively represent just 0.8% of the artists on the platform.

Streaming Data

A pie chart breakdown of the earnings enjoyed by tier for Spotify's top 0.8% of creators.

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However, the divide increases dramatically when considering the estimated take-home pay for the upper echelons of creator society. Ingham defines this subset as artists making at least $50,000 or more annually, of which there are just 13,400 creators, or 0.2%. Even within this small subset of "haves," the lion's share of the rewards are enjoyed by few. That is encapsulated by the stat maintaining that only 870 artists take home over $1 million from Spotify per year.

In lieu of these statistics and more, the battle for fairer artist pay is beginning to find a new battleground at the federal level. Earlier this month, a UK Parliamentary probe prescribed a "complete reset" to the streaming economy for this very reason.


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