Deconstructing the Spotify Delusion

by | Sep 30, 2022 | Uncategorized

This post is part of The Renegade Musician Series.

If you’re an intelligent musician, then you already understand well what I’m about to share. Otherwise, fair warning, you’re about to have your bubble burst.

The facts and figures that follow mostly come from a 2020 Rolling Stone article and a 2022 Music Business Worldwide article, but you can double check the facts for yourself – that’s the responsible thing to do.

Spotify’s mission, which they’ve repeatedly insisted on publishing in their annual results is:

… to unlock the potential of human creativity by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art.

Bear this in mind as you read what follows.

Currently, the top tier Spotify artists, numbered at 43,000, account for 90% of streams. That’s just 4.3% of the one million creatives Spotify is supposed to be liberating.

What Rolling Stone goes onto explain is that the top 43,000 are earning $963 million of the $1.07 billion generated for all artists. That’s essentially $22,395 per top tier artist, per quarter. These financial figures are based on projections, but we don’t expect they’re too far removed from reality.

In 2020, Spotify’s creator base was three million. That number has more than doubled in two years to eight million.

But sticking with the three million for just a moment, if you subtract the top tier 43,000, you’re left with 2,957,000 non top tier artists who are making just $12 per month, on average. To make more than that, you’d need to join the top 1.4% of artists on Spotify.

For Spotify to ever reach its goal of helping one million artists, 957,000 artists would have to join the top tier. What is the likelihood of that?

Even as Spotify’s creator base continues to increase, the figures aren’t going to change. It will always be the top 1.4% of artists benefiting most from the platform. 1.4% of eight million is 112,000 artists, not quite three times the 43,000 referenced earlier, and not anywhere near the same ballpark as the one million they want to create an opportunity for.

I’m a fan of another dynamic known as the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule. It shows that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes. This rule can be used to your advantage, and I will be addressing how in another post.

But here’s a stat you won’t like – nearly 80% of artists on Spotify have fewer than 50 monthly listeners.

The 80/20 rule isn’t just a rule. It’s more of a law. It plays out like clockwork in virtually every domain.

Look, for your sake, I hope you and I transition into the “top tier” Spotify artist club. But accurate thinking dictates that this is exceedingly unlikely, and we would be wasting our time trying to get there, especially when there are better things we could be doing.

Why the industry, business, and even independent artists continue to clamor around Spotify is anybody’s guess. Shills and charlatans pushing Spotify strategy are partly to blame.

But we can’t blame Spotify. Returning once again to the famous stat cited by the legendary Earl Nightingale, only one in 100 will become wealthy and only four in 100 will become financially independent. The same dynamic will continue to play out again and again, regardless of platform or their stated mission. It will play out regardless of your chosen artistic path.

95% of independent artists clamor around Spotify. Because they’re clueless.

Here it is in a big, flashing, neon red stop sign:


I don’t care whether it’s gigging and live performance, direct response advertising, or eCommerce. There are better ways of earning an income from your music that deserve more of your attention (and, of course, there are more strategic routes as well).

Don’t give Spotify 80% of your attention, because if you do, it will only ever amount to 20% of your results. Flip the script. Give Spotify and streaming platforms 20% of your attention and dedicate 80% of your valuable time to high value tasks. Even writing songs is a better use of your time. Streaming royalties are the cherry on top, and if they’re amounting to more than that, you’re in the top echelon of artists. If that’s you, you’re welcome to cast aside this post.

Streaming royalties are the cherry on top, and if they’re amounting to more than that, you’re in the top echelon of artists. Share on X

Don’t be discouraged. We will be looking at your best alternatives throughout in posts that follow. For now, see this through the lens of accurate thinking. To know what to embrace, you must know what to betray.

Take advantage of The Most Incredible Back to School Sale while you still can.