Ed Sheeran has become the first musician to generate more than 500m Spotify streams from a single track: Thinking Out Loud. For those of you unconvinced by his angelic demeanour, that’s 6.66 streams per active Spotify user.
Alongside the 500m figure, Spotify published some more figures for Sheeran’s performance on the streaming service, though. His overall catalogue has been streamed 2.9bn times; his tracks appear on around 38m playlists, with a quarter of Spotify users having added at least one of his tracks to a personal playlist.
There’s some familiar maths to do with the 2.9bn streams stat: Sheeran’s catalogue should have generated between $17.4m and $24.4m in payouts to rightsholders IF Spotify’s average per-stream payout – first published in December 2013 – remains between $0.006 and $0.0084.
(The reason for the capital ‘IF’ – there has been debate over whether the average per-stream payout has fallen since December 2013 as Spotify has grown, even if the company hasn’t updated its public figure.)
There’s also an interesting comparison to be made with YouTube, though. Thinking Out Loud’s 500m Spotify streams are outgunned by its official video’s 755m views on YouTube, not to mention 19.3m views of an official acoustic version and 1.3m views of an “official fan video” – plus any views of user-uploaded videos featuring the song that have been claimed and monetised by Sheeran’s label on his behalf.
But when you look at total streams/views for Ed Sheeran, there’s a different story: his 2.9bn audio streams on Spotify compare to his YouTube channel’s 2.2bn views – again, the latter figure doesn’t include claimed/monetised views from other YouTube channels.
If you use YouTube’s Artist Insights tool, it records just under 3bn views of Sheeran’s music since September 2014 – a figure that does include user uploads. And while we’re comparing the two services – albeit in an apples-to-oranges way – Sheeran has 7.4m subscribers to his YouTube channel, and 19.1m monthly Spotify listeners.
Comparing YouTube and audio streaming services is an increasingly popular music-industry pastime. For example, British music body the BPI revealed in July that audio streams rose 80% to 11.5bn in the first half of 2015 – but that video streams of music rose by 98.2% to 12.5bn.
Yet in the case of Ed Sheeran, this is less about one service being better than another, and more about the way both are fuelling his popularity and income: from touring – MBW estimates that his recent three-night run at Wembley Stadium grossed $16.1m alone – sync deals and other revenue streams. And sales, of course: His album ‘X’ sold 4.4m copies in 2014 alone.
Sheeran himself outlined all this in October 2014. “I’m in the music industry to play live. That’s why I make records, that’s why I do radio interviews, that’s why I do Amazon events, that’s why I put things on Spotify,” he told an audience of fans at a promotional gig for Amazon.
“Having recorded music is fantastic, but playing live is where I buzz the most. This album was streamed 26 million times in the first week on Spotify, and that means 26 million people have heard my album. That means a tenth of them might consider buying a ticket or going to a festival, and that’s enough for me to tour very comfortably.”
“I know a lot of artists are a bit iffy about it, and to be honest, I did get a royalty cheque from Spotify that was about £4. It’s one of those things, but for me, the more iPods, phones and computers that I’m on, the better, because I just want to play.”