The question of how long the ‘long tail’ of streaming is – and also how miserable it might be – has long been a subject for debate in the music industry. US analytics firm Alpha Data has some new figures to contribute, but they may not make reassuring reading for musicians lower down that tail.

Rolling Stone, which uses Alpha Data for its charts, has the story. “If you were to take the more than 1.6 million artists who released music to streaming services in the past year and a half and ranked them by their total streams, you’d find that the top 16,000 of those artists pulled in 90 percent of the streams,” it reported.

What’s more, the top 10% of artists – that’s 160,000 or so – accounted for 99.4% of those streams. Which means that more than 1.4 million artists are scrapping for 0.6% of streams. “Almost half of the artists analysed saw fewer than 100 streams,” added Rolling Stone.

This is useful data, and it chimes with Spotify’s recent announcement that 43,000 artists account for 90% of its streams. In March 2018 CEO Daniel Ek told investors that Spotify had three million artists on its platform. We don’t have an updated artists figure, but if it had stayed at three million, that would mean just over 1.4% accounted for 90% of Spotify streams. Assuming the number of artists has grown, it’ll be closer to Alpha Data’s 1% stat.

But of course, share of streams only tells part of the story: share of money – and how much of that money is left by the time it actually gets to the musicians – is the key to understanding how many artists are making a sustainable living from streams of their music.

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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  1. It would be really informative to see how many of the 1.6M artists who released music to streaming services were professional artists – ie; This was the primary focus of their life – recording, touring, etc. Just because in 2020 you can record and put music on a streaming service doesn’t mean that anyone will care.

  2. Rich, I think it might be possible to work that out. (I’m going to have a try in the next week or so.) Equally, Chartmetric’s data implies about 100,000 active professional artists/bands in the world…

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