Spotify has revealed it paid $7bn to music industry rights holders last year, accounting for almost 25% of the industry’s total revenues.

The news came on the company’s Loud and clear website, which was launched last year with the aim of “increasing transparency” around its payments. The streaming giant said 52,600 artists earned more than $10,000 (£7,500) from Spotify in 2021. Of those, 130 were paid more than $5m (£3.8m) over the last 12 months. Spotify did not name any of the artists involved, but its most-streamed acts last year were Bad Bunny, Taylor Swift, BTS, Drake and Justin Bieber. While the most-streamed song was Olivia Rodrigo’s Drivers License.

However, these figures announced by Spotify do not reveal the entire truth.

For example, an artist whose music earns $10,000 in Spotify royalties might only receive $2,000, once the record label and publishers take their share. For a seven-piece band like BTS, that $2,000 be split seven ways.

Songwriters and session musicians are paid even less, with many struggling to make ends meet.

Even so, Spotify’s data provides some insights into how artists are faring in the streaming era – with earnings falling into the following brackets:

  • $10,000 – $49,999: 36,100 artists
  • $50,000 – $99,999: 7,000 artists
  • $100,000 – $499,999: 7,330 artists
  • $500,000 – $999,999: 1,130 artists
  • $1,000,000 – $1,999,999: 590 artists
  • $2,000,000 – $4,999,999: 320 artists
  • $5m and above: 130 artists

Spotify also estimated that once revenues from rival streaming sites and CD sales were taken into account, most of these artists will have made about $40,000 (£30,000) last year.

The BPI, which represents the British music industry, says nearly 2,000 artists achieved more than 10 million UK streams in 2021, up 25% from the 2020 figure.

“The rise of streaming has empowered more artists than ever – from all backgrounds and eras – to build new fanbases around the world and to forge successful careers in music,” said BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that total music industry revenues rose 18.5% in 2021 to reach $25.9bn (£19.5bn), the highest level since records began in the 1990s. On its Loud And Clear website, Spotify boasted about its contribution to that figure, claiming that its “$7bn total is the largest sum paid by one retailer to the music industry in one year in history – including any single retailer at the height of the CD or digital download era.”