Spotify has released its annual year in music list, naming Drake the most-played artist of the year. The Canadian rapper pulled off the victory with a whopping 1.8 billion streams across 46 million listeners up to this point. That said, Ed Sheeran still reigns supreme as Spotify’s most streamed artist of all time, with over 3 billion streams to his name to this point.
The stats come from the mountains of data Spotify collects from its throng of 75 million listeners (including both paid subscribers, and listeners on the service’s free, ad-based tier). All told, that massive listener base streamed over 20 billion hours of music in 2015. In addition to listening albums and songs directly from artists’ pages, and via playlists like Discover Weekly and Spotify Radio, users also created over 2 billion playlists.
Interestingly, the top five most streamed artists — Drake, Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd, Maroon 5, and Kanye West — were all male, with female musicians failing to generate enough streams to reach break through. That said, women are still racking up a ton of plays on the service, with Rihanna topping the list of female artists on over 1 billion streams, followed by Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and Ellie Goulding. In another bit of statistical curiosity, Rihanna also had more individual listeners than Drake, with 57 million, possibly indicating a more die-hard set of fans for the male artist.
The most popular on-demand streaming service in the world, Spotify had over 20 million paying subscribers at last count, and 55 million more ad-based freeloaders. In terms of total listeners, the service is just five million behind internet radio streamer Pandora, which has been floating around 80 million for some time now.
Critics of the service say that Spotify and companies like it aren’t paying out enough to artists, with a cryptic payment system that adds up to somewhere between $.006 to $.0084 being paid out to artists per play. To put that in perspective in terms of this year end list, Drake can expect to get a check for as much as $15 million dollars for his 1.8 billion streams, though it doesn’t always work out that way — just ask Taylor Swift.
Spotify executives maintain that as the service grows its user base even further, payouts to all artists will increase dramatically. But just how much the rise of streaming services have affected other aspects of an artist’s earning portfolio, such as the loss of revenue through paid downloads, is still in flux.