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Cents and Sounds: How Music Streaming Makes Money

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Music Streaming Infographic

How Music Streaming Makes Money

The global music market experienced its fourth consecutive year of growth in 2018, generating over $19 billion in revenue. Music streaming now accounts for almost half of that revenue, with 255 million paid users worldwide.

music streaming revenue

Today’s infographic from Global Web Index compares the popularity of streaming services, exploring how streaming behavior differs by age group and region.

While listeners can now gain access to an abundance of streaming options—is the success of the industry good news for everyone?

The Age of Streaming

Streaming platforms are web-based services that allow users to listen to high-definition music without having to download and store large files.

The foundations of music streaming were laid by peer-to-peer file sharing system Napster when it was created in 2001, followed by Apple’s iTunes a couple of years later. Spotify, in an attempt to combat music piracy, was founded in 2006 by Swedish duo Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.

Today, 68% of adults use a music streaming service of some kind. According to Global Web Index, Gen Z leads the way with the highest average streaming times, accessing their favorite tracks across multiple platforms.

How Streaming Platforms Make Money

There are currently 33 active streaming platforms available, with a range of different features and characteristics available. Spotify and Apple Music, the largest of the streaming giants, rely on almost identical models to generate revenue:

  • Paid Subscriptions: Advertising drives free users towards monthly subscription packages, which include a premium offering for $10 a month and a family offering for $15 a month.
  • Advertising: Advertisers pay for exposure, with ads played every 15 minutes for 30 seconds, and can also include sponsored playlists, and homepage takeovers.

Spotify

With 217 million active users, and revenues of almost $6 billion in 2018, Spotify is the global leader in music streaming.

For Spotify, 91% of the company’s revenue comes from its 100 million paid subscriptions—double that of Apple Music—while the other 9% comes from advertising.

Apple Music

Apple’s streaming service commands a larger user-base than Spotify in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa regions.

While Apple Music has not been a profitable move for the company, the streaming platform bolsters Apple’s ecosystem of services—encouraging a more loyal consumer base.

How Artists Make Money

For both Spotify and Apple Music, 70% of the revenue generated from paid subscriptions and advertising goes towards paying music labels and artists.

Both platforms use the pro-rata model, which pays based on the total share of streams each artist has. For example, if $100 million is generated in revenue, and an artist accounts for 1% of all streams, then they would receive $1 million in royalties.

However, artists advocate for a fairer, more user-centric model that would pay artists based on who each user listens to the most, using their subscription fee. Smaller platforms like Deezer are moving towards a user-centric model and pressuring more established platforms to do the same.

The Future of Streaming

Over the next decade, the music streaming industry will continue to transform, with new innovations presenting significant opportunities and challenges for both streaming platforms and consumers alike.

  • Personalization: Streaming platforms are using technology to fully understand a user’s listening habits and to tailor music recommendations directly to them.
  • Original Content: Spurred on by the growth of streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, Spotify’s purchase of Gimlet Media for over $200 million signals the beginning of streaming platforms investing in original content.
  • Premium Prices: Artists and music labels are demanding more for music, forcing streaming platforms to hike their subscription rates in an attempt to make up for lost revenue.
  • Live Streaming: With live streaming rising in popularity, artists can offer audiences an intimate connection and more authentic version of their music.

Currently, artists can increase their chances of being featured on more playlists and ultimately earn more money by altering their music based on streaming platform algorithms. For example, artists only get paid if their song is listened to for 30 seconds, which results in much shorter songs that open with the chorus to keep the listener’s attention.

While streaming platforms continue to provide more avenues for artists to get in front of the right ears, many industry critics argue that music is no longer about creating something for pure enjoyment, but rather about using a formulaic approach to make more money.

Is the future of music safe in the hands of tech giants?

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Cars

Tesla’s Valuation Surpasses Ford and GM Combined

Tesla is not only the top valued U.S. automaker, it’s now worth more than Ford and GM combined. Will the rally continue, or will short sellers win the day?

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telsa gm ford valuation

Chart: Tesla is Worth More than Ford and GM Combined

Tesla has been on a roller coaster ride of market sentiment in recent years, but the electric car company is starting off the new decade on a high note.

The company is not only America’s most valuable automaker, it’s now worth more than Ford and GM combined.

tesla ford gm market caps

Tesla’s valuation has already surpassed the $100 billion mark – a significant milestone for a company that produces a fraction of the vehicles of its direct competitors.

Here’s a comparison of the top selling models in the U.S. for Ford, GM, and Tesla.

RankModelUnit Sales (Q4 2019)
1Ford F-Series233,952
2Chevrolet Silverado163,311
3Chevrolet Equinox92,092
4GMC Sierra68,722
5Ford Explorer51,284
6Ford Escape47,587
7Tesla Model 347,275
8Ford Edge37,621
9Ford Transit36,885
10Chevrolet Malibu34,314

A quick glance at this list is revealing. Though Tesla’s Model 3 put up strong sales numbers, it’s still only a small percentage of vehicles sold by U.S. automakers.

So, what’s driving Tesla’s meteoric growth, and is it sustainable? Below, we’ll take a high-level look at the bull and bear cases for the company.

The Bull Case for Tesla Motors

Tesla posted losses of $1.1 billion in the first half of 2019, but since then, the company has turned the situation around in dramatic fashion.

The automaker had a surprising third quarter with not only record deliveries of 97,000 cars, but also a profit of $143 million. Deliveries broke yet another record in Q4 2019, totaling 112,000 vehicles. These announcements helped improve market sentiment, sending the company’s stock back on an upward trajectory heading into 2020.

tesla bull quotes

Here are three reasons some analysts and media are still bullish on Tesla:

1. Tapping into the World’s Largest Electric Car Market

For a long time, foreign companies looking to manufacture products in China couldn’t do so without working through a domestic partner. Recently though, Tesla became the first major benefactor of a policy change, becoming the first wholly foreign-owned automaker in China.

Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai was completed in October, and was built in just 10 months – an impressive feat. Furthermore, cars have already begun rolling off the assembly lines, as Tesla targets an annual production of 150,000 Model 3s.

Perhaps the best part for a company with historically volatile earnings: Tesla claims the facility was 65% cheaper to build than its production plant in the U.S.

2. Still the Range King

2019 saw many of the more established automakers take their first swings at Tesla.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) handed out official range ratings for several new electric cars, but none could unseat the king:

ev range ratings

3. Musk’s Megaphone

Few CEOs capture the attention of media quite like Elon Musk. While his actions can sometimes have unintended consequences for the company – the infamous “funding secured” tweet, for example – Elon Musk’s massive reach allows the company to sell vehicles without spending a dime on advertising.

By contrast, in 2018, Ford and GM spent $2.3 billion and $3.1 billion respectively on advertising in the U.S. alone.

The Bear Case for Tesla Motors

While the second half of 2019 has given Tesla bulls much to celebrate, many investors are remaining vigilant, if not skeptical.

tesla bear quotes

1. Stiff Competition in China

Tapping into the world’s largest EV market is a double-edged sword for Tesla, as they face an onslaught of domestic and foreign competitors.

The Chinese government has also generously supported its own EV industry, handing out over $60 billion in subsidies to over 400 companies. Tesla will be competing against state-owned enterprises like BAIC, one of the largest players in the Chinese EV market.

Western automakers are also gaining a foothold in China as well. Volkswagen and its Chinese joint-venture partner, SAIC Motor, will begin producing cars at two factories in China in the autumn of 2020.

The German automotive giant has also forged partnerships with Chinese battery manufacturers, including China’s biggest battery company Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL).

2. Getting Ratio’d

Tesla has an extremely high premium on earnings when compared with its more established counterparts in the auto industry.

CompanyTickerEnterprise Multiple* (last 12 months)
ToyotaNYSE: TM8.4x
GMNYSE: GM10.0x
FordNYSE: F14.5x
TeslaNASDAQ: TSLA50.2x

The enterprise multiple (EV/EBITDA) measures the dollars in enterprise value for each dollar of earnings. The ratio is commonly used to determine if a company is undervalued or overvalued compared to peers.

The Bottom Line is… the Bottom Line

Of course, Tesla’s future will be dictated by variables more complex than can be summed up in a tidy pro/con list.

Musk has shown a willingness to sacrifice profitability in the name of growth – Tesla has yet to prove it can deliver consistent, quarterly profits.

It’s hard to be profitable with that level of growth. We could slow it down, but then that would not be good for sustainability and the cause of electric vehicles.

– Elon Musk

After reporting a record number of deliveries in the final quarter of 2019, there’s no doubt that true believers and short sellers alike will be watching the company’s January 29, 2020, earnings call with much anticipation.

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China

How China Overtook the U.S. as the World’s Major Trading Partner

China has become the world’s major trading partner – and now, 128 of 190 countries trade more with China than they do with the United States.

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How China Overtook the U.S. As the World’s Trade Partner

In 2018, trade accounted for 59% of global GDP, up nearly 1.5 times since 1980.

Over this timeframe, international trade has transformed significantly—not just in terms of volume and composition, but also in terms of the countries that the rest of the world leans on for their most important trade relationships.

Now, a critical shift is occurring in the landscape, and it may surprise you to learn that China has already usurped the U.S. as the world’s most dominant trading partner.

Trading Places: A Global Shift

Today’s animation comes from the Lowy Institute, and it pulls data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) database on bilateral trade flows, to determine whether the U.S. or China is a bigger trading partner for each country from 1980 to 2018.

The results are stark: before 2000, the U.S. was at the helm of global trade, as over 80% of countries traded with the U.S. more than they did with China. By 2018, that number had dropped sharply to just 30%, as China swiftly took top position in 128 of 190 countries.

The researchers pinpoint China’s 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization as a major turning point in China’s international trade relationships. The dramatic shift that followed is clearly demonstrated in the visualization above—between 2005 and 2010, a number of countries tipped towards Chinese influence, especially in Africa and Asia.

Over time, China’s dominance has grown dramatically. It’s no wonder then, that China and the U.S. have a contentious trade relationship themselves, as both nations battle it out for first place.

A Tale of Two Economies

The United States and China are competitors in many ways, but to be successful they must rely on each other for mutually beneficial trade. However, it’s also the major issue on which they are struggling to reach a common ground.

The U.S. has been vocal about negotiating more balanced trade agreements with China. In fact, a mid-2018 poll shows that 62% of Americans consider their trade relationship with China to be unfair.

Since 2018, both parties have faced a fraught relationship, imposing major tariffs on consumer and industrial goods—and retaliations are reaching greater and greater heights:

trade war china us

While a delicate truce has been reached at the moment, the trade war has caused a significant drag on global growth, and the World Bank estimates it will continue to have an effect into 2021.

At the same time, China’s sphere of influence continues to grow.

One Belt, One Road, One Trade Direction?

China seems to have a finger in every pie. The nation is financing a flurry of megaprojects across Asia and Africa—but one broader initiative stands above the rest.

China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) Initiative, planned for a 2049 completion, is advancing at a furious pace. In 2019 alone, Chinese companies signed contracts worth up to $128 billion to start Chinese large-scale infrastructure projects in various countries.

While building new highways and ports abroad is beneficial for Chinese financiers, OBOR is also about creating new markets and trade routes for Chinese goods in Asia. Recent research found that the OBOR program’s infrastructure expansion and logistics performance improvements led to positive effects on China’s exports.

Nevertheless, it’s clear the new infrastructure network is already transforming global trade, possibly cementing China’s position as the world’s major trading partner for years to come.

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