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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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Technology

Here’s What Happens Every Minute on the Internet in 2020

A lot can happen in an internet minute. This graphic looks at the enormous numbers behind the online services billions use every day.

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What Happens Every Minute on the Internet in 2020

In 2020, an unfathomable amount of digital activity is occurring at any given moment. This ongoing explosion in activity is the aggregate output of 4.5 billion internet users today, a number that’s projected to increase even further in coming years.

This powerful visual from Domo helps capture what happens each minute in today’s hyper-connected internet era, and it’s actually the eighth edition produced since the year 2012.

What can we learn from the evolution of what happens in an internet minute?

How Times Have Changed

Over its relatively short history, the internet has been a catalyst for both the rise and demise of new companies and platforms.

By looking at which brands have appeared in the graphic in earlier years, we can roughly chart the prominence of certain tech segments, as well as observe brands with the most staying power.

data never sleeps wheel over time

As you can see above, platforms like Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare showed some promise, but eventually got omitted from the graphic as they dropped off in relevance.

Meanwhile, tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google have had impressive staying power, evolving to become some of the biggest companies in the world. In the process, they’ve caught up to longer-standing titans like Apple and Microsoft at the top of the food chain.

The New “New Thing”

Not surprisingly, much of the internet landscape looks different in 2020. Here are a few of the digital hot spots today.

Cash Transfers
Nearly $240,000 worth of transactions occur on Venmo per minute. This has served as a catalyst for parent company PayPal, which evolved along successfully with fintech trends. PayPal’s stock now trades at near all-time highs.

E-Commerce
Even before COVID-19 resulted in shuttered storefronts and surging online orders, e-commerce was a booming industry. It’s now estimated that $1 million is now spent per minute online. Amazon ships an astounding 6,659 packages every minute to keep up with this demand.

Collaboration Tools
In a predominantly remote-working environment, tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams host 208,333 and 52,083 users each minute respectively. Particularly in the pandemic era, it seems that this trend is here to stay.

Accelerated Turnover

The accelerated world we are in today means that many companies do not sustain a competitive advantage for as long. Social media companies have dwindled as observed above, and this is similarly reflected in the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company.

A typical company’s tenure on the S&P 500 is expected to shrink rapidly in the next few years:

  • 1964: 33 years
  • 2016: 24 years
  • 2027E: 12 years

Companies are shaving anywhere between 15-20 years off those highs, with estimates of further declines. This metric symbolizes the rapid evolution of the business landscape.

What Lies Ahead

It’s seemingly easy to forget mankind is still very early in the developments when it comes to the internet. But in this short period, its rise to prominence and the broad digitization of the world has left us with a very eventful timeline.

If the last decade serves as a reference point, one can expect further and intensifying competition among tech companies. After all, the reward—winning in today’s digital economy—reaps much greater value.

All signs point to internet activity advancing to further heights, if not because of 5G and its associated breakthroughs, then perhaps due to the steady rise in people gaining internet access.

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Ranked: The Most Popular Websites Since 1993

This animation provides an interesting overview of the websites with the highest traffic over the last few decades, and how the rankings have changed.

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The Most Popular Websites Since 1993

The internet has become an increasingly important part of our everyday lives.

While it’s hard to imagine modern life without Google or YouTube, it’s interesting to reflect on how much the web has changed over the last few decades.

This animation by Captain Gizmo provides a historical rundown of the most popular websites since 1993, showing how much the internet has evolved since the early ’90s.

The Top Websites

While the web has changed drastically over the years, the top-ranking websites have remained relatively consistent. Here’s a look at the websites with the most traffic since 1993, and when each site held the number one spot:

Date RangeTop Ranking Website
Highest Number of Monthly Visits
Jan 1993 - Jun 2000AOL405,000,000
Jul 2000 - May 2006
Yahoo
5,500,000,000
Jun 2006 - Jul 2008
Google8,300,000,000
Aug 2008 - Jun 2010
Yahoo11,600,000,000
Jul 2010 - current
Google81,000,000,000

*Note: Numbers rounded for clarity.

AOL

AOL was one of the first major web portals, back in the era of CD-ROMs and dial-up modems. In its heyday, the company dominated the market, largely due to an aggressive free trial campaign that cost millions (possibly even billions) of dollars to execute.

Despite the large investment, the campaign worked—at its peak, AOL had over 30 million users, and a market cap of over $200 billion. It was the most popular website online until the early 2000s, when broadband started to replace dial-up. As the sands shifted, AOL struggled to stay relevant and was eventually sold to Verizon for just $4.4 billion.

Yahoo

Following AOL’s downfall, Yahoo became the next internet giant.

Starting off as a web directory, Yahoo was the first website to offer localized indexes for major cities. At Yahoo’s zenith, it was worth $125 billion, but a series of missed opportunities and failed acquisitions meant that it could not keep up. Like AOL, Yahoo is now also owned by Verizon, but remains a top 10 website globally.

Google

It’s no surprise that Google currently comes in at number one. It started out in the early ’90s as a university research project. Today, it’s become virtually synonymous with the internet, which makes sense, considering 90% of all internet searches are made on Google-owned properties.

Old School Search Engines

Prior to Google’s success, there were several other go-to search engines that paved the way for Google in many ways:

  • WebCrawler: One of the earlier search engines, WebCrawler was the first search engine to enable full-text search. At one point, the website was so popular, it’s server would constantly crash, making it virtually unusable during peak hours.
  • Lycos: This was another pivotal search engine, created in 1994 (a year before Yahoo). Lycos was the first of its kind to incorporate relevance retrieval, prefix matching, and word proximity.
  • Infoseek: As Netscape’s default search engine, Infoseek was popular during the web browser’s heyday. Eventually, Infoseek was purchased by Disney and rebranded to go.com.

Unlike Infoseek, Lycos and WebCrawler have somehow managed to stick around—both companies still exist today. Of course, they’re nowhere near comparable to Google in terms of revenue or daily search volume.

The Evolution of Social Media

Unless you are a Gen Zer, you probably remember MySpace. Like Lycos and WebCrawler, MySpace technically still exists, although it’s certainly not the high traffic site it used to be.

Created in 2004, MySpace became a hub for musicians and music fans on the web. In just a year, the website saw massive growth, and by 2005, it was acquired by News Corp. MySpace continued to dominate the social media landscape until 2008, when Facebook took over as the internet’s most popular social media platform.

Facebook’s story is well-known at this point. The Zuckerberg-led creation was a social networking site that was exclusive to Harvard students, but it soon opened up to dozens of other universities and then finally the general public in 2006. Just two years later, and the site had 100 million active users, rising to the top of the social media spectrum.

Although Facebook often finds itself mired in controversy today, the site remains the world’s most popular social media platform on the internet with close to 3 billion users.

What’s Next?

It’s hard to predict what the future holds for Facebook, or for any of the other websites currently dominating the web.

If anything is clear from the above animation, it’s that the list of the world’s most popular websites is constantly shifting—and only time will tell what the next few decades will bring.

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