[Editor Charlie sez: This day has been coming since we first ran this spoof picture of Daniel Ek–but not everyone was laughing after they got their Spotify royalty statement. Mark Mulligan has parsed Spotify’s recently release financial statements and has some interesting admissions by Spotify–starting with a more accurate total of paid subscribers.
This tweet was widely reported as “50 million paid subscribers” by Spotify’s boosters in the press:
But Mark Mulligan points out–as did many privately–that the correct number was much less than 50 million, although Mulligan’s analysis results in an even more generous number than the whisper number (assuming “paid user” means the same as “paid subscriber” which it might not given Spotify’s premium deals like its partnership with the New York Times):
That would be the New York Times that did not cover Spotify’s $44.3 million class action settlement with Melissa Ferrick. Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Mulligan’s excellent post]
As Spotify nears a public listing or an acquisition by Alibaba or Tencent, it remains the benchmark for the health of the streaming economy. With the underlying fundamentals remaining largely unchanged in 2016 despite stellar growth, here are a few thoughts on how the economics of streaming might change:
An often repeated argument from record labels is that streaming services will hit profitability when they reach scale. So, when does that happen? 48 million subscribers can lay a good claim to being ‘scale’, but it isn’t driving profit. While the market establishes itself, streaming services have to overspend on product innovation and marketing (and then, later, on user retention). So, these costs will likely rise in relative terms. Meanwhile, rights are always going to remain largely in line with revenue (though the UMG and Merlin deals reward growth with some discounting, which is a welcome innovation). But even these deals will not change the fact that rights will be large enough to challenge margins and will largely scale with growth. Which means no truly meaningful scale benefits. So here are a few alternative ways in which streaming margins might be improved….