Spotify at 10: Who Are the Most Streamed Artists?

The streaming platform's dominance not only changed the way we listened to music, but the industry as well.
Spotify at 10: Who Are the Most Streamed Artists? Newsweek

The 2008 music-listening experience seems alien to our current way of life. In that strange world, downloading a song and putting it on your iPod was truly a high-tech way to access your music library, and $3.1 billion worth of CDs were sold that year in the U.S. alone.

But there was a revolution on the horizon. Video-streaming upstart YouTube, which had launched just three years previously, was an increasingly popular place to stream music. Then, on October 7, a new application called Spotify launched, which allowed users to listen to a huge database of songs without Youtube's annoying buffering time, or the wait of downloading a song from iTunes.

Spotify grew into a behemoth over the next decade, especially as wifi-enabled smartphones replaced the iPod, and the CD slipped into complete irrelevance. As of June 2018, Spotify has 83 million paid subscribers, over four times as many as the same time in 2015.

Spotify's dominance not only changed the way we listened to music, but it changed the music industry itself. Its all-powerful own-brand playlists, which boast millions of followers, are now kingmakers. A spot on a playlist like Rap Caviar has practically replaced radio play as the sought-after promotional tool for up-and-coming artists.

An element of musical flattening has been another byproduct of the streaming service's reign. Being able to access any music from any time with a click of a button has contributed to the musical eclecticism of many millennials, and heralded the decline of the subculture.

And as a platform used across the world, it's also allowed global pop stars to rise to the attention of American audiences—many of the top songs on the platform are Hispanic hits that crossed over thanks to the power of algorithms. K-Pop band BTS have had more streams on the app than Lady Gaga.

However, Spotify's rise hasn't been without criticism. A large point of contention has been the minuscule amount it pays artists per play, with smaller artists no longer able to sustain themselves as easily as they could in the CD era.

Its algorithms have been accused of not only perpetuating but aggravating our worst tendencies. Women continue to be underrepresented on popular playlists, and as this list shows, men have overwhelmingly been the beneficiaries of the streaming revolution. The music itself can suffer too, especially when songs are under pressure to capture the listeners' attention in the first few seconds to avoid being skipped.

Whether you love Spotify or still reminisce over the gentle whirr of the CD player, the streaming giant is here to stay. But which artists are the stars of the Spotify age? Using data from fan website Kworb, we've listed the artists that have had the most total streams on the platform.

Like Spotify's listenership, the artists tend to be young—over half of Spotify listeners in the U.S. are under 35. Hip-hop and electronic music are big winners, as is the occasional pop-rock act. These are Spotify's 50 most successful artists.

50. Zara Larsson: 2.4bn streams. Most played song: "Symphony"—576m streams Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images