Taylor Swift Tops List of Spotify Earners in 2023

After being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, Taylor Swift has received another achievement to cap off 2023: she’s the first artist ever to earn over $100 million from Spotify, Billboard reports. 

Spotify listeners played her music more than any other artist this year. The streaming giant released its Wrapped on Nov. 29, revealing Swift’s songs were streamed more than 26 billion times since Jan. 1, 2023.

Through Spotify royalties, those streams rack up $97 million in royalties, with the busy singer on track to earn $100 million by the end of the month.

If you include publishing revenue, the ubiquitous “Lavender Haze” artist is estimated to receive a total of about $131 million in royalties from Spotify this year. However, this is from one streaming platform alone. 

Billboard estimates that her total earnings this year will approach $200 million if recording and publishing royalties from other streaming services like Amazon Music, Apple Music, and YouTube Music are included. 

Thanks to Swift re-recording her “Taylor’s Version” of four albums, Fearless, Red, Speak Now, and 1989, she has the master rights to all of her music. That means most of that $200 million will go into her bank account, which is in good shape already, thanks to the $1 billion grossed by her Eras tour.

Scooter Braun, Scott Borchetta, and Taylor Swift: What Happened?

Swift signed with Big Machine when she was 15 and tried to earn back the rights to her master recordings for years. Then, in 2019, Ithaca Holdings, which Scooter Braun owns, acquired Big Machine. 

To put it lightly, she was not pleased to have her masters in the hands of Braun, whom she called an “incessant, manipulative bully” in her Tumblr post

So, in light of the fact that her master recordings – that is, the original recording that all copies are made from – were now owned by someone she did not hold in high esteem, she set out to re-record and re-release all of her albums as new recordings. 

By doing so, she fully owns all the new masters and has complete control of her songs. So far, she has created “Taylor’s Version” of four of her six albums. The albums “Taylor Swift” and “Reputation” are still in the works

Swift has changed some lyrics and the sound of several of the songs on her re-recorded albums. She also released several songs that were not released on the original albums, including the tearjerker “We Were Happy.” 

Perhaps the step that generated the most attention, however, was releasing a 10-minute version of one of her saddest songs, “All Too Well,” which also included a short film music video starring actors Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink.

Fans have responded positively to the renewed albums. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) actually performed better than the original release, according to Vulture.

Taylor Swift + Spotify Hasn’t Always Been a “Love Story” 

Though she’s now earning millions from her devoted fans’ streams on Spotify and other music streaming platforms, Swift’s relationship with the platform hasn’t always been cordial.

In fact, in 2014, her then-label Big Machine Music actually removed all of her music from the platform entirely. At the time, music labels were in the midst of pivoting from selling music downloads to charging for access to streaming music, and many took issue with the fact that Spotify users could listen to the music they owned free of charge through the app. 

According to Rolling Stone, Spotify told artists and labels at the time that the royalties would get better once more people started paying for the premium version of the app. The platform said it paid out $500 million in royalties in 2013 – compared to $5 billion in 2020 and $7 billion in 2021. That said, artists continue to say their pay from the major streaming services is not adequate. 

Spotify, for the record, doesn’t pay out directly to artists. The platform pays the artists’ distributors, labels, etc., who then pay the artists. The outcry has led to efforts to introduce a fairer system. 

Notably, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, in 2022, introduced House Concurrent Resolution 102, which recognizes the need for fairer compensation for artists’ labor. The copy of the resolution states that it requires 800,000 streams for an artist to make the equivalent of $15 an hour. 

In November, Spotify announced it is updating its royalties system “to better support those most dependent on streaming revenues as part of their livelihood.” 

The changes target artificial streams and noise tracks aiming to game the system and redistribute small payments that aren’t reaching artists. 

By making these changes, Spotify says it will be able to drive an additional $1 billion toward emerging artists and smaller artists in the next five years. 

Eras Tour Traditions

Swift may be famous for her lyrics that draw from her love life, but her Eras Tour has sparked a friendship-based activity for attendees: creating and trading handmade friendship bracelets. 

Fans showed off their arms stacked with bracelets before Swift’s concerts on the 52-show tour of the United States.  The craze may have drawn inspiration from an Instagram post Swift shared in 2019, or perhaps the lyrics of the song “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” which encourages the listener to make friendship bracelets. 

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