Streaming is now the dominant platform for music consumption

Aggregate earnings of the Celebrity 100 directly related to streaming has surged to $387 million from $177 million last year

Published: Jul 19, 2017

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The Weeknd is grossing over $1.1 million per stop on his Starboy: Legend of the Fall 2017 World Tour, thanks to the ubiquity of his streaming music
Photographed by Jamel Toppin at Mohegan Sun The Weeknd wears a White shirt by Saint Laurent Paris; Black wool vest; Black silk tie; Black trousers; Gold tie clip by Dolce and Gabbana; Black leather lace up shoes by Saint Laurent Paris


Five years ago, spotify was a fledgling music-streaming service only months removed from its US launch and YouTube had just started its push into original programming; Netflix was a year away from doing the same, starting with House of Cards. For the members of the Celebrity 100—our annual accounting of the top-earning entertainers on the planet—meaningful streaming income was a distant dream.

But sometimes profound change happens quickly. Streaming is now the dominant platform for music consumption, and it’s growing rapidly—up by 76 percent year-over-year, according to Nielsen. YouTube has birthed a whole new breed of celebrity: The YouTube star. And Netflix plans to spend hundreds of millions annually on original content.

“It’s not just about music—it’s about every form of entertainment,” Nielsen’s David Bakula says. “You don’t really have to own anything anymore, because for $10 a month, you can do this: You can have everything.”

The members of our list have been fattening their pockets accordingly. While the aggregate earnings of the Celebrity 100 are flat at just over $5 billion in the past 12 months compared with the prior year, income directly related to streaming surged to $387 million from $177 million.

For musicians, the going rate of a little less than a penny per on-demand stream may not sound like a lot, but it adds up for the 14 performers on our list who topped 1 billion spins over the past year. Comedians with devoted fan bases, from Adam Sandler to Chris Rock, have been extracting eight-figure cheques from Netflix. And stars-turned-impresarios, like Ellen DeGeneres and Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson, now have video-streaming ventures they can call their own, just as Dr Dre did with Beats Music and Jay Z is doing with Tidal on the audio side.

The indirect spoils of streaming can be even greater. Abel ‘the Weeknd’ Tesfaye parlayed his play count—5.5 billion streams in the past two years—into an estimated $75 million touring advance. To him it’s all part of the model he’s been following throughout his rapid rise, one that applies to all sorts of businesses: Create an excellent product, make it widely available and flip the monetisation switch when the timing is right.

“I really wanted people who had no idea who I was to hear my project,” he says. “You don’t do that by asking for money.”

(This story appears in the 04 August, 2017 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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