Spotify to Launch HiFi Option Later This Year, Paid Out $5 Billion in Royalties in 2020

Jem Aswad
·4-min read

As part of a long presentation called “Stream On,” Spotify announced that it will be introducing a hi-fi option later this year, among other benefits for fans and creators. CEO and cofounder Daniel Ek also said the company paid out $5 billion in royalties in 2020 and chief content officer Dawn Ostroff announced that over the last four years, the number of recording artists whose catalogs generated more than $1 million a year across recording and publishing is up over 82% to more than 800 artists, and the number generating more than $100,000 a year is up 79% to more than 7,500 artists.

The company also announced that it will be launching in 85 new markets, making itself available to 1 billion new listeners, and amid much other music and podcast news, that it will be launching a Barack Obama-Bruce Springsteen podcast.

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While other streaming services, notably Amazon, Tidal and Qobuz, have long offered excellent hi-fidelity options, Spotify’s profile and playlisting options — not to mention its marketing skill — have helped it to remain remains the most popular paid streaming service in the world. While details were scant, it says it will deliver CD-quality, lossless audio for Premium subscribers in select markets later this year. It was unclear how much more this option will cost per month.

Many music artists, ranging from J Balvin and Blackpink to Khalid, gave testimonials about Spotify during the presentation, but Billie Eilish and her brother and musical collaborator Finneas focused on high fidelity.

“High quality audio means more information,” Eilish said. “There’s just things you won’t hear if you don’t have a good sound system.”

Finneas spoke about Eilish’s “whisper layers” and laughter and other vocal treatments in the background of their recordings that aren’t as audible on normal systems.

Other elements discussed during the presentation included Soundtrap, which enables creators to record sounds quickly, and education programs to show kids how to create podcasts and work with music technology. Soundtrap also includes what is essentially a digital classified section that enables a variety of creators and producers to connect.

At the top of the presentation, Ek described Spotify’s work as a “renaissance, not restoration,” speaking about the streaming-led revival of the music industry. He spoke of the the piracy-infested era just before the advent of streaming, and even the limitations of the previous era, of records and CDs, which were bound by shelves, stores, airwaves.

“Over the past two decades, streaming has dramatically changed the possibilities,” he said. “More creators are creating and succeeding than ever.”

To that end, he noted that the total revenue for the recording industry in 2008 was $17 billion, and dipped to $14 billion in 2014 — but in 2019, thanks to the rise of streaming, it was up to $20 billion.

He said Spotify paid out $5 billion in royalties in 2020.

He also noted that that 30,000 albums were released in 2002 — while in 2020, 1.8 million albums were released in the U.S. on Spotify alone.

Later in the broadcast, Ostroff announced that over the last four years, the number of recording artists whose catalogs generated more than $1 million a year across recording and publishing is up over 82% to more than 800 artists, and the number generating more than $100,000 a year is up 79% to more than 7,500 artists.

“More artists are being heard, and this means than more meaningful income is flowing to artists than ever,” Ek said.

Other accouterments mentioned during the talk included “Enhanced Albums,” which include exclusive audio and video liner notes from artists like Blackpink and Lady Gaga, as well as songwriter and producer credits. While Spotify’s liner notes are still outpaced in terms of detail by Tidal’s, they have introduced dedicated songwriter and producer hubs focused on producers and songwriters ranging from Hit-Boy and Jeff Bhasker to Diane Warren.

Halsey spoke about Spotify Canvas, which enables her to share a “digital sketchbook” with fans including her artwork.

The company also announced that it will be expanding its Marquee option, which allows artists to promote their releases and some say walks the fine line between promotion and advertising.

Further details about all of the announcements made during the presentation can be found on Spotify’s blog.

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