Nearly four years ago now, Daniel Ek had more idealist ambitions than he does today. Whereas the Spotify boss nowadays seems to care more about investing his money in defence tech startups and trying to buy football clubs, there was a time when he did appear to have some interesting ideas for his streaming site.

In March 2018, Ek gave a speech where he confirmed he wanted Spotify to pay out enough cash to allow one million artists to earn a living from streaming. Even at the time, the goal was considered incredibly ambitious – and he even spoke about removing the “gatekeepers” who were presumably getting in the way of this being achieved.

So how many artists actually make enough money off Spotify to pay their bills? According to the company themselves in 2020, some 13,400 artists made at least $50,000 per year – an impressive sounding 80% increase from the 2017 figure of 7,300. But there’s just one problem with these numbers.

And that’s the fact they don’t reflect the way music makes its way there. Out of that $50,000, 50% of this goes to the record label and 30% is retained by Spotify themselves – meaning $10,000 for the artist, and even less if there are multiple people involved. And who can live on $10,000 per year, precisely?

Assuming Spotify can continue their current 80% growth in the number of artists passing the $50,000 threshold – and let’s face it, there isn’t a cat in hell’s chance – the one million target will be achieved in or around the year 2190. By which point, Daniel Ek will either be long dead or will be a 207-year old head in a jar, Futurama style.

And most of those one million artists won’t be current ones – partly because of the 168 years it takes to reach the target, and partly because more than half of all streams are now of catalogue material. Oh, and seeing pretty much all of these artists earning $50k per year out of Spotify will be dead, exactly who’s going to be getting this money?

Not exactly the utopia you’d have us think, Daniel…