The streams are in, and the most popular artist on Spotify this year is Drake. The Canadian rapper and singer’s music piled up a whopping 1.8 billion streams from 48 million listeners, a huge uptick from the 840 million streams that last year’s Spotify streams champ, Ed Sheeran, gathered in 2014.
Drake got to the top of Spotify’s heap in 2015 thanks to quantity as well as quantity. In addition to his viral single, "Hotline Bling," he released two separate albums, “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late” and “What a Time To Be Alive,” each as a surprise, though the latter debuted exclusively on Apple Music (and a few mixtape apps, illegally). The former enjoyed an enormous amount of radio airplay, with songs like “Energy” staying on the air for months, something that surely helped make it the second-most popular album on Spotify this year.
But while Drake’s two albums drew a lot of sustained plays, the most popular album of the year attracted an enormous amount of attention very quickly. So many people listened to the Weeknd’s third full-length album, “Beauty Behind the Madness,” on Spotify that it became just the sixth album in the 57-year history of the Billboard charts to have every single song appear on its Hot 100 chart at once.
“Beauty Behind the Madness” also contained two of the five most popular tracks streamed on Spotify in the United States, “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)” and “The Hills.”
Yet for all the success enjoyed by Drake and the Weeknd, both have a long way to go before they can catch Ed Sheeran. The British singer-songwriter remains the most streamed artist in Spotify's history. To date, his songs have been streamed some 3 billion times.
While its royalty rates remain a source of contention for some artists and labels, streaming music services like Spotify have become a meaningful source of income for the recording industry. It is estimated that by 2020, more than two thirds of the industry’s digital revenues will come either from subscription fees or advertising revenue.