Decide for yourself what this says about the state of music in 2014, but Spotify just revealed that Ed Sheeran was its most streamed artist this year.
The British singer-songwriter has racked up more than 860 million listens across the globe so far in 2014 on the world’s biggest subscription-based, streaming-music platform. His latest record, x, was also the most played album this year, racking up 430 million listens. x has recieved generally positive reviews, with a 67% score on Metacritic, although the Independent on Sunday called it “authentically uninspiring”.
The most-played track in the world this year was Happy, by Pharrell Williams, which was streamed more than 260 million times. In the US, the most streamed track was Iggy Azalea’s Fancy.
Sheeran is of course very close to Taylor Swift (they have toured together and collaborated on songs) but it’s reasonable to assume he doesn’t share her disdain for Spotify. Recall that Swift withdrew her entire catalog from Spotify last month. Most people believe that was related to concerns about the streaming service’s free, ad-supported tier, which still lets people listen to vast swathes of music on demand but results in lower royalties. (Spotify is the only streaming platform with such an offering, and Swift hasn’t withdrawn her music anywhere else).
In a move that will not endear it further to artists, Spotify also announced today that its premium service, which allows for ad-free listening and offline listening, would be available for three months for just 99¢. With Apple expected to start pushing Beats more aggressively on to millions owners of its devices in coming months, and YouTube readying a paid for music service of its own, a price war in streaming is heating up.