Spotify losses balloon after pandemic hiring binge

Music streaming group adds subscribers but is hit by rise in operating expenses

While Spotify’s losses widened in the last quarter the US company signed up 10m new subscribers in the period, taking its number of paid subscribers to 205m and total users to 489m. Photograph: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg

Spotify’s losses ballooned last quarter after a hiring spree during the pandemic drove up costs at the music streaming pioneer. The fourth-quarter loss of €270 million was up from €39 million in the same period a year earlier as the group’s operating costs climbed 44 per cent.

Spotify’s chief executive Daniel Ek recently admitted that the company had been “too ambitious” during the pandemic when lockdowns across large economies left consumers spending more time online and prompted tech companies to expand aggressively.

While Spotify’s losses widened in the last quarter the US company signed up 10 million new subscribers in the period, taking its number of paid subscribers to 205 million and total users to 489 million. Revenue last quarter increased 18 per cent from a year earlier to €3.2 billion, matching analyst forecasts.

The hit to profits comes a week after Spotify announced it would cut 6 per cent of its workforce – about 600 staff. Meta, Alphabet and Microsoft are among the big tech groups to have announced plans to slash staff this year.


Mr Ek recently said that “in hindsight, I was too ambitious in investing ahead of our revenue growth”.

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In a presentation to investors on Tuesday, Spotify said that “these investments largely reflect various growth initiatives that were greenlit towards the end of 2021″.

For the whole of 2022 Spotify reported a net loss of €430 million on €11.7 billion in revenues. By comparison, the company lost €34 million last year on revenues of €9.7 billion.

Spotify, now boasting almost half a billion users, has long struggled to translate its popularity and reach into a profitable business. The group pays about 70 per cent of its revenue out to the owners of the music on the platform. To help offset the financial challenges of its core business, Spotify has pushed into areas outside of music, pouring billions of dollars into an ambitious expansion into podcasting.

While Wall Street initially cheered Spotify’s podcast gamble, investors have grown impatient with the strategy amid rising interest rates and faltering stock markets. Spotify’s stock has dropped more than 70 per cent from its pandemic highs two years ago, with the world’s largest music streaming company now valued at about $19 billion (€17.5bn). – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023