One Irish singer makes the cut for music streamer’s 100-strong ‘billions club’

Spotify unveils 100 tracks that have each clocked up at least a billion streams

The new playlist will add fuel to the argument that Spotify only cares about megabucks artists

The new playlist will add fuel to the argument that Spotify only cares about megabucks artists

 

Hozier has officially joined Spotify’s “billions club” with his inclusion on a new playlist of songs that have clocked up at least a billion plays on the streaming service. Take Me to Church, the Wicklow singer’s 2013 hit, is included alongside singles by Drake, Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd. But he is the solitary Irish representative on the playlist, with no room among the in-crowd for U2, Dermot Kennedy or Niall Horan.

Take Me to Church is undoubtedly a sensation. It surpassed a billion streams as far back as 2019, when it was just the 35th song to achieve that feat. And it is one of 150 tracks on Spotify’s new Billions Club playlist. But Hozier is still a long way behind Ed Sheeran and Shape of You, which has clocked up a record-breaking 2.8 billion Spotify spins.

Hozier, whose real name is Andrew Hozier-Byrne, may be the only Irish artist to pass the one-billion barrier, but several of those on the countdown have an Irish connection. Oasis, whose Irish roots are well known, were the first 1990s group to achieve the feat, with Wonderwall. Sheeran has Wexford grandparents and spent childhood summers on a family farm near Gorey.

There is a vague Irish link to Eilish – full name Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell. Her parents gave her the middle name Eilish after watching a documentary about Eilish Holton from Donadea, Co Kildare, who made history as Ireland’s first surviving separated conjoined twin. It’s tenuous Irishness – but then so were Tony Cascarino’s Irish connections, and we were happy to claim him.

Spotify has sent silver plaques to the stars responsible for the tracks with a billion-plus streams; many have posted photographs on Instagram in which they use the dishes as glorified dinner plates. It is unclear, at time of writing, whether a silver plaque has been dispatched to Hozier’s home in rural Co Wicklow or if he has used it as a plate/emergency hub-cap/ glamorous frisbee.

The new playlist will add fuel to the argument that Spotify only cares about megabucks artists, leaving non-platinum acts to fend for themselves. Critics claim Spotify’s royalties scheme is, in particular, weighed too heavily in favour of big names.

Fifty per cent of streaming revenues go to the labels, 30 per cent to the streamers and the rest to other rights holders, including the musicians.

Spotify operates a pro-rata model, meaning it pools all the revenue it generates each month, then divides the cash according to popularity. In other words, if Ed Sheeran received 5 per cent of all Spotify plays, then he trousers 5 per cent of the accrued revenue.

The complaint is that every Spotify subscriber ends up paying Sheeran – and Hozier – regardless of how often they listen to them. So even if you regard, say, Mumford & Sons as Satan’s banjo-abusing spawn, a chunk of your monthly subscription nonetheless wends its way to their coffers, to be spent, presumably, on beard-grooming products and Jordan Peterson books.

Advocates for reform want Spotify and its rivals to move to a usercentric model. That is, if you listen to nothing but dungeon synth and dark ambient on Spotify, then whatever royalties are due from your subscription should go to the relevant songwriters.

Hozier’s 1.5 billion or so streams will have earned him about €7 million, according to one online royalty calculator. Forget Take Me to Church – with that sort of income, he could build his own basilica of bling in the Wicklow Hills.

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