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Bach on top: the classical composer worth MILLIONS on Spotify

Bach is the most streamed classical composer EVER on Spotify

Bach’s most popular composition would have earned him $24 million in 1750s money

Johann Sebastian Bach comes out on top with 6 million monthly plays, bringing in around $300.000 per year.

But what could these composers have earned if Spotify existed in their era?

Bach’s biggest stream – Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: I. Prélude – has been streamed more than 162 million times. At an average $0.0037 per play, and adjusted for inflation in 1750’s money (his last active year), Bach’s most popular composition would have earned him an astronomical $24.729.209.

That’s in stark contrast to his highest annual salary of just $39.000 – and more than double Ed Sheeran’s top song earnings of $10.443.694 for Shape of You!

Data sources:
Average Spotify payout per stream
Classical composer’s salaries
Stream data
Inflation calculator

Composer / Artist Biggest Hit Total Plays Spotify earnings (if it existed in their time) Difference to Ed Sheeran's Shape of You
Ed SheeranShape of You2.822.620.126$10.443.694,47-
Johann S. BachCello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: I. Prélude162.617.279$24.729.209,62*+$14.285.515,15
Ludwig van BeethovenSonata No. 14 "Moonlight" in C-Sharp Minor", Op. 27 No. 2: I. Adagio sostenuto91.297.291$8.884.139,39*-$1.559.555,08
Frédéric ChopinNocturne en mi bémol majeur opus 9 n°2: Ballade en Sol Mineur No.176.085.547$9.616.604,46*-$827.090,01
Wolfgang A. MozartRequiem, K. 626: Lacrimosa57.132.868$5.914.737,29*-$4.528.957,17
Claude DebussySuite bergamasque: Suite bergamasque: III. Clair de lune. Andante très expressif53.853.860$3.471.096,69*-$6.972.597,77
Georg F. HändelKeyboard Suite in D Minor, HWV 437: III. Sarabande51.050.442$6.288.036,09*-$4.155.658,37
Franz LisztLiebestraume, S541/R211 : No. 3: Nocturne in A-Flat Major43.589.430$4.512.639,33*-$5.931.055,14
Johannes BrahmsWiegenlied, Op. 49, No. 4 (Arr. for Cello and Piano)31.864.060$3.736.156,63*-$6.707.537,84
Antonio VivaldiViolin Concerto in G Minor, RV 315 "L'estate" (No. 2 from "Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione", Op. 8): III. Presto27.721.658$4.149.987,65*-$6.293.706,82
Franz Schubert4 Impromptus, Op.90, D.899: No.4 in A Flat Major: Allegretto23.213.558$2.378.298,66*-$8.065.395,81
Robert SchumannKinderszenen, Op. 15: No. 7 in F Major, Träumerei22.005.823$2.519.182,61*-$7.924.511,86
Richard WagnerDie Walkure, Act III: Ride of the Valkyries20.353.125$1.960.982,89*-$8.482.711,58
Sergei W. RachmaninowRhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini, Op.43: Variation 18. Andante cantabile17.437.523$980.686,29*-$9.463.008,17
Giuseppe VerdiLa Traviata / Act 1: Libiamo ne'lieti calici16.934.673$1.077.098,55*-$8.505.046,97
Felix Mendelssohn BartholdyLieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 2, Op. 30: No. 7 in E-Flat Major, Op. 30, No. 116.268.228$1.930.371,67*-$8.513.322,80
Georges BizetCarmen, WD 31, Act 1 Scene 4: No. 5, Havanaise, "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" (Carmen, Chorus)12.175.145$1.938.647,50*-$9.366.595,91
Gustav MahlerSymphony No. 5 in C-Sharp Minor: IV. Adagietto9.368.453$959.862,12*-$9.483.868,35
Joseph HaydnString Quartet No. 62 in C Major, Op. 76, No. 3, Hob.III:77, "Emperor": II. Poco adagio, cantabile8.999.554$711.918,72*-$9.731.775,75
Igor StrawinskyThe Rite of Spring: Part One: Adoration of the Earth: Introduction6.108.324$146.679,18*-$10.297.015,28
Claudio MonteverdiL'incoronazione di Poppea, SV 308, Act 3: "Pur ti miro" (Neron, Popea)3.315.724$232.113,94*-$10.211.580,52

*Inflation adjusted

How we did it

First, we went to Bach’s Spotify profile. At the time, his compositions were drawing 6 million monthly plays. Next, we researched the average Spotify payout per stream – a meagre $0.0037.

But when multiplied by his peak monthly plays, Bach’s music brings in around $300,000 per year. The highest annual salary he earned in his lifetime, adjusted for inflation, was just $39,000.

We applied the same method to other great composers; Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt – to see how much their streams earn them in a year. Bach came out on top of them all.

Taking the idea further...

But we wanted to know more. How would Bach’s biggest stream – Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: I. Prélude – stack up against contemporary acts? What if Spotify existed in Bach’s era? How much would his biggest “hit” have earned him?

To find that out, we decided to benchmark Bach against Spotify’s biggest artist and biggest song; Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You, which has clocked billions of plays, and earned in excess of $10.4 million.

Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major has been streamed more than 162 million times. At an average $0.0037 per play, that only gives Bach’s biggest stream lifetime earnings of around $600,000.

But, using this inflation calculator, we were able to find out what that would have earned Bach if Spotify existed in the 1750s – his last active year.

Adjusted for inflation, Bach would have earned almost $25 million for Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major – more than double Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You.

For comparison, we used the same method to measure the earnings of each top classical composer’s biggest stream. The next biggest earner was Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne en mi bémol majeur opus 9 n°2: Ballade en Sol Mineur No.1 – but at a comparatively measly $9.6 million in 1849 money.

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