Spotify posted middling results for the fourth quarter of 2021 — a period that does not include the recent controversy over Neil Young and other musicians removing their music from the streaming giant, which is the world’s largest paid music-subscription service.
Premium subscribers grew to 180 million — up 8 million from the 172 million reported last year — and monthly average users grew 18% to 406 million, from 381 million. Total revenue was €2.69 billion ($3.04 billion), representing 24% growth year-over-year. Subscription revenue was €2.3 billion euros, up 22% year-over-year. Advertising revenue was €394 million, up 40% year over year.
However, ARPU (average revenue per user) grew just 3% year over year in the quarter, and just 1% on a constant currency basis. Ad-Supported revenue reached a record 15% of total revenue, according to the announcement, with gross margin at 26.5%.
Spotify’s market capitalization fell about $2.1 billion over a three-day span last week after Young pulled his songs from the audio-streaming giant. However, it quickly recovered on Monday — not after co-founder/CEO Daniel Ek announced on Sunday that the company would institute warnings and links to health information on podcasts that talked about Covid-19, but rather after Rogan himself posted a 10-minute video in which he agreed with Spotify’s new policies and would work to bring people on his show with broader perspectives.
In after-hours trading, Spotify stock was down 10%, erasing gains from a bullish analyst upgrade earlier this week. That’s after shared closed down 5.8% Wednesday (Feb. 2) at $191.92/share.
Revenue of €2,689 million grew 24% year over year in Q4 (or 20% on a constant currency basis), which the company said was due to “significant strength in advertising and favorable FX movements.” Premium Revenue grew 22% to €2,295 million (or 18% constant currency) while ad-supported revenue grew 40% year over year to €394 million (34% constant currency).
Gross margin finished at 26.5% in Q4, flat versus the prior year period. Premium gross margin was 29.2% in Q4, and ad-supported gross margin was 10.8%, or flat. Operating expenses totaled €719 million, an increase of 12% year over year.
Spotify’s stock price was already on the slide — having plummeted 25% year-to-date as of Jan. 25, the day before Young’s catalog was pulled off Spotify. Investors have been rattled by signals that Spotify’s growth may be slowing, particularly after Netflix’s warning of a significant cooldown in first quarter subscriber net adds (which precipitated a 24% drop in its share price).
A New York Times piece last July, titled “Joe Rogan Is Too Big to Cancel,” included this detail: “[A]mong top Spotify leadership, people familiar with the company say, the notion that Mr. Rogan presents any kind of regrettable executive headache is laughable.”
More to come…