A post by Chartmetric’s Sung Cho diving into Spotify playlist metrics caught my attention, and one aspect in particular: how the major labels dominate the flagship Spotify playlist Today’s Top Hits. Sung was kind enough to share the underlying data with me so that I could dive into it in a some more depth.
Major record label artists accounted for 77% of all tracks in Today’s Top Hits between May and November 2017. In the latest week of data available the share rose to 78%. This compares to a recorded music market revenue share of 69% for the majors in 2016 and a 72% streaming revenue market share. Major label artists thus get a larger share of the tracks in this flagship playlist compared to their market share. This apparent advantage is doubly impactful. A playlist like Today’s Top Hits is more likely to be listened through by its listeners, so the higher share of tracks a label has there translates into a higher share of plays which will ultimately contributes to a higher share of revenue which will then be used to justify a higher share of tracks, and so the process starts over.
Universal trumps the rest
Some majors though, do better than others. Universal’s streaming revenue market share in 2016 was around 30% yet it got 43% of the tracks in Today’s Top Hits over the period. Sony got 20% against a revenue share of 23% while Warner got just 13% against a 2016 revenue share of 19%. Of course, there are many caveats, not least of which is that the strength of a label’s release roster plays a big role in determining which tracks make it on to Today’s Top Hits. Which means that Universal could be doing a particularly good job of creating frontline hits that do well on streaming.
Indies over-perform against the odds
On the surface, indie labels would appear to have the dice stacked against them. A 2016 streaming revenue market share of 28% translates to a 23% share of the tracks on Today’s Top Hits. Additionally indie label tracks take an average of more than one week longer than major labels after release before Spotify adds them to the list. (The major label average is actually skewed up by a single track which was 4.5 years old when added. If that outlier is removed then the difference stretches to a full 2 weeks less time on average for major label tracks to get on the playlist compared to indie label tracks.)
This indicates that a larger number of major label tracks are taken at face value and added quickly while indie tracks are more likely to have to prove their own worth with organic plays before being added. Indeed, 55% of indie tracks have to wait more than a month before being added to Todays Top Hits, compared to 49% of major label tracks.
Yet despite the relative double disadvantage, indie tracks stay on Today’s Top Hits 12 days longer than major label tracks, which is probably a reflection of the fact that so many have to prove their worth to get on the playlist and are therefore more likely to have more staying power than an unproven track put on the playlist immediately upon release. In fact, 13% of all Today’s Top Hits tracks were put on the list the day of their release which begs the question how they can be defined as hits if no one has streamed them yet….
You didn’t account for genre-specific metrics in here… a playlist, generally, has a specific lane it operates in, with TTH falling in line with Top40 generally. That should be your denominator, not the overall music industry. If Indies are more likely to produce in the Alt or Electronic lane, one wouldn’t expect them to have a share in TTH commiserate with their share of the music industry… you’d expect their share to be lower if their distributed Top40 lane music is a smaller proportion than average.
Can you talk through your thought process where you wrote “… higher share of revenue which will then be used to justify a higher share of tracks…” Not quite following how share of revenue contributes to a higher share of tracks. Thanks.
Dan – the logic here is that the number of tracks in the biggest playlists on Spotify should be expected to have some degree of correlation with market share. Both from an ‘access’ perspective but also in term of general market dynamics. For the major labels we’d expect a degree of correlation between share share of charts / top playlists and share of revenue (which is ultimately derived from share of hits, new and old). But the access point is arguably the most important. It is crucial that Spotify and other playlists are seen to be, on a long term average basis, providing equality of access to its top playlists. Market share is a key determinant of this. of course music should be there on merit first and foremost but the label share stats here indicate that there is more at play than that.
John – you’re absolutely right that genre is key and that this playlist leans more heavily towards major label rosters. However similar trends are seen in other, non-pop playlists cf Rap Caviar https://blog.chartmetric.io/what-you-need-to-know-rapcaviar-spotifys-own-hot-97-a3ffc687e05e
Pingback: Majors Get The Tracks But Not The Longevity On Today’s Top Hits – printzblog
Pingback: A Journal of Musical ThingsRandom Music News for Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - A Journal of Musical Things
Pingback: Music Business News, November 29, 2017 | Music Consultant
Interesting information! Major labels have so much influence behind them, and operate on the idea that its from Universal, or any other major label, it must be good. Is no wonder the tracks shoot to the top of the charts, but its true they never really last. Good music with substance takes time to be recognised, but when it finally is, it lasts. Thanks for sharing these insights!
Pingback: Looming Streaming Crisis from Playlist Malfeasance – Doite Media
Pingback: Playlist Malfeasance