The State of Online Music

Last year was no exception – the growth of social networks, streaming services, online radio and digital
downloads is unstoppable, opening up ever more avenues for fans to listen to, discover, and share new music.
Next Big Sound has been tracking this data for more than three years and can once again present a unique
behind-the-scenes perspective on what happened in the music industry in 2012.

This is the State of the Industry →
Total Online Growth

The total number of plays, fans and artist profile views tracked by
Next Big Sound in 2012 is staggering.

New Plays We calculated the number of new plays by summing daily metric growth over the year from a broad range of different sources, including both audio and video consumption.
Plays combines: Vimeo Video Views, YouTube Video Views, VEVO Video Views, SoundCloud Plays, Last.fm Plays, MySpace Plays, Rdio Plays, ReverbNation Plays, and Purevolume Plays.

Growth in 2012

New Fans We calculated the number of new fans by summing daily fan base growth over the year from a broad range of different sources.
Fans combines: Facebook Page Likes, Twitter Followers, YouTube Subscribers, Instagram Followers, Last.fm Listeners, SoundCloud Followers, Rdio Track Listeners, MySpace Friends, Pandora Fans, Purevolume Fans (Favorites), and ReverbNation Fans.

Growth in 2012

New Profile Views We calculated the number of new profile views by summing daily profile view growth over the year from a broad range of different sources.
Profile views combines: Wikipedia Pageviews, YouTube Channel Views, MySpace Profile Views, and ReverbNation Impressions.

6% The stark difference in overall percentage increase of views versus other metrics is due primarily to a 32% decline in MySpace Profile Views, and a lesser 13% decline in YouTube Channel Views, counterbalancing a 25% increase in already-massive Wikipedia Pageviews.
Growth in 2012

It would take close to 100 Gangnam styles on YouTube to make up the number of online plays in 2012. #stateoftheindustry

Network Activity We calculated network activity as the average monthly number of new fans or plays per artist. We did this to ensure that activity numbers remained representative of network growth, even as we increased our artist coverage by double or triple-digit percentages. We also compared 34 different metrics for 459 tracks that appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2012.

Social network activity was up across the board in 2012, though certain channels definitely saw more growth
than others. As for where it is best to place your social focus, we found that YouTube/VEVO, Twitter, and Facebook
activity for an artist had the highest correlation to both debut and peak chart position on the Billboard Hot 100.

  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2012
  • 2011
Just as we saw last year, Soundcloud is on the rise. The social streaming network grew at an even faster rate in 2012, more than tripling in activity from the beginning of the year.
Activity on the video streaming site continued to grow steadily in 2012, though not at the same percentage rate as in 2011.
As a social channel for artists Twitter may have grown at a faster rate in 2011, but activity was consistently higher in 2012.
The social network passed 1 billion users last year, and while fan base growth was higher during the summer months of 2011, the overall sum was slightly larger in 2012.
While consistent with what we saw in 2011, the number of page views for artists on Wikipedia was slightly higher throughout 2012.
A video streaming site for only the major labels, not including Warner Music Group, VEVO saw a similar amount of activity both years.

Fan activity on Soundcloud tripled in 2012, making it the fastest growing social service for music. #stateoftheindustry

Social Market Share Social market share is being calculated here for all artists that have ever had a song on the radio in the US or Canada. We calculated social market share by summing daily global metric growth per major parent label over the year. We assigned each artist to a label category by: finding the label that released the majority of the artist's most recent songs, then finding that label's major label owner (if any). Thus, this is an artist-centric view of social market share by current artist and label ownership, versus a product-centric view of sales via distributors. The Other category represents independent labels (not wholly owned by a major parent label) and unsigned artists.

Major label artists were responsible for over three quarters of music sales in 2012. Does this
translate to social music? From Facebook page likes to YouTube video views, what percentage was
captured by each of the major labels versus independent and unsigned artists?

  • Other
  • Sony Music Entertainment
  • Warner Music Group
  • Universal Music Group
  • EMI
YouTube and Vevo present a unique counting challenge, as some YouTube channels are in fact syndicates of a VEVO counterpart (e.g. RihannaVEVO), and views on the YouTube channel count toward both the YouTube and the VEVO channels' view totals. We resolved this for each artist by taking only the views of the YouTube channel if it was a syndicate, and otherwise taking the sum of the YouTube and VEVO views.

Unsigned/independent artists represent 2x market share in social (~30%) compared to sales (~15%). #stateoftheindustry

Top Social Albums

Which album releases created the most social buzz last year? We took a look at the top-selling
albums of 2012, and found which ones drove the largest percentage increases in the artist's
social media numbers between the month leading up to and the month following release.

  • The Lumineers

    The Lumineers

    The eponymous debut album from Colorado-based folk band The Lumineers helped them grow their social fan base. They topped the list in terms of a boost in both Facebook page likes and Twitter Followers, near tripling their number of new fans in comparison to the month leading up to their release. One factor that may have had an impact was the decision to offer fans a digital sneak peek in return for connecting either their Facebook or Twitter account.

    Early Streaming Site Mar 21, 2012
    Album Release Date Apr 3, 2012
    NBS Chart Appearance Mar 29, 2012
    Billboard 200 Peak #9
  • An Awesome Wave


    It has been a great year for British Indie rock band Alt-J, who in addition to snagging the coveted Mercury Prize, were able to engage fans and encourage consumption with the international release of their debut album An Awesome Wave. The number of people talking about them on Facebook doubled in the month following release, making the highest percentage increase, and their YouTube video views jumped 105 percent, rivaled only by big names such as Taylor Swift and Rihanna.

    Album Release Date May 28, 2012
    NBS Chart Appearance May 17, 2012
    Billboard 200 Peak #134
  • Blak and Blu

    Gary Clark Jr.

    Another artist who saw a great social response to his album release is Gary Clark Jr. Clark has made a name for himself as the new face of blues, but had his major record label debut in 2012 with Blak and Blu. In the month following release, his social numbers boosted across the board, Wikipedia page views were up 200 percent, Twitter mentions doubled and new Facebook page likes jumped by more than 250 percent, second only to the increase seen by The Lumineers.

    iTunes Early Streaming Oct 16, 2012
    Album Release Date Oct 22, 2012
    NBS Chart Appearance Dec 1, 2012
    Billboard 200 Peak #6
Digital Sneak Peek for Fans The Lumineers
  • New Facebook Page Likes
  • New Twitter Followers
Aware and Engaged Alt-J
  • New Facebook Talking About
  • New YouTube Video Views
Stepping up to the Majors Gary Clark Jr.
  • New Facebook Page Likes
  • New Wikipedia Pageviews
  • New Twitter Mentions

Gary Clark Jr., The Lumineers and Alt-J released the top three social albums of 2012. #stateoftheindustry