Where We Stand

Artists, managers and labels are successfully adapting – engineering innovative approaches to the traditional release cycle, and narrowing in on those new sources of revenue and attention that will drive and sustain careers in an industry landscape that hasn’t yet settled on the future. Streaming services are growing at a rapid clip, albeit still searching for the feasible business models that will satisfy a polarized industry. US sales decline, both physical and digital, and the question still remains of what it will take for a new model of consumption to compensate, but it is this very decline that challenges artists to come up with new ways to engage their audience.

Social Opportunity

At Next Big Sound we are now tracking more than one million artists in total. This translates to a massive number of plays and new fans for artists, and continued online growth year over year. If leveraged in the right way, this online relationship with fans can be very beneficial to artists. Fans are reachable in an instant, and if provided with strong, compelling content, are happy to share and spread the word for you.

In 2012 we tracked a whopping 5.7 billion new fans online, and the trend has showed no signs of stopping. Another 6 billion new fans in 2013 is evidence of the vast opportunities that lie in social. twitter

New Fans Added


2013 6B +5.63%
2012 5.7B

New Fans Added on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud,
Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and Last.fm

New Streams


2013 223B +137.92%
2012 93B

New Streams on YouTube, VEVO, SoundCloud,
Spotify, Rdio, Vimeo and Last.fm

The total number of online plays we tracked in 2013 is an overwhelmingly positive signal for the industry. More than 223 billion plays is an increase of close to 140% from what we tracked last year, twitter across services such as YouTube, Vevo, SoundCloud and Spotify. While the substantial percentage increase is partially due to our new partnership with Spotify and the addition of this data in the total tally for the past year, we found that streaming overall has become a vastly more popular method of consumption amongst music fans.

Fans are using these sites to follow, interact with, learn more, and listen to the artists they love. From up-and-coming, to mega stars, it is imperative that artists take advantage of social reach and understand that this is where a significant amount of the interaction between artists and fans takes place.

Top Ten Ranks

A good few of the names that rise to the top ranks across social networks are familiar and in many ways predictable. Most of these artists that have dropped major releases in 2013, and overall they dominate coverage in the press.

In terms of social networks, it is the megastars that dominate.

Shakira snagged the most new fans on Facebook last year, and Rihanna, who is the top artist in terms of page likes overall, came in a close second. Bruno Mars, who was recently dubbed Billboard’s Artist of The Year as well as top of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in music, took home the bronze slot. Perhaps the most surprising appearance on the Facebook chart is Michael Jackson, though legal controversy and rumors of a documentary have certainly helped create buzz and attention around the legacy artist.

Katy Perry continued to reign supreme on Twitter, and successful social campaigns in 2013 helped her gain the most new followers. Justin Bieber hasn’t retired just yet and came in second. Lady Gaga, who is third-biggest on Twitter overall, and whose high-powered marketing initiatives around her ARTPop release were notoriously overshadowed by the lack-of-marketing techniques employed by Beyoncé last year, fell a few spots in gains to ninth. Comeback kid Justin Timberlake snagged a spot on both the Twitter and Instagram charts, where he has been actively promoting The 20/20 Experience, and Harry Styles left his One Direction bandmates in the dust.

Comparing online streaming networks side by side, the nuances between them are striking.

Between Skrillex, Rihanna, and PSY, the top artists across streaming sites stand in stark contrast to each other.twitterVEVO, which is host to video content for two of three major labels, as well as several independents, makes for a chart riddled with the biggest names in the industry including Rihanna, One Direction, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.

YouTube is a different beast altogether. The top-ranking chart includes a bunch of artists that are born and bred on the site, including Boyce Avenue and violinist Lindsey Stirling. Once again PSY is the most popular artist, and not only because he released a new track in 2013. Despite competition for most-obnoxiously-overplayed-video from Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis with EDM spoof “The Fox” – “Gangnam Style” remains the most viewed video on YouTube last year.

SoundCloud, the site that first rose to prominence as a hub for electronic music, mixes and DJ sets, has seen content branch out in 2013. EDM acts including Skrillex, Krewella, and Major Lazer still come out on top. But artists such as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, as well as Lorde, who leveraged the free music site to share their music and build a massive following, can also claim their place in the upper ranks.

Mapping The Landscape

So what exactly is the significance of say 1 million views on VEVO? YouTube plays, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, these are numbers that are being cited more frequently in articles, told as part of promotional stories, and incorporated as an integral part in structuring business deals. But these numbers are still fairly new, and without context they are meaningless.

Our research shows that artist popularity generally follows the rule of proportionate growth – meaning that the bigger an artist’s following already is, the more new followers an artist will gain. About 80% of the artists that we track at Next Big Sound see less than one Facebook page like per day. In contrast – Shakira saw an average of 50,000 Facebook page likes every day last year. Twitter

Artist Distribution
  • Undiscovered
  • Developing
  • Mid-Sized
  • Mainstream
  • Mega
90.7% 6.8% 1.4% 0.9% 0.2%

In order to group artists together according to size and phase of their career, we set social media benchmarks based on key milestones, including inking a deal with a record label, appearing on a late-night television show, charting at the top of the Billboard 200, and ultimately releasing an album that goes multiplatinum. We looked at when artists had crossed each career milestone in the past and calculated their typical social media following at that time.

All of the artists in our system were then grouped according to these benchmarks, and we found that an overwhelming number fall within the Undiscovered stage, in fact more than 90%. Close to 7% of the artists we are tracking are still Developing, but only about 1% of all the artists in our system can be considered Mainstream or even Mega stars. twitter

Reach by Network
  • Undiscovered
  • Developing
  • Mid-Sized
  • Mainstream
  • Mega
YouTube + VEVO
Video Views
2.8% 6.9% 11.3% 30.3% 48.7%

However, looking at the total share of fans and plays that each group of artists see across networks, proportions are completely flipped. The top tier of artists (0.2%) commands around 50% of Facebook fans and YouTube/VEVO video views, twitter and an even higher percentage of followers on Twitter. In fact, more than 90% of the artists in our system have less than 3% of the total fans and plays across all three networks. It is no wonder that the top charts are dominated by Mega artists.

But this doesn’t mean that all hope is lost for the up-and-coming artist: Lorde blasted from Undiscovered to Mainstream in less than 8 months. Not everyone is going to be a superstar, but pretty much anyone with the right sound and promotional savvy has the opportunity in this day and age.

Leading The Pack

This has definitely been the year for artists to revolt against traditional methods for release and promotion. We have identified three key directions that artists are taking: partnering with brands, leveraging social media, and delivering a new album experience to fans.

Nowadays, an artist holding up a soda can and professing their love for it, just won’t cut it.Twitter The number of brand partnerships are increasing, and what is more, brands are straying away from standard endorsement deals and leaning more towards collaboration – collaboration that is beneficial to both. Perhaps the most notable new approach to brand/artist relationships in 2013, was rapper Jay Z’s decision to team up with mobile giant Samsung, and release Magna Carta Holy Grail exclusively through a mobile app.

Despite some technical glitches with the download, the partnership was a success for both parties. Jay Z went platinum before there was even an official release, and the brand enjoyed massive online traction and hype for promotional videos around the deal. In the month surrounding the event, Samsung Mobile USA saw more than 40 million video views to their official channel, an increase of close to 25,000% in comparison to the month prior, as well as an uptick in both Wikipedia page views and Twitter mentions.

Artists are also getting smarter about social, making big splashes to drive online engagement in the run up to album releases. Not only did Katy Perry announce PRISM by way of a golden truck that first appeared in Los Angeles, emblazoned with the album title and month of release, but fans were encouraged to snap photos with the truck and tweet them. In return they were promised a retweet from the super star.

Also her appearance at the VMAs this summer was shrouded in social tactics. Working with beverage brand Pepsi, Perry allowed her fans to unlock clues including song titles and lyrics, using a designated hashtag on Twitter, and vote through a microsite for one of two songs to be released on iTunes close to a month before the album officially dropped. It’s efforts like these that help Perry stay on top of the Twitter ecosystem of artists.

There has also been a push to deliver music fans an entirely different experience altogether, combining music with other artforms. Between Beyoncé’s surprise visual album, and Pharrell’s 24-hour music video, there are plenty of examples. Childish Gambino got really inventive with his sophomore release.

Because The Internet was accompanied by a 73-page online screenplay. There are queues throughout the story to play songs from the album, shaping the release as more than simply a listening experience. This original and creative approach to an album drop helps to drive significant buzz, press coverage and social activity.

In sum, 2013 has been the year to step up your game when it comes to marketing music. Major artists are leading the way, but there is room for artists at all levels to think outside the box and create a real splash. The audience is ready and waiting, the trick is to encourage them to consume and share content.

Just Keep Swimming

Some have feared the worst, arguing that music has been devalued, that artists no longer can make a living, and that the methods of consuming music that are becoming increasingly popular are detrimental to the industry as a whole. But as we take a look at the state of the industry in 2013, the surge in streaming and innovation in marketing approaches, we find it moving steadily closer to the solutions and norms that will help artists and music thrive.

We make data useful for the biggest music companies and brands in the world. To learn more about how we can help your company, please contact sales@nextbigsound.com.