Data to Date:
The Rapid Rise of
Social and Streaming
The Rapid Rise of Social and Streaming
DATA TO DATE: THE RAPID RISE OF SOCIAL AND STREAMING
Shares:
It’s gettin’ hot in herre.
It feels as though a week hasn’t gone by this year without another media frenzy about either a streaming service or a social platform. Charged with sharing industry updates with the team at Next Big Sound, I could barely keep up — Instagram launching their “@music” account to support artists, Apple premiering their long anticipated on-demand streaming service, major label takedowns on SoundCloud, rumors of Facebook launching a streaming service of their own. Everybody and their uncle buying an analytics firm (yours truly included). Oh. Did I forget to mention Tidal?
As such, it seems a pertinent time to step back and once again explore the state of the online music industry through the lens of data. How rapidly are we adopting streaming? (Rapid may be an understatement.) Which platforms are we using more frequently to keep tabs on artists? (Pics or it didn’t happen!) What impact does withholding content from any given service have? (I’m looking at you Taylor.)
I stream, you stream, we all
stream some Trap Queen.
Streaming is fast becoming the primary way we consume music, whether that be through the more interactive on-demand services, algorithmically-driven lean-back experiences, the increasingly popular format of human curation and playlists (think Beats One radio or Spotify’s discovery feature), or some combination of the above. In the first six months of 2015, Next Big Sound tracked more than a trillion online plays in total. twitter
That’s right, I said One. Trillion. Plays.
Included in that number are streams across YouTube, Vevo (don’t worry, we accounted for overlap), Vimeo, Spotify, Rdio, SoundCloud, and, for the first time ever, Pandora. When Next Big Sound was acquired by Pandora this summer, we heard the wisecrack “So, that’s how you’re gonna get your hands on their data!" more times than I can count.
Let's shift our focus from the decline in sales, and instead focus on maximizing digital revenue from streaming and social interaction.
While there is much more to our partnership than that, our response is a self-satisfied grin. In combination with all our other sources, we now have the most comprehensive overview of the industry we’ve ever been able to deliver.
What really blew our minds when tallying these totals was that the number of online plays in just the first six months of the year far exceeds what we tracked in all of 2014, even before the addition of Pandora's data. And social is growing like a weed as well. We tracked close to 14 billion new followers, page likes, and stations added in the first half of the year, already more than three quarters of the total from last year.
Let's take a moment to consider what impact this could have on the music industry at large. For musicians, their piece of the streaming pie will only continue to grow, let's shift our focus from the decline in sales, and instead focus on maximizing digital revenue from streaming and social interaction with fans.
Seriously though, I said One. Trillion. Plays.
Total Plays
Sources: Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, Soundcloud, Vevo, Vimeo, YouTube
Total Fans
Sources: Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, Soundcloud, Vevo, Vimeo, YouTube
Break it down for me now...
While topline figures are definitely intriguing and give a strong sense of where the industry is headed (particularly when we’re talking crazy numbers like these), we are going to need to dig deeper on the individual networks that comprise these totals, to give artists, managers, labels, and other rights holders real tools with which to benchmark performance. Just how fast are platforms like Instagram and SoundCloud growing? What genres are most popular on social networks like Facebook? Which metrics are declining in importance, and how should that impact strategy for artists and their teams?
It’s like we all caught the Instagram bug. This past May, Next Big Sound tracked more than 280 million new followers for artists, close to 6x the activity we were seeing less than a year ago – a multiple that speaks to the skyrocketing popularity of Instagram as a means for interacting with fans. (Note that the “Great Instagram Purge,” which occurred in late December has been smoothed over in this graph. While Justin Bieber may have been dethroned, follower activity bounced back to normal immediately following.)
Reveling in the runaway success of his first single “Trap Queen,” rapper and singer Fetty Wap is a standout example of an artist that has taken to Instagram like a pro twitter and is building a hefty following. Giving fans a candid glimpse into his life as an emerging artist and young parent (driving around with his crew one day, snapshots of his baby girl the next), he added more than 1.1 million new followers on the platform in the first six months of the year, with any given post typically attracting in the ballpark of 15,000 likes. This attentive audience returns great value in promoting upcoming shows and releases.
Is SoundCloud stuck between a rock and a hard place? Well. Yes. twitter
SoundCloud's play counts continue to climb at a steady rate year over year. Next Big Sound tracked close to 5 billion plays on the service in May 2015, which is twice that of the same month a year before, and five-fold the year prior. At the same time, unless you’re living under said rock, you know that the social streaming service has long been in ongoing negotiations with labels for direct licensing deals, reportedly with the intention of launching a subscription service.
If slow and steady wins the race, SoundCloud could plausibly compete with more mainstream platforms such as Spotify or Rdio. However, SoundCloud provides a valuable niche service in that it is optimized for content such as mix tapes and DJ sets (oh, and Drake). If striking direct deals with rights holders – integral to legitimizing the service and monetizing content – means they are essentially strong-armed into charging users for a service they were once offered at no cost, they’ll want to see that growth rate remain as stable as it has been.
In early 2014 Google started highlighting a section of Wikipedia pages directly in the search results for artists, meaning that fans hunting for basic information rather than a deep dive, could access what they needed without clicking through. This could be one reason why, on average, artists are seeing a lower number of direct views to their Wikipedia page.
But that doesn’t mean that artists can afford to neglect their entries, these are still highly trafficated pages - particularly around releases and major events. Twenty One Pilots hit the top slot of the Billboard 200 for the first time this spring with the release of their fourth studio effort Blurryface. They also saw close to half a million views to their (fairly meticulously updated) Wikipedia page in the first six months of the year, with daily activity peaking around the album drop. Fans continue to seek information about the artists they love. Make sure it’s accurate and available. twitter
I’ve always had this sneaking suspicion about a certain phenomenon. Anecdotally speaking, a latin artist like Romeo Santos has more than 30 million page likes, compared to only about 3 million followers on Twitter or Instagram. P!nk on the other hand has close to 33 million Facebook page likes, and more than 26 million followers on Twitter.
Taking a step back, it seems my long-standing hunch is corroborated. Genre breakdowns across networks are pretty consistent (with some anomalies such as the vast popularity of indie rockers on Twitter in 2014). Generally the average proportion that can be attributed to the latin genre is fairly low - over the course the past six months it made up only 2% of all activity for artists. On Facebook however, that number exceeds 5%, meaning that fans of latin artists are more engaged on Facebook than elsewhere.
You put my love on top!
It's been some time since we took a look at which artists are most popular across the different networks we track (two years and seven months to be obnoxiously specific). For the most part the top artist charts read like a who’s who of pop icons, substantiating the finding that artist popularity online grows by the rule of proportionate growth. The more followers you have, the more followers you will add, making it hard to topple leading acts. twitter
But there are a few exceptions that deserve a nod. For instance, the popularity of latin artists is once again apparent on Facebook. Of the ten artists that attracted the highest number of page likes in the first half of the year, five fall within the latin genre. twitter Reggaeton MC Nicky Jam, who is probably best known internationally for his track “El Perdón,” is seeing his online fan base grow at a crazy rate, adding more than a third of his total 14 million page likes in just six months.
It looks like Zayn Malik is leaving his former One Direction band mates in the dust (socially speaking at least), placing on the top ten list for Facebook. Malik, who split with the band to the great chagrin of Directioners around the globe this past March and recently announced his solo record deal with RCA, added more than 1.5 million new page likes from January to July. (Incidentally, Malik’s cover photo on the network at the time of writing still features his old crew. *Author Silently Weeps*)
And there are others who have managed to cut through the noise. Meghan Trainor came pretty much out of nowhere with her wildly successful “All About That Bass” and has already charmed her way to the top artist chart on YouTube. She counts 1.5 billion video views to her official channel since bursting on to the scene in late 2014.
SoundCloud’s top ranking artists are a familiar mix of rap & electronic, with Drake (who came out in support of Apple Music during the announcement in early June) once again rising to the top. It is worth noting that Drake also posts tracks and mix tapes from artists signed to his OVO Sound record label. Mix tape or album debate aside, Drake has been riding high since the release of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. He is also the number one artist on Rdio, and saw the most stations added of all artists on Pandora, resulting in more than 1.4 billion plays on the service in just the first half of the year.
Sure, there are general observations you can make when comparing activity across major online radio and streaming services. For instance, Spotify users are seeking out more EDM acts than Pandora listeners. But what really stands out is where artists choose to window or exclude their content altogether. Taylor Swift is notably absent from the top artist charts on both Spotify and Rdio (In contrast she is the second most popular artist to seed a station from on Pandora).
While Ms. Swift is in the fortunate position that she can afford to forego the resulting royalties, and can leverage this position to hold out for what she, and her label, consider fairer terms (we saw her do this with Apple Music just a few weeks ago), it is unclear whether artists with smaller fan bases would benefit from restricting access to fans of their music, depending on whatever service they choose to subscribe to (it’s all about that access).
I see you playin’, playin’ that track.
YouTube detections are (frankly) one of the more telling metrics when it comes to fan engagement that we track at Next Big Sound. This data counts every time a user creates and uploads a video to YouTube containing music, identifies who that music belongs to, and how many times that video is viewed.
This is pretty much next-level engagement – not only do I like your music, but I like it enough to upload it in videos I am creating and sharing.
This is pretty much next-level engagement – not only do I like your music, but I like it enough to upload it in videos I am creating and sharing on the web.
By breaking down YouTube detections on the track level by artist stages, we can figure out which songs have resonated the most with a US audience - and not just among the most popular artists – the Taylor Swifts and Beyoncés of the world – but also amongst up-and-coming artists and across the spectrum, from Undiscovered acts who have yet to land their first major record deal, to Epic artists who have several multi platinum releases under their belt. (Note that artists are grouped by which stage they were in in January 2015. Given the high level of online activity, many have since graduated to higher stages.)
Halsey
Undiscovered
Undiscovered acts have yet to land their first major record deal.
01
Hurricane
Halsey
02
Roller Mobster
Carpenter Brut
03
Native
Soulero
04
Peaches
In the Valley Below
05
06
Seve
Tez Cadey
07
08
Born to Do
Steven Cooper
09
Valentine Song
Lotte Mulan
10
Heart in the Pipes
Tony Castles
Fetty Wap
Promising
Promising acts are building their audience and recording their debut studio efforts.
01
Trap Queen
Fetty Wap
02
03
Bricks
Carnage
04
Daybreak
Overwerk
05
Love Me Like You Mean It
Kelsea Ballerini
08
Runaway (U & I)
Galantis
09
Coming Back Home
The Black Seeds
10
Reflections
Misterwives
Walk The Moon
Established
Established artists have performed on nationally broadcast late night television.
01
Shut Up and Dance
Walk the Moon
02
Take Your Time
Sam Hunt
03
Riptide
Vance Joy
04
Check
Young Thug
05
Dollhouse
Melanie Martinez
06
Geronimo
Sheppard
07
Honey, I'm Good
Andy Grammer
08
09
Trampoline
Kalin and Myles
10
It’s exciting to see young artists like Halsey rack up not one, but three top tracks in the Undiscovered category. twitter While Halsey may have been considered Undiscovered in January, that is no longer the case. In just a few short months, the vibrant blue-haired electro-pop singer has graduated all the way to Established, and her numbers are still rising. This summer she supported Imagine Dragons on their Smoke and Mirrors tour (she has a reputation for giving a killer live show), and her debut studio album Badlands is slated for late August.
These charts are literally littered with earworms, from OMI’s “Cheerleader” (which has topped the Billboard Hot 100 for the past four weeks in a row), to Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance,” to Andy Grammer’s “Honey, I’m Good.” (Someone get that song out of my head please) And if you haven’t heard “River Flows in You” by Yiruma yet, I suggest you grab some headphones and prepare to be moved.
Omarion
Mainstream
Mainstream artists have hit the upper echelons of the Billboard 200.
02
Let It Go
Idina Menzel
03
No Type
Rae Sremmurd
04
CoCo
O.T. Genasis
06
07
09
Sail
AWOLNATION
10
No Flex Zone
Rae Sremmurd
Wiz Khalifa
Epic
Epic artists have several multi platinum releases in their discography.
02
Shake it Off
Taylor Swift
03
Thinking Out Loud
Ed Sheeran
04
Blank Space
Taylor Swift
05
Sugar
Maroon 5
06
All About That Bass
Meghan Trainor
07
7/11
Beyoncé
08
Lips Are Movin
Meghan Trainor
09
Bad Blood
Taylor Swift
10
Sia is having a massive year. “Chandelier” is just one of several music videos off her 2014 album 1000 Forms of Fear that have gone viral, also landing her a top ten rank overall on Vevo. With a series of somewhat bizarre interpretive dances featuring prodigy Maddie Ziegler, and in one case a lightly clothed Shia LeBeouf (controversy be damned), Sia and her team have successfully created some of the most-talked about music moments of the past year.
Topping the list of tracks from epic artists, Wiz Khalifa’s ode to the late Paul Walker is a clear candidate for song of the summer. But he’s going to have to battle it out with Fetty Wap, who despite having only been in the promising category in January, has already climbed to mainstream. In fact “Trap Queen” counts a higher number of YouTube detection views than “See You Again” - 200 million to 176 million in the first six months of the year.
And even though any unofficial content from Taylor Swift is swiftly (get it?) removed from YouTube once it is identified, she still generates enough detected plays to land three tracks in the top 10. Go figure.
By Liv Buli @lbuli
More Than Words
When it comes to gaining value from data, context is fundamental, and as platforms evolve, that context will continue to change.
The mission here is full transparency in the music industry, and with the rise of streaming, both on-demand and non-interactive, there is opportunity for precisely that. Artists and rightsholders are entitled to know how, when, and where fans are consuming their content. twitter Armed with this data, artists and their teams can make the more informed business decisions that will result in a sustainable middle class of musicians, and a more profitable music industry.
Want to learn more about
accessing data for your artist?