Spotify: Millions and millions of streams, is it worth it?

Until a few years ago, before Spotify, Soundcloud was one of the most used platforms, at least by DJs and producers, to find and listen to new music. If you’re part of the music industry, you will surely have noticed the long decline of this platform during the time, leading more and more users to choose alternatives to share their music. Initially, receiving totally organic streams was quite simple, but over time it became much harder because of the huge amount of published material.  About one or two years ago, Soundcloud was definitively killed by repost chains: without them it’s really hard to be actually spotted.

Aside the streams aspect, have you noticed how the user experience has changed over time due to repost chains?

Mushroom Cloud – 15 December 2018

In the image below we can see the NPS, calculated in the United States in 2017, of different platforms including Spotify and Soundcloud. The NPS evaluates on a scale from 100 to -100 how much a user would recommend a platform to another user.



Thinking about it, the whole story seems familiar to me: is what’s happening with Spotify.
If you compare Spotify and Soundcloud, it’s as if Spotify’s playlists are currently the repost chains of Soundcloud.

Being included in big playlists often leads to a good flow of streams, but what happens when artists can’t get right placement into playlists?

Artists who usually do millions and millions of streams end up with a bunch of streams, as if their fame would suddenly disappear.

It is no longer so rare to see artists making hundreds of millions of views, even at first releases.

At first glance it all looks fantastic, but we’re missing one of the fundamental steps in the music industry: building a fan base that’s as real as possible.

Don’t get me wrong, have lots of streams on Spotify is not something negative, but producers should understand that there are more important metrics to consider.

Let me do a simple example to explain better the concept.

Imagine starting a company that sells water. The key steps would be to think of a strategy, buy the water and start selling it (let me simplify).

Making millions of views on Spotify and defining this metric as the main one, is like buying a million bottles of water and trying to sell them in a little village of 300 people, without worrying about the fact that the goal (in this specific example) is to sell, not collect bottles.

You’ve moved well, you’ve achieved some goals, but you find yourself unable to sell your water to anyone.

That’s exactly what I want you to understand.

Nowadays most artists worry about the wrong metrics.

Did I earn followers with the last track released?

People started following me on Instagram and Facebook?

How many people of these “5 million streams” know my name or would come to a concert where I play?

These are the questions that producers should ask themselves, rather than just worrying about increasing Spotify views: the consequence of this obsession is that, often, artists don’t grow up, remaining just a few steps away from success.

The most negative part of the whole mechanism is that unfortunately most of the time the streams are not even real, bringing the artist a short-term gain.

Will Spotify end up like Soundcloud when its metrics will be more distorted and playlists will be less based on real choices and musical taste?


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