July 7, 2021

Five Very Different Streaming Services

Exploring differences in the most popular songs on streaming platforms

Most programmers now regularly examine streaming data from MRC Data’s BDSradio or whatever BuzzAngle is now to help pick the best new music. Have you ever looked behind the curtain to examine the data that drives those aggregated data platforms?

You have access to the same information that drives these platforms. Major streaming services all publish charts of the most popular titles on their services that you can easily peruse for free.

And when you do, you’ll be shocked at the differences in what songs are hits on each service.

How to access charts for major music streaming services

Spotify Logo



Amazon Music


Pandora Logo


YouTube Logo


We examined the Top 20 most-played songs in the U.S. on the five major music streaming platforms during the week of June 15th, 2021.

Here are key discoveries we made about each streaming service:

#1: Amazon Music listeners have the greatest interest in Country—and Classic Rock.

When you examine the most streamed songs in the U.S. on aggregated charts, Country hardly exists. Among Amazon Music users, however, 40% of the 20 most-streamed songs are Country titles. Amazon has aggressively pursued Country listeners, most notably signing an exclusive deal with superstar Garth Brooks.

Several songs that are among the 20 most frequently played songs on Amazon Music are also big hits on Country radio—but are not even among the most 100 played songs on any of the other four major streaming platforms.

Country titles are Top 20 on Amazon Music
but not even Top 100 on other streaming services

Luke Combs Chris Stapleton Dylan Scott
Forever After All
Starting Over

Amazon Music’s most played songs also include more Gold titles than any other service, too. The Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus mix of “Old Town Road” is still a Top 20 most played title on Amazon Music (#16). More noteworthy, Amazon Music users play Classic Rock than any other streaming platform: Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Metallica, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, Toto and Bon Jovi all have songs among the 150 most played songs on Amazon Music.

Finally, unlike the other four major streaming services, not a single pure Hip Hop title is among the 20 most played songs on Amazon music.

#2: Pandora users also love Country—but their charts have a caveat. 

Like Amazon Music, 40% of the Top 20 most-played songs on Pandora are Country songs, but some of the biggest Country hits currently, such as Luke Combs’ “Forever After All” and Dylan Scott’s “Nobody,” are notoriously absent from Pandora’s most-played chart.

That’s because Next Big Sound, the subsidiary of Pandora that publishes its streaming data, intentionally “sunsets” all songs they no longer consider new, typically after just 16 weeks on their chart. The oldest exception was Cole Swindell’s “Single Saturday Night,” which was still on Pandora’s chart for 24 weeks. As we’ve observed, while most CHR titles run their course around that time, Country fans remain interested in the format’s biggest hits for 28 to 44 weeks.

Therefore, relatively new Country titles such as Brett Young’s “Not Yet” are Top 20 on Pandora’s most played songs chart but are absent on Amazon Music’s chart which does not arbitrarily remove titles based on age—meaning the biggest hits remain atop Amazon’s chart as long as listeners keep streaming them.


Most Popular Genres on Streaming Platforms

#3 Apple Music users are heavily into Hip Hop

 Eighty-five percent (85%) of the 20 most played songs on Apple Music are Hip Hop titles, more than any other major streaming service. For our analysis, we separated the kind of Hip Hop titles that garner mainstream appeal (Pop Hip Hop) from those titles most likely to appeal to the genre’s core fans (Pure Hip Hop). Apple Music clearly is the destination for those core fans—80% of Apple Music’s Top 20 tiles are Pure Hip Hop titles.

Migos’ newly released “Culture III” project dominated Apple Music’s Top 20, including “Having Our Way (feat. Drake)” and “Avalanche”, tracks missing from all other services’ charts. Hip Hop artists Polo G and Meghan Thee Stallion also have huge hits on Apple Music—but not on other streaming services.


Core Hip Hop tiltes are Top 20 on Apple Music
but not even Top 100 on other streaming services

Migos Meghan Thee Stallion Polo G
Having Our Way & Avalanche
Thot Shit

Black Hearted

In contrast, Country and Alternative are completely missing from Apple Music’s Top 20 most played songs, while the only Pop titles among Apple Music’s most popular 20 titles during the week we examined (6/15/2021) were three newly released titles from Olivia Rodrigo.

#4 Hip Hop and Novelty at home on YouTube

YouTube is second only to Apple Music in the number of Hip Hop titles among its Top 20 most-viewed titles. Unlike Apple music, however, most of the biggest Hip Hop videos on YouTube also receive significant plays on other services. (A notable exception being “Outside (Better Days)” from the recently killed rapper MO3, along with OG Bobby Billions).

The songs that stand out as unique to popular consumption on YouTube, however, have some element of the offbeat. “Welcome to the Internet” from comedian Bo Burnham mocks the frivolity and annoyances that dominates our screen time, while former professional wrestler Tom MacDonald’s “Snowflakes” is what Sean Hannity would rap if, God forbid, he ever did.

Novelty titles are among the 20 biggest videos on YouTube, but don’t get streamed on audio services

MO3 & OG BOBBY BILLIONS Bo Burnham Tom MacDonald
Outside (Better Days)
Welcome to the Internet

#5 Spotify is the new Sam Goody

Until recently, you’d find far more Hip-Hop titles among the most played songs on Spotify compared to radio exposure or iTunes downloads. Today, however, there’s a wider variety of genres among the songs Spotify users play most as the service’s user base expands. There are more Pop titles (70%) among Spotify’s Top 20 than on any competing service, from big name artists such as Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa and BTS. While the week we examined saw no Country titles among Spotify’s Top 20, Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs have made several appearances in Spotify’s Top 20 in recent months.

During the week in mid-June (2021) we examined, however, 10 of the 20 most-streamed songs on Spotify were from one artist: Oliva Rodrigo. Her debut solo album SOUR dropped just three weeks before and Spotify users were streaming most tracks on the album in heavy rotation. Several of those tracks, such as “good 4 u,” “déjà vu,” and “traitor” also received plenty of plays on other streaming platforms. On Spotify, however, listeners also streamed deeper tracks from the album that aren’t hits on other streaming services.

That pattern mirrors what we discovered in our 2019 deep dive into Spotify usage: Listeners use Spotify as a record store, listening to every track on a new album of an artist they love. After a few weeks, however, the songs that are the real hits catch on with a wider audience and continue enjoying strong streaming on Spotify.

Artists as varied as Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, J Cole, Justin Bieber, and Drake have all experienced the same pattern of releasing a new project and seeing multiple tracks from that release debut at the top of Spotify’s streaming chart.  While we do see a similar pattern for new Hip Hop releases on Apple Music, this “record store” effect simply isn’t prominent on the other major streaming services as it is on Spotify.

Top 20 on Spotify, but not on other streaming services: Deep tracks from a brand-new release

favorite crime
jealousy, jealousy
enough for you
1 step forward, 3 steps back

So how different are the five major streaming services’ biggest hits?

Sixty-six different individual songs comprised the list we examined of songs that were Top 20 on at least one streaming service. Among those 66 songs, only one song was Top 20 on all five services: Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u.”

“That’s neato,” you say, “but you only examined one moment in time. Does broader research confirm your findings?”

In our next post, we’ll talk with John Boyne at Coleman Insights, whose Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3 examined the musical tastes of different streaming services’ users to answer that important question.

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