May 7, 2019

Three reasons Hip Hop soars on Spotify but tanks in your music tests

Part two of a four-part series on music consumption trends

 In our last post, we spotlighted how many of the biggest pure Hip Hop titles on streaming services are absent from radio. If these songs are among the most-played songs when listeners are in control of their music, why don’t they test well with mainstream radio audiences?

As fortune would have it, Integr8 Research’s sister company Coleman Insights recently conducted the Contemporary Music SuperStudy, which sheds light on this very question. The project examined the most consumed songs of 2018 across six of the most popular music genres, as measured by Nielsen – BDSradio. They then used the same methodology they use for their FACT360 library testing to evaluate listeners’ reactions to each song.

We talked with Coleman Insights’ President Warren Kurtzman about the study and asked what it reveals about this gap.

1) Streaming doesn’t measure detractors.

“There are a lot of people who love Hip Hop and there are a lot of people who don’t like Hip Hop,” Kurtzman notes of Coleman’s findings. “Songs coded as Hip Hop/R&B made up the biggest portion of our test list of the most consumed titles of 2018, and when we looked at ‘like a lot’ scores or passion, Hip Hop/R&B came back as the biggest genre. But we also found that there are also a lot of people who don’t like Hip Hop/R&B. Thus, in an evaluation average metric that considers the full range of how people rate the music, Hip Hop/R&B fared notably less well.”

As we’ve noted in past posts, streaming statistics don’t capture how many listeners dislike a song because if you dislike a song, you simply don’t play it.

Kurtzman adds, “Purchases or on-demand streaming are driven only by the positives; you love something, you choose to listen to and/or buy it. But many radio stations are trying to be as mass appeal as possible for their target audience; they care about what their listeners like and they care about what their listeners dislike. So if you’re a Top 40 station, you have to be conscious of the positives and negatives of a polarizing title.”

The only tool that captures both passion and hatred is music research—whether a library test or callout.

2) Hip Hop is big on streaming because streaming is big with Hip Hop fans. 

Take a peek inside any shopping cart at Costco and you’d think Kirkland was the biggest brand in America. If you only shop at Kroger, though, you’ve likely never even heard of Costco’s house brand.

Lil Uzi Vert is to streaming a bit like Kirkland is to Costco.

More than any other genre, Hip Hop fans have consolidated their music consumption on Spotify and YouTube. According to Nielsen Audio’s year end music report, 69% of Hip Hop consumption came from streaming, while only 20% came from paid digital downloads and a scant 11% from physical album sales. Meanwhile, consumption of other genres was more evenly divided between these three media.

Coleman Insights’ findings shed light on this difference: “Hip Hop/R&B titles perform best with younger, ethnic listeners who live in urban areas,” Kurtzman notes. These consumers are the same consumers most likely to embrace streaming.

3) Streaming counts how many times a song gets played, not how many different people play it.  

If 10 different listeners play a song once on Spotify or YouTube, it counts as 10 plays on the streaming chart. If one listener plays a song ten times, it also counts as 10 plays on the streaming chart.

That’s how Baby Shark muscled its way into the Billboard Top 40 last January, garnering 20.8 million streams in a single week and peaking at #16 on billboard’s Streaming Songs chart, according to Nielsen Music.

Nice work, toddlers.

The released streaming data does not indicate how many different people played a song—only how many total times a song was played.

Hip Hop fans presumably aren’t as repetition-happy as preschoolers, but Hip Hop fans may well play their favorite titles frequently given their passion for the genre, their relative youth, and their lack of exposure to the genre on other platforms.

How should your station use streaming?

Do these limitations mean you should ignore streaming data? Hardly. We’ve long advocated for the advantages of understanding what songs listeners are streaming and these advantages continue growing as Spotify replaces iTunes.

Streaming is especially helpful at identifying new songs that fit your format, but might not yet be on your radar. However, you’ll have to use other resources—including your instincts and your own music research—to ultimately decide if a big hit on streaming will be a song your listeners want to hear on your station.

Basing your playlist primarily from streaming data, however, will likely lead you to play songs that a sizable portion of your listeners downright hate.

In our next post, we’ll explore why County is missing from the top of streaming charts, even as the radio audience for Country continues to grow.


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