October 9, 2019

What Radio Can Learn From Spotify

For decades, radio programmers have dreamed of crawling inside their listeners’ cars, bedrooms and earbuds to hear exactly how they consume music. Are there new songs listeners have discovered? When exactly do listeners stop playing songs they used to love?

That dream has finally come true.

Spotify has emerged as the leading platform for listeners to control their own music. Generously, Spotify has a free gift for radio programmers: The Spotify Charts. They list exactly how many times listeners played the top 200 songs. Users can select daily or weekly charts, as well as drill down to Spotify users in specific countries.

To find out what radio programmers can learn from Spotify, we analyzed the Top 200 songs in the U.S. each week from January 1st through August 1st of 2019.

Over the next few posts, we’ll share what we learned from our Spotify usage deep-dive and how you should interpret Spotify data when selecting new music for your station.

Today, we tackle the age old question:  Is there a consistent demand for music, or does the amount of music listeners consume vary with their passion for the music that’s out at the moment?

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Music consumption varies by up to 34% from week to week.

In a typical week, U.S. Spotify users stream the 200 biggest songs 583 million times. However, that grows as high as 716 million streams per week or drops as low as 536 million streams per week.

What’s the biggest driver of those big weeks?

When big artists release new albums, listeners consume more music overall

All data © 2019 Spotify AB

The weeks with the most streams include:

  • February 14th: Ariana Grande drops her “thank u, next” project. That week, Grande held nine out of the top 10 songs on Spotify.
  • April 4th: Billie Eilish releases “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO”. During that week, Eilish held seven of the top 10 spots.
  • April 11th: The Billy Ray Cyrus remix of “Old Town Road” hits, instantly taking the #1 spot while the original version grew to #2.

The low point during our eight-month analysis is June 20th, when Drake ft. Rick Ross’s “Money In The Grave” debuted at #1, but without a corresponding album release.

Consumption of the #1 song can double for a big song’s release

In a typical week, the #1 song on Spotify in the U.S. receives around 14 million streams. However, that figure doubles for the peak week and falls 35% for the lowest week.

By far, the most weekly streams of a #1 song came on January 24th, when Spotify users played Ariana Grande’s newly released single “7 Rings” 28 million times. When Grande dropped the full album in February, “Break Up With Your Girlfriend I’m Bored” racked up almost 23 million streams.

Other big #1 weeks included Billie Eilish’s release of “Bad Guy” and the release of the Billy Ray Cyrus remix of Lil’ Nas X’s “Old Town Road”

All data © 2019 Spotify AB

The low point for consumption of the biggest song on Spotify was also for Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy”. Listeners only streamed it about 9 million times during the week of June 13th. That was ten weeks after its release and only half the weekly streams it got when it dropped. In the absence of something more compelling, however, sustained interest in “Bad Guy” was sufficient to return it to #1.


The Takeaway for Radio:  The fact that listeners consume the most music when there’s a big release from a big artist suggests that at least some listeners are highly interested in sampling brand new music. Stations should find bold ways to satisfy this interest when big artists release new songs, without clogging up regular rotations with tons of titles other listeners would simply find unfamiliar.

In our next post, we’ll tackle the raging question: Is Spotify replacing record stores or radio stations—and why it matters for how you interpret Spotify data.

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