More on how Spotify is changing the very nature of music

Music and technology have always had a symbiotic relationship, especially when it comes to the form in which music is distributed.

For example, the reason most songs are in the 3-4 minute range today is because that was the capacity of the original spinning disc, the 78 RPM record. The advent of a la carte song purchases iTunes brought about the slow death of the album. And streaming is changing things even further.

Spotify is the big dog in the streaming world, and it’s altering the way music is not only distributed but how it’s produced and marketed.

This is from

Spotify playlists, which are maintained by a mixture of users, Spotify staff, and algorithms, account for the majority of music listening on the app, and there have been several cases in which a previously-unknown artist has been catapulted onto the Billboard charts after getting prime placement on one of them.

This has led to more song diversity among the top hits. An engineer named Michael Tauberg performed an analysis comparing the Billboard charts in the eight years leading up to the launch of Spotify to the eight subsequent years. “In the pre-Spotify era of the 2000s, there were a total of only 3,092 songs on the Hot-100,” he wrote on Medium. “In the same amount of time from 2009–2018, there were 3,933 songs on the chart, an increase of 27%.” Songs spent less time, on average, on the list, but that meant more artists had a shot at breaking out into the mainstream.

Keep reading.

Then there’s the whole issue of measuring the popularity of a song on a streaming service. This involves comparing listeners to followers of playlists. From another article (WARNING: Lots of numbers and stats ahead!)

In March 2018, we explored the idea of content-based (CN), context-based (CX), and hybrid (HB) playlists on the Spotify platform…if you missed it, check it out here for some context (pun fully intended).

But essentially, CN playlists represented the traditional way of categorizing music (e.g., genres, countries), CX playlists focused more on the user (e.g., working out, gaming, day of the week), and HB playlists mixed both types. Of the 950+ playlists at the time from Spotify’s Genres & Moods section of their interface, CN playlists were understandably more plentiful (57%).

More notably, CX and HB playlists outdid them in both median followers per playlist (HB had over 237K follows vs. CN’s 103K) and percentage follower gain since March 2017 (CX had 84% gain vs. CN’s 62%). The evidence pointed towards context being more and more of a meaningful touch point with Spotify users.

In April 2018, we announced a new metric called “Estimated Listeners” (ELs) for playlists. Definitely check it out on your favorite playlist’s Chartmetric profile, and see how we engineer the feature below.

Keep reading.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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