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What does it take for a song to reach a billion streams on Spotify? Science takes a look.

Every couple of weeks we hear about the latest song to cross the billion streams threshold on Spotify. As of this month (October 2023), there are about 500 songs in this club with The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” leading the way with 3,836,000,000 streams.

What does it take to achieve more than a billion listens? There’s been a study and analysis of these tracks that has turned up some common traits among many of them.

  • Many are written in the keys of C♯, D♭ Major key. Combine that with a 4/4 time signature and you find something that can have universal appeal.
  • A neutral valence (the level of a song’s perceived positivity) works best.
  • Songs with around 118 beats per minute are in the Goldilocks Zone: Not too fast, not to slow. Just right.
  • Songs with moderate to high danceability and energy levels are what resonate the most.
  • A song’s perceived loudness is important. A value of -6.181 is ideal. You can make out everything in the arrangement without being drowned in a blare of noise.
  • They looked at something called “speechiness” (how much spoken word is in a song). This explains the popularity of rap.
  • Instrumentals have zero chance of breaking a billion streams. There has to be vocals.

By this criteria, the perfect songs for the streaming age are:

  1. “These Days” (feat. Jess Glynne, Macklemore & Dan Caplen) by Rudimental
  2. “ROCKSTAR” (feat. Roddy Ricch) by DaBaby
  3. “Too Good At Goodbyes” by Sam Smith
  4. “Ransom” by Lil Tecca
  5. “The Night We Met” by Lord Huron
  6. “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  7. “Money Trees” by Kendrick Lamar & Jay Rock
  8. “Wake Me Up” by Avicii
  9. “All The Stars”  by Kendrick Lamar & SZA
  10. “Stay” by Rihanna

Now you have the data, go and write the perfect song.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

Alan Cross has 37808 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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