There is a real problem with the overwhelming number of tracks flooding streaming services. And the quality and/or the streaming potential simply is not there.
A startling statistic revealed in Music Business Worldwide shows that in 2023, 158.6 million tracks on streaming services received 1,000 or fewer plays, comprising a massive 86.2% of the 184 million tracks monitored by Luminate via International Standard Recording Codes (ISRCs). Even more striking is that 45.6 million tracks, or nearly a quarter of the total, were not played at all.
Luminate’s report indicates a 20% year-over-year increase in zero-play tracks, despite the overall number of tracks on streaming platforms growing by 16.5%. The total count of audio tracks at the end of 2023 stood at 184 million, a 26 million increase from 2022.
The report also notes that an average of 103,500 new tracks were added daily to streaming services in 2023, up 10.8% from 2022. A significant portion of these tracks, over 43%, received 10 or fewer plays throughout the year.
Artist-centric payment models
In response to this trend, streaming services are adopting ‘artist-centric’ payment models. Deezer was the first to introduce such a system in France, offering enhanced royalty payments to artists with a minimum of 1,000 monthly streams and 500 unique listeners, with additional boosts for actively searched artists. Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group have embraced Deezer’s new model.
Spotify, too, announced changes to its payment model effective from Q1 2024. It will stop paying royalties for tracks with fewer than 1,000 plays in the past 12 months and will introduce a minimum unique listener requirement for royalty eligibility.
These new models aim to address the issue of low-play tracks but do not fully resolve the problem of tracks with zero plays. The financial sustainability of hosting such a vast catalog of music is becoming a pressing concern. In 2022, Spotify’s estimated minimum annual cost for cloud computing services and additional software licensing fees rose significantly, indicating the financial strain of maintaining an ever-expanding music library.
Deezer from its side announced plans to replace non-artist noise content with its own content in the functional music space, not included in the royalty pool, in a bid to manage the catalog size.
Time will tell whether streaming services will need further measures to manage hosting costs, and if more radical steps, such as charging for new song uploads or removing non-performing tracks, might become necessary. And then we are back to the small niche scenes where plays less than 1000 are not really surprising or exceptional… Which of course might lead bands to move completely to platforms like Bandcamp.
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