The 2017 year-end report published by the data company BuzzAngle, which tracks music consumption, contained a disturbing statistic tucked away in the report: The most popular 10 percent of songs accounted for 99 percent of all audio streams. While the lucky 10 percent of tracks still encompassed a lot of music — around 3.3 million different songs — the numbers indicated that streamers were hyper-focused on a minute portion of what was available to them. Flip that statistic around: 90 percent of streamable music is responsible for just one percent of actual streams.
That concentration was only a smidgeon less severe at the top of the distribution in 2018, according to BuzzAngle’s latest report. The top 500,000 most popular songs in 2017 accounted for 93.6 percent of all streams. The comparable number in 2018 fell the tiniest bit, to 92.4 percent of all streams.
Though Drake’s “God’s Plan,” the most-streamed song of 2018 in the U.S., earned 600 million more clicks than the runner-up, 2018 saw fewer singles turn into insatiable streaming monsters. The 50 most popular songs in 2017 sucked up 3.9 percent of all streams; the comparable number in 2018 fell to 0.7 percent. In a similar vein, BuzzAngle notes that the number of tracks that achieved more than 500 million streams in a 12-month frame also fell, from 16 in 2017 to nine in 2018.
However, the number of songs streamed over 100 million times continued to grow rapidly, from 226 in 2016 to 383 in 2017 to 417 in 2018. This mostly offset the decline in super-gargantuan singles. The 1,000 most-streamed songs accounted for 122.2 billion streams in 2017; in 2018, despite the fall at the very top, the top 1,000 still accounted for 121.8 billion streams.
More different songs were streamed in 2018 than in 2017: 36.3 million instead of 33.2 million. But the fact remains that the rampant inequality that has become pervasive in other aspects of American life is similarly acute in the streaming-verse. There’s more music available to listeners than ever before. But most of it is barely being heard.
Note: Penske Media has a controlling share in BuzzAngle.