Every week the antiquated record industry trumpets its sales figures and the even more ancient media industry repeats them. And to say they’re unimpressive is to say you took the family goat to prom.

Let’s look at Imagine Dragons.

They’re a top ten act selling 25,000 records a week.

25k a week? That’s positively anemic in a country of 300 million. That’s like asking us to be impressed that you made $2.50 at the lemonade stand. In a county where movies debut in the double digit millions every week, it appears the music industry is a joke.

But it’s not.

Oh, you can point to the 1.25 million records Imagine Dragons has sold in nearly a year, but how impressive is that? When there used to be a diamond award given for ten million sales on a regular basis at the tail end of the last century…

Have people just given up listening to music?

NO! It’s just that the industry keeps pointing people to lame metrics.

On Spotify, the supposedly rip-off system with no traction, Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” has been spun 122,988,750 times. Put that number in the paper, it’ll wow people! It’s almost unfathomable, it’s got too many commas for most people to be able to interpret. And the band has another track at over 50 million and two in the 30 million play range.

These numbers are SPECTACULAR!

This is not your daddy’s record business. Only it is. Everyone’s pointing to the wrong number and the acts are complicit.

The press has declared Kanye West’s new album a stiff, but on Spotify the tracks have 2.5 to 5 million plays. Now compared to “Blurred Lines,” with 64 million, that’s not much, but it certainly indicates traction. As for the other song of the summer? The radio edit of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” has got 74,122,609 spins and the album version has got another 26,335,533.

It’s not whether someone buys it, but whether they play it. While “Billboard” keeps reformulating its chart, factoring in social media and a bunch of other crap, why not look to streaming services, which truly indicate popularity?

Same deal with YouTube, where “Radioactive” has 65 million plays. And that’s impressive, but people conflate those numbers with television, with the MTV of yore, and they just don’t register that much anymore, especially with a new viral video on a regular basis, which may have nothing to do with music.

And you don’t see Calvin Harris’s name on a regular basis in mainstream media, but he’s got numerous tracks with double digit million spins on Spotify. “I Need Your Love” has got 56,435,679, “Sweet Nothing” has got 73,831,099. Maybe some insiders are gloating over his income, wherein he was rated as the number one earning deejay in “Forbes,” but to think that’s gotten mainstream penetration is to believe “Forbes”‘s site has got the same following as TMZ. Then again, it was linkbait, they just did that report to garner virality.

But that’s all about manipulation. Right now, these Spotify numbers are real. And important. And as soon as we stop vilifying these streaming services and start trumpeting their metrics, the sooner the rest of the world will take music seriously, the sooner artists will realize that there’s a ton of money in music and it’s worth it to take the risk as opposed to play the game because you can go straight to your audience and people are hungry for something new and different.

P.S. Don’t denigrate Spotify, sign up! Get everybody you know to sign up! Then these numbers keep going up, up, up! And more money rains down on those who make the music, and isn’t that your main complaint, that you just can’t make enough cash? This is your salvation!

P.P.S. Yes, these are global play counts on Spotify, but it is a global business and the more we tear down the artificial national barriers and embrace the true reality of music dissemination, the better it will be for everybody, especially the artists.

P.P.P.S. “Radioactive” had 1,127,465 plays in the U.S. last week. You can see how many weekly U.S. plays a track had on Spotify here: http://charts.spotify.com/embed/charts/most_streamed/us/latest

P.P.P.P.S. You can add a Spotify Top Tracks widget to your site here: http://charts.spotify.com

P.P.P.P.P.S. Right now Spotify is the leader, only one service will win, whether it be Spotify, Deezer or MOG/Daisy/Beats. Everyone will gravitate to one, to share. The same way BlackBerry can’t exist in a world of Android and iPhone, which are battling it out for supremacy themselves. You see you want to be where your friends are, BBM kept people on BlackBerry, iMessage is helping keep people on the iPhone and you build the platform and keep improving it, you grow or you die, that’s Amazon’s mantra, that’s what’s hobbled Apple’s stock, that’s what hurts musical acts. You think by repeating the formula you’re sustaining, but the truth is you’re dying.


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Category: Music, Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

8 Responses to “SoundScan Is Killing the Music Business”

  1. stonedwino says:

    How do musicians benefit from and monetize services like Spotify?

    • Iamthe50percent says:

      From personal performances. People download the music. They love it. They buy tickets to live performances. Sales may be lower, but more goes to the artists than to record company CEO’s and other pimps.

  2. agentbillo says:

    I totally get and agree with your core idea: the old metrics are irrelevant. It’s the distribution that matters: Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, Songza, iTunes Radio, whatever.

    I personally can’t stand Spotify’s UI, though. It’s mystifying and anger inducing at the same time.

  3. rd says:

    You used to have to buy a record to hear it on demand, instead of when it would just show up on a radio station.

    There are now numerous ways that a listener can “demand” the song be played. Only some of them require a specific purchase, such as a CD or iTunes file. It will be interesting to see how the industry players adapt and which middlemen eventually vanish. There will always be acts, audience, technical production, and non-technical promoters and producers. However, how they are organized and who gets the money will likely change.

  4. Marc P says:

    It seems odd, that is the first time I’ve seen the official video for Imagine Dragons’ Radioactive. When I hear the song I always think of the trailer for the movie Superheroes of Stoke by Matchstick Productions. I think that song was the unofficial anthem of the 2013 ski season. The trailer has a far better video too:


    Watch in full screen. And turn it up.

  5. Bob A says:

    seems like an obnoxious ad for spotify masquerading as useful information, but …

  6. ptmp93 says:

    I think it’s worth mentioning that it’s quite easy to write and implement software that generates fake plays in Spotify, Youtube, SoundCloud and virtually all other streaming services. It’s also cheap to deploy these fake listen generators. If the streaming service shuts you down, it’s easy to work around. I couldn’t agree more that for the longest time the old music industry model is in denial that it has been dead, but the new model is full of scams too.