New Analysis Proves Power of Playlist Ranking, Shows Spotify Favoring Independent & Female Artists
A new study of Spotify’s New Music Friday playlists by the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota found that Spotify uses its platform to promote underdogs.
While admittedly focused on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlists, the study published in the International Journal of Industrial Organization found that independent label music and female artists benefited the most from an appearance on hand curated playlist.
The power of rank
The data also underscores the importance of placing a track at the top of a playlist.
Spotify curators ranked 5,700 songs in the top 14,500 locations on the weekly New Music Friday playlist. The researchers compared these tracks and rankings to their eventual streaming performance:
- “About half of the relationship between curator’s rating and eventual streaming is caused by the song’s ranking on the playlist.”
- “Independent labels rank better than streaming, receiving an average increase of two ranks on the playlist”
- “To a lesser extent, women’s music received higher rankings than their streaming performance on the platform seemed to warrant, receiving a 1.4 rank increase.”
Not a solution
“Despite the challenges that independent label artists and women face in the music industry, Spotify’s New Music curation appears to favor them,” said Carlson School professor and co-author Joel Waldfogel. “After factoring in curatorial playlists rankings, songs by independent label artists are being broadcast less, indicating a bias against big label music. “
But the placement and ranking of playlists is far from the solution to inequalities within the music industry or society as a whole. Music flows by women still only represent a quarter of total flows, “a share which is low in relation to the number of women listening, among musicians and in the general population”, stress the researchers.
Ranking of the playlist = $$$
A second, yet to be published article will highlight the dollar value of playlist placements, but here’s a sneak peek:
“Considering the amount of time songs spend on these lists and the payments artists and their labels receive per stream, the impact of creating these lists can be worth $ 100,000 in payments from Spotify alone,” according to Waldfogel. “About a quarter of the total song streams making up the biggest playlists are directly related to making the playlists.”
Additionally, the most followed playlists tend to promote music from established artists. Waldfogel and Aguiar determined that “about half of the relationship between curatorial ranking and eventual streaming is caused by ranking.” So, being ranked # 1 on the US New Music Friday list adds streams worth $ 77,000.
Bruce houghton is Founder and Publisher of Hypebot and MusicThinkTank and is Senior Advisor to Bandsintown which acquired both publications in 2019. He is Founder and Chairman of the Skyline Artists Agency and Professor at Berklee College Of Music.