45.6 million tracks were not listened to, even once, on music streaming platforms in 2023. Image: Shutterstock
The success of streaming platforms is based on the fact that they allow music lovers to listen to millions of tracks whenever and wherever they like. On paper, this sounds like a tempting proposition. But in reality, many of the songs available on Spotify, Apple Music and others are rarely—if ever—actually listened to.
Luminate, a specialist in music industry data analysis for over 30 years, has examined this phenomenon in the latest edition of its annual report, seen by the specialist website, Music Business Worldwide. This company found that 45.6 million tracks were not listened to once on music streaming platforms in 2023. This represents almost 25% of the music catalogs of Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and the likes.
Interestingly, this figure is rising sharply. In 2022, 37.9 million songs available on online music platforms received zero streams. This increase is directly linked to the fact that music streaming services are welcoming more and more new tracks. The former head of Warner Music Group, Steve Cooper, estimated in 2022 that around 100,000 new tracks appear on streaming platforms every day. Music lovers are often faced with the tyranny of choice, and don't know how to navigate this overwhelming musical offer.
These figures raise the question of how musicians are paid by streaming sites. The current system pays performers whose music is featured on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and others according to their overall listening figures. The amount of royalties paid varies from one streaming platform to another, depending on the contracts signed with labels and the number of rights holders. However, it is generally agreed that this method of remuneration contributes to creating inequalities between a handful of artists who are doing well financially, and others who are struggling to make a name for themselves.
These disparities could be accentuated in the coming months, after Spotify, the world leader in streaming, announced its intention to change its remuneration system. Since the beginning of the year, the Swedish company no longer pays musicians whose tracks receive fewer than 1,000 plays over a 12-month period. The company intends to redistribute the money saved—a billion dollars according to estimates by Music Business Worldwide—to artists whose work gets more streams.
Deezer took similar, albeit more modest, measures in October. The French platform chose to grant a double boost to what it defines as "professional artists," ie, those with a minimum of 1,000 listens per month by at least 500 unique listeners, without penalizing the others. This new model supposedly enables "a fairer revenue share between artists and [decreases] the risk of streaming fraud," Deezer explained in a news release.