New, Improved Streaming Numbers

The music streaming business looks much bigger when Pandora spins are taken into account.

By Glenn Peoples, Music Insights and Analytics at Pandora

Key takeaways:

· Including Pandora spins to the mid-year point’s top 10 streaming songs (audio and video) at the mid-year point adds 33 percent more streams.

· After adjusting to include Pandora, the top 10 tracks got 27 percent of all streams from Pandora with the remainder coming from Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and other competitors.

You may have seen this year’s mid-year streaming numbers and specific numbers for the most popular tracks. Big numbers, yes, but the number of streams in the U.S. was actually much higher.

The top 10 streaming tracks, as measured by music-tracking company BuzzAngle, had 33 percent more streams than was made public. And through June, Pandora accounted for 27 percent of streams with the remainder coming from Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and other streaming services. Why aren’t these numbers in the mid-year report? Because BuzzAngle numbers don’t include Pandora.

We’re talking in big numbers here. At its peak, he U.S. download market had hundreds of millions of transactions. At its current pace, music streams should exceed half a billion this year. Both Nielsen and BuzzAngle pegged the number of streams through June at roughly 210 billion — excluding Pandora. Now, Pandora doesn’t disclose the number of its spins in a period, but it did disclose in the Q1 and Q2 earnings reports it had 11.2 billion listener hours in the first half of the year.

At the song level, let’s start at the top of the list. The #1 track through June, Rihanna’s “Work,” had a total of 513 million streams, according to BuzzAngle. Impressive. But adjusted to include Pandora, “Work” actually did nearly 37 percent better as Pandora accounted for 27 percent of total streams.

Pandora’s numbers for artists such as Rihanna’s aren’t completely hidden. She and her managers can log into Pandora’s Artist Marketing Platform, or AMP, and see her tracks’ streaming activity over the last week, 30 days, 90 days or 365 days. AMP provides other statistics like number of times a listener had “thumbed” her songs, the number of stations created from a particular song and that song’s number of spins since added to Pandora. AMP also lets the artist know where those streams originate and ranks markets according to their share of her total spins.

Going back to the top 10, the #2 song, Desiigner’s “Panda,” also gets a big boost when Pandora numbers are counted. “Panda,” released through Kanye West’s GOOD Music imprint, was the second-most streamed through June with 412 million streams across audio and video platforms. If Pandora spins are included, “Panda” gets a 22-percent boost.

And then there’s Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” one of two Bieber songs in BuzzAngle’s top 5 streaming tracks. “Sorry” had 302 million total streams across audio and video platforms. It was popular at Pandora, too. If added to BuzzAngle’s count, “Sorry” would have got a 38-percent bump in its stream count. Pandora would have given his other song, “Love Yourself,” a 47-percent bump.

The most popular holdovers from 2015 performed especially well at Pandora. A song need not follow the standard broadcast radio lifecycle at Pandora. At broadcast radio, a song’s spins and audience size decline as programmers demote it in their playlists. At Pandora, listeners will continue to hear a song as long as they are providing positive feedback. As I noted in a previous post, this extended lifecycle was seen in the relatively mild drop-off in spins of songs from Drake’s album Views. So perhaps its no surprise that Pandora accounted for 66 percent of all audio streams of Adele’s “Hello,” a track released last October from an album released in November.

These adjusted streaming numbers are a good reminder there’s more to the streaming market than on-demand services that dominate the media’s attention. Last year, royalties from non-interactive services like Pandora and SiriusXM Radio, another bit source of royalties, amounted to $803 million, or 33.3 percent of all digital subscription and streaming royalties, according to figures released by the RIAA (which tracks revenue only from record labels, not music publishers). Pandora alone paid SoundExchange roughly $610 million in royalties last year for performances of sound recordings and musical works. Those are real streaming numbers.

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