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News – what it takes to be a top Spotify artist

I thought this information, which I picked up from British PR Consultant Francesca Baker-Brooker, might be of interest to you.

Skoove, a piano learning app, has worked with researchers at Crafins Studio to compare and contrast the top 1,000 Spotify bands and solo artists. The underlying data for the analyses came from multiple sources, including ChartMasters’ list of Top Spotify Artists, Wikidata, and manual research and aggregation.

Key highlights are:

Only a small percentage of artists have ever received formal musical training

  • Only 11% of the top performing American artists and 30% of UK artists had ever received regular, structured training from professional music teachers or instructors. This surprising insight emerged from a focus on around 200 elite musicians from the US and UK, revealing that self-taught methods and informal education play(ed) a significant role in the development of many successful artists, including Lil Wayne, Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chilli Peppers), and John Lennon;
  • Analysis of the 1,000 most streamed bands and solo artists shows that just shy of 80% of them have male leads versus 20% female leads. Less than 1% is non-binary or transgender. This trend is evident across genres, with pop music showing the most gender balance, although female artists remain underrepresented at 38%;

Gender representation still lacking

  • In Latin music a huge 91% of artists are male, dropping to 61% in pop. Gender representation is evidently still sorely lacking (although in my personal experience that is changing and representation at the BRITS Awards recently was predominately female. I reckon it’s time for NMC to do its own analysis of featured artists);
  • The average age for top musical artists is 40, a wide range from young indie artists to veterans like John Williams. Hip hop artists have an average age of 33, while classical musicians average 57 years. Rock has a heavier concentration of older artists: 45% of rock stars are over 50, compared with only 12% of pop stars;
  • About two of every three artists sing in English (64%), followed by Spanish (18%).

The sweet spot for success is to be a 40-year old bloke who doesn’t know how to play an instrument

So do you need to be an English speaking male in your 40s with no formal training to succeed? There certainly is plenty of variety out there. But it’s also clear that there’s a sweet spot for success, and it unfortunately plays into many of the tropes we hear in society. Yet at the same time, it’s heartening to see formal training isn’t the be all and end all, and maybe age really is just a number.

‘Superstars’ are actually a rare breed

Key findings from the study highlight the rarity of ‘superstars’ in the music world. The data reveals that reaching the pinnacle of success on Spotify, a feat achieved by the likes of BTS, Eminem, Ariana Grande, and The Weeknd, is a rare accomplishment. The study also unveils the most followed artist on Spotify, Ed Sheeran, along with other notable figures like Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, and Drake, who boasts a staggering 67 billion streams. (That should cover his rent for next week and he might be able to afford a pint and a packet of crisps out of the remainder).

Two-variable (Streams and followers) scatter chart for top artists and bands on Spotify. In the shape of Ed Sheeran

Dead and buried

One of the more striking findings is the limited presence of deceased artists in the top Spotify rankings, indicating a preference among Spotify’s predominantly young audience for contemporary music over classical music.

These insights open new avenues for understanding the dynamics of success in today’s music streaming world, not only highlighting the unique paths to success in the music industry but also raising important questions about the future of music education and the evolving landscape of the music streaming industry.

Of course there will be scepticism about some of the findings, as the report is partly-sponsored by a self-teaching online musical app after all. But I do believe it has value and is worth delving into more deeply.

The full report can be found here:

Other links:




Francesca Baker-Brooker, Andsoshethinks agency:

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