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Lost In The Shuffle: 82.6% Of Music On Streaming Services Was Played Less Than 1,000 Times in 2023

And 24.8% of the complete catalog was not played AT ALL.

Photo by Héctor Achautla on Unsplash

Imagine a music library so vast, it stretches farther than the eye can see. Shelves upon shelves overflow with albums, each one vying for your attention. But walk closer, and a chilling truth emerges: most stand untouched, collecting dust in the deafening silence. This, friends, is the reality of music streaming in 2024.

 Luminate’s 2023 Year-End Music Report, paints a startling picture: a whopping 158.6 million songs, a staggering 86.2% of the total catalog in streaming services nowadays (measured using ISRCs, which stands for International Standard Recording Codes), received 1,000 plays or less last year. That's right, nearly 8 out of every 10 songs languish in streaming purgatory, unheard and unloved. While music lovers revel in endless choices, millions of tracks drown in obscurity, victims of an overflowing ocean of sound.

What caused this sonic flood? The answer lies in the very nature of streaming platforms. Algorithms prioritize popular tracks, creating echo chambers that amplify a handful of chart-toppers while burying countless others. Aspiring artists, armed with recording tools and upload buttons, eagerly add their creations to the mix, further diluting the pool of attention.

This abundance, ironically, breeds scarcity. For listeners, navigating the endless stream can be overwhelming. We get lost in curated playlists and personalized recommendations, rarely venturing beyond the algorithm's safe bubble. We miss hidden gems, raw voices, and unique melodies that could spark musical discovery.

While a handful of superstars dominate streaming, the vast majority of artists struggle to break through the noise. This raises questions about discoverability, algorithms, and how to ensure a fairer playing field for all, a problem amplified by Spotify's techniques of late, like the one of not paying royalties to tracks that attracted less than 1,000 plays over 12 months.

Just to put things into perspective with some other numbers: 24.8% of the entire streaming services catalog received ZERO plays in 2023. That's a whopping 45.6 million tracks.

So, what's the solution? For platforms, prioritizing diversity and promoting exploration could be key. Highlighting lesser-known artists, showcasing genre-bending playlists, and offering curated discovery tools can help listeners break free from the algorithmic echo chamber. For listeners, a conscious effort to step outside our comfort zones and explore new sounds is crucial. Seek out recommendations from friends, delve into niche genres, and embrace the joy of stumbling upon a hidden treasure.

The vast library of music streaming should be a playground, not a graveyard. So, dive in, explore, and rediscover the joy of musical discovery in the age of abundance.

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