Stats and the independent Musician

Statistics, the numbers that tell us everything. If you’re a regular musician, or even alien musicians (like us!), whatever numbers you can get can be extremely telling. Who’s listening to us? Where do they live? What other bands do they like? Is our music becoming more popular… or less? What do these people like on their pizza?

These days, as much of the business we do is online, statistics for our music are collected, calculated, and in many cases even put into little graphs for us musicians. We then can use this information as we see fit though we suppose the uses usually fall somewhere between marketing and ego. For us here in vt100 it’s mostly used to understand how people are receiving music and how.

Sure, there’s nothing quite looking at the head count at your shows to tell you how you’re doing, but there’s quite a bit more than that going on. Today let’s take a look at those online statistics and see just what we can learn about the modern music ecosystem.

Available Data Sources

Alright, first things first, you’re only going to have data if someone has been collecting it for you. Putting it simply, you need to have your music out in the wild for people to listen to, and you need to do so using a platform where data is generated and collected.

For us, we’re going to take a look at a couple data sources for our music:

  • Spotify — spotify has an artist portal that’s super helpful when wondering how things are going. Spotify, as you can imagine, has all kinds of information about their users; this information digested by them and spit out to artists as a handful of metrics (leaving the interpretation of those metrics up to the artists themselves).
  • CDBaby — CDBaby is our publisher. The publisher tracks all music distributors the associated plays of your music. In limited cases the publisher can track deeper information like locations of users but more often than not you just know when and what was played. Spotify-like data isn’t available here, that is there’s no user data available; we pretty much just get information about plays.

Data we’re not looking at (today)

Now is this all of the data available regarding all things vt100 music? Nope:

  • www stats for vt100music.com
  • bandcamp stats
  • patreon stats
  • search engine data mining
  • facebook and other social media stats

There’s lots of info out there and some of it is even useful when related to the data we’re going to talk about today. We’re not gonna get into these for the sake of simplicity (today), but we might call a couple things out. Correlating all this data and drawing conclusions about the health of a music ecosystem might make an interesting topic for later, actually.

Spotify Stats

Spotify is a music streaming service and one of the aspects unique to Spotify is their artist support. The artist portal on Spotify allows artists to dig into their music’s performance, as well as limited data about the people doing the listening. Spotify also runs calculations to provide months-end and years-end metric which are both telling, and sometimes just kinda fun.

Day to Day Stats

On any given day, an artist may jaunt over to artists.spotify.com and see how they’re doing (or they can use the artists app).

Metrics include:

  • streams/day
  • unique listeners/day
  • change in followers/day

These stats are also available in monthly and since the beginning of time. Spotify only makes yearly-specific numbers available at the end of the year (more on that later). As far as the uses of these metrics, well, we really seem them as the bottom line. At the end of the day, are we getting more streams from more listeners, or less? That’s what these metrics tell us, though they can also be informative when correlated to other events like marketing pushes.

Monthly Metrics

Artists can see gender & age breakdowns of their listeners, and how their listeners are getting to their music. Artists can also see the general location of their listeners. These metrics are always provided in 28 day (i.e. monthly) snapshots.

Age and Gender

No one over 60 and no one under 18 like vt100 🙁

We don’t use this data for much at present though it is interesting none-the-less. We could use this data to figure out a marketing strategy if we wanted, though we’re not really into age-targeted music. Our music is enjoyed almost equally by male and female identified listeners (maybe we should ensure our music isn’t unconsciously biased against non-binary listeners eh?)

Sources of Streams

When people find vt100 music on spotify, this is how they get there

The above image is a particularly insightful one for any artist gauging the health of their spotify music-empire. Sources of Streams shows the various methods people are using to find vt100 music on Spotify. We believe this particular info graphic is one to watch:

  • We can gauge how well the algorithms are working for us. Specifically take a look at Spotify Algorithmic Playlists. This is an indicator of how Spotify’s internal algorithm is doing. As this metric goes up, it means the music is being inserted into playlists that people are listening to. This is a good thing as this is real staying power with a listener; people love their generated playlists. As these algorithmic playlists learn where to fit your music more and more, this is helpful in the discovery nature of algorithmic listening; what we want is for Spotify to suggest our music to listeners likely to like it (so yea, we’d like to see this bar climb)
  • Listeners Own Playlist and Library tells us a bit about what percentage of the listeners are fans. These are the folks that have followed/liked you or your songs. You’d be surprised how difficulty it can be to earn a simple click from a listener, and these are the folks that felt you were really worth it. This metric is an indicator of actual love from fans 🙂
  • The highest metric on the above chart is Your profile and catalog. This is people going to Spotify, typing in ‘vt100’, and listening to the music. This metric indicates that folks are specifically looking to listen to my music (or stumbling upon it and at least curious enough to offer a click). Given how unknown vt100 is on earth these days, this number being high is good, it represents exposure and the potential for new fans. Also worth nothing, many users won’t click ‘save’ or ‘follow’ they’ll just type you in when they want to hear your stuff, so you’ve gotta infer with a grain of salt.
  • Other Listeners Playlists is presently at 0, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. This metric tells us a few things. First, it tells us whether or not people are discovering our music via user created playlists. This is a multi-faceted win as it means there’s a listener out there who likes your music enough to put it on a playlist, and that the playlist has it’s own listeners. Second, this is an indicator of algorithm health as playlist and listener association directly feeds the machine on our behalf. As you can imagine, getting listens this way is a very good thing, but a lot does have to go right.
  • Finally there is Spotify Editorial Playlists. This is when a staff member at Spotify thinks you’re good for something. This is like getting a thumbs up from a critic, certainly a good thing, but also among the most difficult tasks for modern music to accomplish. This metric really says a lot about the commercial viability of your music, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Of course… there’s more. How should these metrics relate to each other? Is there a good balance? Absolutely, though it may depend on where you’re at in your musical career. In general, we think if there are a good balance between the top 3 bullets, and then even a little movement in the bottom two (the two that are both 0) that’d be perfect for where we’re at; it would mean we’re meeting new fans online, the algorithms are working for us, and we’re generally growing the exposure to the music.

Maybe we can come back and talk about how to correlate this data to real world usefulness… in another article.

Location Metrics

There are location metrics available, down to the specific city in fact. Location metrics have all kinds of uses, for example:

  • They can tell you how well your latest marketing push went on social media
  • They can be informative of where your music has been more successful on the radio
  • They can tell us where there might be a music scene that digs your music

Among other uses, of course. For us right now, we mostly think it’s interesting at this point. Did you know vt100’s second most popular state is Georgia? The third is Colorado. We’ve also been heard in 22 countries around the world (and we still very much wonder how we were discovered in South America).

Song Metrics

We’ve talked about streaming data, we’ve talked about user data – what’s left? Well, the songs of course. Ever want to know what your most popular song is? That’s what these metrics tell you. There are few components to a song metric:

  • How many streams for a song
  • How many listeners for a song
  • How many ‘saves’ (likes) for a song

I’m not entirely sure how this information serves artists, unless those artists are looking to capitalize specifically on a songs popularity. For us it’s quite informative and we’re often surprised; the songs that are our favorites are rarely our most popular (maybe we should change how we select those singles eh?).

Some stats from vt100:

  • The most streamed song in the last month is Bio. Bio also got the most saves of any song we have.
  • The song with the most unique listeners in the last month is a tie between Trust Issues and Center (so Bio is being repeated more than these two songs, what’s that tell us?)
  • A surprise: Warehouse was streamed more than any of the tracks on our first record. We didn’t think anyone liked Warehouse, so that’s a pleasant surprise indeed 🙂

Yearly Metrics

Yearly metrics in Spotify take two forms. One form is the yearly view on streams, listens, and followers, the stuff we wrote about above. The second is a special yearly app that Spotify publishes to artists (and it generates images that artists then publish that advertise Spotify). These statistics give us trend information, are things getting better? (or worse?). They’re also just kind of fun.

This is a 3 year view of listeners on spotify (only a year isn’t available on this app). Notice how the graph gets thicker and generally taller on the left? This means more people are listening on average per day than the last couple years.

The graphic above is great, it means vt100 music is making it’s way out into the world. Thanks so much for participating and helping get the music out. Sure, we’ve got a ways to go, but all signs point to people liking what we do, so that’s great isn’t it?

Now, let’s take a look at some of those fun yearly stats from Spotify

Since last year, a lot is looking up for the vt100
This one is fun… looks like vt100 got quite a few late night listens.

As you can see, some of this information is really helpful to our ego. Other information is kinda just fun, though we imagine Spotify has quite a bit more info about listeners than it lets on.

Other streaming services

You may have been wondering, Well, Spotify is cool and all, but do other streaming services provide data? The answer is, well we’re not entirely sure, but it’s not always easy to get even if its there:

  • Google Play – google play had an artist portal until earlier this year. Now that it’s gone, there only seems to be basic information available about the number of streams from the publisher.
  • Apple Music – While we haven’t found a way to get stats directly from apple, limited metrics, including data on listeners, is available through CDBaby’s artist portal.

And we’re published on about a billion other services — there haven’t been enough streams on any of these to warrant even checking to see if stats are available, but they might be. Just who’s listening to us on Deezer anyway?

CDBaby Stats

While we’ve been talking a bunch about Spotify, as it provides a truly rich set of metrics, what about the publisher, CDBaby? CDBaby doesn’t offer the same kind of tracking that Spotify does; user data just isn’t available. However CDBaby does carry records of every stream and sale that happens for music you’ve published through them. This is the only way we can get information on streams for other providers like google play or deezer. Through the reports we can get an interesting internet-wide picture of how music is performing.

That said, it’s also worth nothing that these numbers are usually about 3 months behind. We won’t know about November and December of 2019 until Feb or March of 2020. This has to due with the frequency in which the streaming providers give reports to publishers, which isn’t very often.

There are also reports on royalties available (like if someone uses your music for a video). We won’t get into those today.

Okay, so what’s in the numbers? Let’s look at total streams for 2018 vs 2019 (so far):

  • 2018 – 361 streams
  • 2019 (so far) – 1408 streams

Well, that’s a huge difference. Of course Spotify is only a part of that, though it’s also the easiest component to dig into. Looks like, overall, we’re on the up and up!

The Tip of the Iceberg

We just took a big look at Spotify metrics and a little bit at publisher metrics. These are by no means everything, but really just one of the windows into how music is doing after release. There’s quite a few more pieces of information we would want to gather for a complete picture, so scope this information in your mind accordingly.

That said, what we learned today is that even a little information is useful in understanding an artist’s trajectory and we learned that for vt100 things are looking up. Here’s to 2020 being even better. 🙂

And, if you like this stuff, let me know – we can always dig into the numbers a little harder, or look at more of the available numbers together. We think this stuff is fun, then again, we’re part computer.