Spotify Is Killing Song Titles

Michael Tauberg
5 min readMar 23, 2018

Now that Spotify is a multibillion dollar juggernaut on track to IPO, I thought it would be interesting to see what effects the company (and streaming in general) has had on the broader music business.

To that end I scraped Billboard Hot-100 chart data to compare the pre and post Spotify eras. By analyzing the kinds of songs and artists that had the most success on the Hot-100, we can see that in 9 short years, there have been major changes in music.

Before diving in, there are two quick notes on methodology that are worth mentioning. I collected 18 years of music data and broke them down into two groups: 2000–2008 data and 2009–2017 data. These sets coincide closely with the pre and post Spotify eras¹.

In addition, the methods used by Billboard to decide what goes into the Hot-100 have changed over the years. In the pre-Spotify era, the Billboard charts were based on albums/single sales and radio airplay. With the introduction of streaming services, the formula changed to 35–45% sales, 30–40% airplay, and 20–30% streaming². Most people below a certain age (myself included), consume music exclusively through streaming services, so if anything, the effects of Spotify and their internet brethren are being underweighted here.

With those caveats in mind, we can look at some trends in music

Internet economics takes over and produces a longer tail

As Chris Anderson described over 10 year ago, internet content tends to follow a power law distribution³. This means that success on the internet is dominated by a few players at the top, and then a long tail of niche offerings with smaller followings. As Spotify and other streaming players came onto the scene, this trend intensified. In the pre-Spotify era of the 2000s, there were a total of only 3092 songs on the Hot-100. In the same amount of time from 2009–2018, there were 3933 songs on the chart, an increase of 27%. We can see that trend in the below curves where the dominant songs get even more dominant, even as the tail gets longer in the post-Spotify era.

Michael Tauberg

Engineer in San Francisco. Interested in words, networks, and human abstractions. Opinions expressed are solely my own.