spotify-top-50

Earlier this week, Billboard published some research showing that the top 200 tracks in the US so far this year have sold 25.5m units less than the top 200 for the same period in 2013 – a 13% year-on-year decline.

“Consumers’ embrace of streaming service has started to impact their digital purchasing habits,” wrote journalist Glenn Peoples in his analysis. It made us wonder what the corresponding rise in streams of popular tracks might have been over the last year. Spotify’s weekly Top 50 chart gives us a few pointers.

Music Ally’s Leonardo Toyama has been crunching data from the chart, which is a weekly ranking of the 50 most popular tracks on Spotify, with individual playcounts. It’s not an exact comparison to the sales stats – top 50 versus top 200 – but it’s interesting nonetheless.

The key finding: in the week ending 21 July 2013, the top 50 tracks on Spotify US were streamed 29.8m times in total. In the week ending 20 July 2014, the top 50 tracks were streamed 62.1m times – a year-on-year rise of 108%.

And the fastest growth has come since the start of 2014, thanks to a combination of Spotify’s mobile free tier, PR pushes, and recently its partnership with Sprint and a three-for-the-price-of-one marketing offer in June.

These figures are for one streaming music service, so we’re wary of using them as a definitive statement on overall streaming growth in the US compared to downloads – and remember, in both cases, this is focusing on the most popular tracks.

Even so, the top 200 single-track music downloads declining 13% year-on-year in the US while Spotify top-50 streams more than doubled tells a hardly-surprising story of a new format-transition period for the US music industry that, if anything, has been accelerating in 2014. And Spotify’s growth isn’t a surprise either, given that globally it went from 24m active users in March 2013 to 40m in May 2014.

What might Spotify’s Top 50 chart stars show for countries other than the US? We’ve been crunching those stats too. Spotify’s homeland of Sweden, where the service is truly mainstream, showed year-on-year growth of just over 27% in the same period: from 19.7m plays of the top 50 in the week ending 21 July 2013 to 25.1m in the week ending 20 July 2014.

That’s a mature streaming market, but it also means the UK is seemingly on the verge of overtaking Sweden – by the same metric, it saw growth of 162% year-on-year, from 9.1m top-50 track plays to 23.7m. The Netherlands (78%), Spain (100%), Germany (103%) and France (158%) also saw strong growth.