One week after Prince’s much-publicised return to (non-Tidal) music-streaming services, how is his Warner Bros catalogue performing?
Spotify’s public metrics give us some hard data to work with. Music Ally has tracked Prince’s key stats every day since his return to Spotify on Grammys night (12 February). Here are the most relevant findings.
Monthly listeners on the rise
Before his back-catalogue returned to Spotify on Sunday, Prince had 116,221 monthly listeners thanks to a solitary track – 2015 single ’Stare’ – having been left up on the service.
The week was a story of sharp growth on this particular metric. The day after the Grammys, Prince had 334,764 monthly listeners on Spotify. By Sunday, that had grown by 825% to 3,099,588.
Compare that to the most popular artist on Spotify, Ed Sheeran, to put things into perspective. On Sunday Sheeran had 41,811,616 monthly listeners: more than 13x Prince’s total.
That’s not a fair fight, given that Sheeran has three new tracks available on Spotify, and heavy promotion across a variety of the service’s most popular playlists – including those focused on new music.
Perhaps a better comparison would be to other big ‘catalogue’ artists, although here too Prince has some catching up to do. The Beatles have 8.9 million monthly listeners on Spotify, for example, while Metallica have 7.6 million and Led Zeppelin 5.8 million. Michael Jackson, who may be the best comparison to Prince, has 11.2 million monthly Spotify listeners.
We will be keen to see how Warner Music and the Prince estate (not to mention Universal Music, when it makes his non-Warner Bros catalogue available to stream) work with Spotify to continue growing Prince’s listenership towards that kind of level.
Following playlists > Following artists?
Ahead of Prince’s return to Spotify, he had 859,101 followers on the service. A week later, this had risen to 987,360 – an increase of just under 15%.
Only 128,259 new followers for his profile in a week of such publicity likely says more about the popularity of profile-following on Spotify than it does about Prince.
Note, the ‘This Is: Prince’ playlist accumulated 236,258 followers in the last week. Nearly twice as many people followed a Spotify-owned playlist for Prince than followed his official profile.
To put the above into even sharper relief, based on its last official user figures, Spotify has 100 million active users. Although that will have grown in recent months, it means that at best, Prince is currently reaching 3% of the addressable audience on the service.
The Beatles are only reaching 8.9%. Metallica 7.6% and Led Zeppelin 5.8%. Sheeran, meanwhile, is reaching 42.8%. The Chainsmokers are reaching 37.8%. Watch a hardcore fan’s face fall when you tell them that the Chainsmokers have 34.7 million more listeners than Prince on the world’s biggest streaming service.
The bigger picture: there is a listener ceiling for catalogue acts on streaming services. They can still do strong numbers, but they are massively overshadowed by the service’s heavy emphasis on the new.
(As we’ve noted before, ‘monthly listeners’ is not a measurement of ‘engagement’ – someone who hears a couple of Ed Sheeran tracks on Spotify’s big playlists may be a monthly listener, but that doesn’t make them a fan. This is exactly why Spotify’s analytics for artists break down how many are listening regularly to their catalogues.)
Individual tracks grew – but not enormously
‘Purple Rain’ is, unsurprisingly, the biggest Prince track on Spotify. As of 5pm on Monday, it was at 25,443,149 plays. That had risen to 27,388,348 plays by Sunday at 5pm.
That’s only a 7.6% increase: 1.9m plays. About the same as Steve Aoki and One Direction star Louis Tomlinson’s ‘Just Hold On’ – currently in 19th place on Spotify’s Global Top 50 chart – is getting every day.
It was similar for Prince’s other biggest tracks. Plays of ‘Kiss’ only rose 6.2% to 24,506,058 while ‘When Doves Cry’ did slightly better, growing by 9.9% to 13,025,937 plays.
Every other Prince song is sitting below 10m plays. Only ‘Raspberry Beret’ is soon to cross that mark (with 9,434,925 plays as of Sunday evening). Incredibly, ‘Little Red Corvette’ is only at 717,029 plays.
Prince has a massive catalogue for users to work through but, even so, the hits are surprisingly low in their lifetime stream counts..
So, what does it all mean?
We need to, of course, caveat all this by saying that it’s only the first week of Prince’s catalogue being available on one streaming service. But the opening week is a hugely important one and reveals what latent demand there was for his music until its return.
Assessing this a month, six months or 12 months from now could tell a very different story. But as the cases of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Metallica all show, heritage acts (even if they have put out new music in recent years as Metallica and AC/DC have done) are far from the biggest beasts in Spotify’s streaming world.