Spotify’s flagship country-music playlist Hot Country has just reached a new milestone: five million followers. While that’s still some way behind other big-hitting playlists on Spotify like RapCaviar (10.2m) and Viva Latino (8.6m), it’s hot on the heels of dance playlist Mint (5.2m) – impressive, considering the global reach of the genres associated with these other playlists, compared to country’s traditional US focus.

This individual milestone is reflective of a wider trend: the growing priority given to country and its core community of artists, publishers, labels and management in Nashville. From Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon to YouTube, the big DSPs have been opening and expanding their offices in Nashville, as well as building their country playlist ecosystems and working on marketing activations (from exclusive video to branded concerts) with established and emerging country artists alike.

Why? Because in the world’s largest recorded-music market, the US, country fans remain an under-tapped audience when it comes to streaming, but with evidence that their delayed migration to streaming is finally underway, they represent an important way for the big DSPs to stave off any concerns about saturation of the US market, and thus a slowdown in new subscriber additions. The fact that the country audience is famously loyal AND willing to pay for music only adds to this appeal.

Music Ally has been exploring all this for our latest report, which will be published imminently. Among our findings: country has increased its share of total US on-demand audio and video streams from 5.5% in 2017 to 7.1% in the first half of 2018, according to Nielsen. Meanwhile, the percentage of country-music consumption accounted for by on-demand audio streams has grown from 39% to 55% in the same period – another tipping point worth noting.

Another trend: Amazon is the frontrunner being chased by other streaming services in this domain. “If you look at country’s share of the streams on our service compared to industry averages, we’re over 2x,” Amazon’s Ryan Redington told us, adding that in the past 90 days, Top Country was the most popular station on Amazon Music. “If you go on Amazon Music Unlimited [in the US] and pull up their all-genre chart, look at how many country artists and songs are on that. It can be nearly half,” added Ben Vaughn, president of Warner/Chappell Nashville.

Besides Vaughn and Redington, Music Ally has talked to Spotify’s John Marks and Brittany Schaffer; UMG Nashville’s Annie Ortmeier; Sony/ATV’s Troy Tomlinson; YouTube’s Margaret Hart; WMA’s Hannah Dudley; Big Loud’s Lloyd Norman and TKO’s Collin Trudan among others, to explore how and why country is growing in the streaming world. We’ve also uncovered the way cross-genre collaborations like 2018 hits ‘Meant To Be’ and ‘The Middle’ can double a country artist’s monthly listenership on Spotify. The report will be for Music Ally subscribers only: watch for it in your inbox either later today or on Monday.

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