Analytics firm Chartmetric has published its ‘Global Music Industry Data Report’ for the first half of 2019, digging in to data from platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Instagram and Shazam among others. The bit that’s making headlines so far (yes, including ours above) is the section analysing programmed playlists on the big services by the nationality of the artists.

According to Chartmetric’s analysis of Amazon Music’s top 30 playlists, for example, North American artists accounted for 73.2% of the geographic distribution of tracks. On Spotify, North America accounted for a 53% share, while on Apple Music it was 49.7%, and on Deezer it was just 33.8%. Amazon over-indexes for country and rock in the separate genre data, which is one explanation for its North America share being so high.

Journalist Cherie Hu, who had the first analysis of the Chartmetric report, pointed out some caveats, including the fact that the report is measuring “editorial distribution, but NOT of commercial success” for tracks – the figures could look even more skewed towards North America if those tracks were hogging the most popular spots in the playlists, for example.

Every global streaming service is keen to talk about how localised their playlist ecosystems are, against regular concerns expressed within the industry that US-based curators (and thus US artists) may have too-powerful a role in the streaming ecosystem. That’s one of the things that isn’t being measured in the Chartmetric report: local playlists that are outside the top 30 on a given platform may be very popular in their country of origin, offering a strong showcase for local artists.

Analysing, for example, the geographic origin of tracks on country-specific ‘New Music Friday’ playlists on Spotify around the world (and comparable playlists for rivals) might offer an alternative view of whether North American artists are hogging more playlist slots than might be seen as ‘fair’. A subjective can of worms in itself! In any case, data’s role can and should be to spark these kinds of debates, so the Chartmetric report is well worth a read, and a bit of thought.

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