A chart showing how the major labels' share of genre streams declines as the genres get more niche

Do major and independent labels get their fair share of streams on the big music services? It’s an evergreen question, and the latest attempt to answer it comes from Music Tomorrow’s Dmitry Pastukhov, with an interesting data-dive published by Chartmetric.

If the name sounds familiar, that’s because we wrote about his company’s analysis of Spotify data in April 2022, claiming that major labels had accounted for nearly 70% of the tracks added to its flagship ‘New Music Friday’ playlist in the previous four years.

His latest research expands the focus to the 500 (!) most popular genres on Spotify, cross-referencing with a project called Every Noise at Once, whose work includes generating playlists of the most popular tracks in each genre.

“For the top 10 most popular genres on Spotify, featuring pop (64% MS), dance pop (68% MS), hip hop (43% MS), rock (70% MS), and EDM (27,5% MS), the average major label share added up to about 48%,” wrote Pastukhov.

“Then, as we moved further down the popularity rankings, the average major share gradually decreased, reaching an average of about 25% for genres close to the 100th popularity rank (such as europop, indie rock, and neo soul)”

There are quite a few caveats around this, including – as he points out – the fact that “’catalog distributed by majors’ is not necessarily the same as ‘major catalog’”. And yes, the finding that indies take a bigger share as the genres get more niche may not be an earth-shattering revelation.

Still, it’s always interesting to see accepted wisdom actually mapped out using data. This study can be considered alongside the recent news that the share of annual Spotify streams generated by major labels and Merlin-licensed independent labels fell from 87% in 2017 to 75% in 2022. The other part of this pie includes DIY artists, but also independents (some quite big) that don’t license through Merlin.

“On average, the Spotify genre niches tend to be driven by the independent catalog. The share of major-affiliated tracks has sharply decreased as we moved away from the most popular genres, such as pop, and into more granular niches,” is the conclusion.

“Further, we found that most major-heavy niches on Spotify were connected to the ‘old’ music industry: genres like mellow gold and classic rock, that cemented their sound back in the 20th century when the recording market was much more centralized.”

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