The best source of listeners on Spotify

Hey music marketers!

Today we’re going to talk about the best listeners on Spotify.

Specifically, which category of listener or ‘source of streams’ is the best for long term growth. If you aren’t sure what i’m talking about take a look at this source of streams for a track on Spotify for Artists:

Source of streams for a track on Spotify for Artists

At the profile level we get even more granularity:

Source of streams for an artist in Spotify for Artists


I’m going to keep this newsletter brief so you’ll have the answer shortly. But the answer is meaningless unless you understand why, so first i’m going to give some quick definitions:

  • Active sources: streaming sources where fans actively chose to listen to the song / artist

    • Artist profile and catalog: someone going directly to the artist or song and pressing play

    • Listener’s own playlists and library: someone streaming the song or artist from their saved library or their own playlists

  • Programmed Sources: streaming sources where fans were ‘served’ the song / artist

    • Editorial & Personalized editorial playlists: Spotify editorial playlists

    • Algorithmic playlists and mixes: Discover Weekly, Release Radar, Your Daily Mix, On Repeat etc…

    • Other listeners’ playlists: someone hearing the song or artist in someone else’s playlist, 3rd party playlisting falls in this category as well

    • Radio & Autoplay: a form of algorithmic playlist, either the artist radio or autoplay when someone finishes a playlist or album

  • Other: streams from watches, smart TV’s, API sources etc. This should always be quite small (less than 5%)

You might also hear active / programmed referred to as ‘lean-in’ or ‘lean-back’ streaming. For example searching for your favorite artist and playing their song is active or lean-in and hearing a song on Discover Weekly is programmed or lean-back.

The Best Source of Streams

Now for the big reveal…

Listener’s own playlists and library

The true answer is of course ‘it depends’, but as a broad rule this streaming source is my absolute favorite. Here’s why it’s generally the best:

  • First a listener has to save the song to their library or add it to one of their own playlists

  • Then they have to stream the song from their library or playlists

  • This means your song(s) is part of their regular listening habits and you’ll generally get more from them over time

  • This source doesn’t go away with an algorithm change and it doesn’t go away when you stop your marketing

Listener’s own playlists and library is the most stable source of streams. As you market your music you kind of ‘fill up’ this category with new fans, but it decays very slowly over time if you stop filling it up.

It Depends

I did say ‘it depends’ though, right? Well it really depends on what you’re looking for in the moment. If your main focus is on explosive growth then algorithmic and radio & autoplay will be your favorites.

Algorithmic and radio & autoplay are entirely free, and they can be massive. I’ve had songs get to 12 million streams where 10 million of the streams were from these 2 categories.

The reason why I wouldn’t call algorithmic sources my absolute favorite is they’re quite volatile. The algorithm can change at any moment and it can be taken away.

A year or so ago I was on Twitter (or X I guess) and I saw someone post that the radio algorithm shifted for them, and they could no longer afford to pay their rent. They were pretty much 100% reliant on Spotify Radio as an artist, and they were a full time artist. When Radio shifted they didn’t have a backup and basically had to go get a ‘regular job’.

The same problem can happen if you’re dependent on editorial playlists. You have no control over it so Spotify can take it away whenever they want. With listeners own playlists and library you do have some control, and the fans have control because they chose to add your song to their library or their playlists.

Big Artist

I happen to have access to multiple giant artists with millions of monthly listeners on Spotify for Artists. What would you think is their largest source of streams?

Many people suspect huge artists are being artificially pushed in editorial playlists or algorithmic playlists. However, that isn’t the case with mulitple i’ve seen:

Source of streams for an artist with 10+ million monthly listeners

The image above shows the stream counts by source. By far the biggest is listener’s own playlists and library. When I looked at several other artists in this size category I found all of them have this in common.

So not only is this category the most stable, the most indicative of actual fan growth and allows you to be more independent of changes on Spotify… but it’s also the thing most established artists rely on as well.

New Content

If you're trying to build your local fanbase because you care about playing shows and touring, this is one approach you can follow to build a local fanbase on Spotify using Facebook ads (Meta ads).

Ariel Hyatt is the founder of CyberPR who has been helping artists get heard for 28 years. We talk about artist branding, social media strategies, the current landscape of touring, AI's place in music and more.

Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:

  1. My courses. Spotify Growth Machine teaches you how to use Facebook ads to promote your music on Spotify. YouTube Growth Machine teaches you how to grow a YouTube channel organically and how to use YouTube ads. Fan Growth Machine teaches you how to build a website, online store and grow your email list.

  2. My ad agency. Forbid Media specializes in running Facebook conversion ads to promote your music on Spotify.

  3. Website / Store / Funnels. MusicFunnels is the best all-in-one platform for music artists to make a website, online store, sales funnels and build their mailing list.

  4. 1-on-1 consulting. You can book 1-hour calls with myself or Alex Bochel here.

My Links:

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If you’d rather just purchase the e-book, or physical book or audiobook you can do so here.

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