The Top 10 Streaming Songs in the US Are Becoming Less Popular Every Year

2022's biggest hits were responsible for less than 0.5% of on-demand audio play in the U.S. (and that number may shrink in years to come)

Harry Styles on Thursday May 19, 2022 performing on the "Today" show. In spite of having the number one streaming song of 2022, music streams for top artists are down.
Sorry, Harry Styles: Superstars got more streams five years ago.
Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images

The biggest complaint about music streaming is that top artists garner an inordinate percentage of the streams — in 2020, for example, 90% of on-demand audio plays went to the top 1 percent of artists. But a new report by the entertainment data firm Luminate suggests listeners may be branching out a bit: Every year for the past few years, the top 10 streaming songs in the U.S. are taking up a smaller percentage of listens.

In an analysis of those numbers by Music Business Worldwide, the Top 10 audio streaming hits in the U.S. in 2022 (led by Harry Styles’s “As It Was”) cumulatively racked up 4.723 billion plays on on-demand services (Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music, etc.). Or in layman’s terms, about 1 in every 250 audio streams or less than 0.5%.

Five years prior? That number was 1 in 100 or 1.23%. And those numbers have decreased every year.

As MBW suggests, there are a number of factors going into this megahit decrease: A rise in catalog listening, an increase in streaming of non-superstars as well as artists from outside the U.S. (“potentially accelerated by the lessening power of mainstream media ‘gatekeepers’ to push a narrow field of stars”) and a rise in the amount of music on the services.

The good news here? A lot of that streaming and its accompanying revenue is going toward more artists, which means less concentration on five to 10 big names and perhaps a path for non-superstars to actually survive in the music biz (or any audio streaming format).

As MBW notes: “The atomization of royalty revenue amongst a far wider pool of top-tier artists — whether via streaming’s globalization of listening, or via the rise of the so-called ‘middle class’ of artists — has chomped into royalty earnings that were once the exclusive preserve of worldwide pop icons.”

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