The Ledger: Are There Really 100,000 New Songs Uploaded a Day? Maybe More.
When you take into account direct-upload sites like SoundCloud, the universe of music could well exceed 100,000 tracks a day.
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Spotify finished 2022 with more than 100 million tracks in its catalog, according to the company’s annual report filed Thursday (Feb. 2). That’s 18 million more than the 82 million tracks streaming service had the year prior — which averages to about 49,000 new songs per day. At three minutes per track, it would take about three and a half months to listen to a single day’s worth of new music from start to finish.
The standard number is 100,000 new tracks daily. Universal Music Group chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge said in September 2022 that 100,000 tracks were being “added to music platforms every day.” Earlier that month, former Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper said “roughly 100,000” tracks were uploaded “to SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple” and other platforms “on any given day of the week.” Luminate called those estimates “spot on” and noted only 3,600 new ISRCs – tracks, basically – came daily from major distributors.
Not that self-reported numbers have always been in sync with executives’ statements. In April 2019, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said “nearly 40,000” new tracks were being uploaded daily. Based on Spotify’s own disclosures, however, the daily average that year was 27,000. In Feb. 2021, Ek said the number of daily tracks added to its catalog had surpassed 60,000. Spotify’s disclosures showed the daily average was 55,000 in 2020 -- perhaps a function of artists staying home during the early days of the pandemic -- but fell to 33,000 in 2021. Spotify’s self-reported number of tracks better matches up with the number of ISRCs (International Standard Recording Codes) if you take into account multiple variants of tracks such as remixes and clean versions, each of which require a unique ISRC, a record label source tells Billboard.
But there certainly could be far more than 100,000 new tracks uploaded daily in aggregate. There’s more music on the internet than Spotify adds to its catalog. SoundCloud, for example, adds tracks at a faster rate than other platforms because it licenses music from record labels and distributors while also accepting direct uploads from independent musicians. The service currently boasts 40 million artists on the platform who are unlikely to be found elsewhere. When I wrote about the size of music catalogs in April 2022, SoundCloud had added 50 million tracks in about 12 months, or about 137,000 per day. It appears to have largely maintained that growth rate. From Feb. 2022 through Jan. 2023, SoundCloud added 45 million tracks -- an average of 123,000 per day -- according to numbers found in the company’s press releases.
Whether the number of new tracks being uploaded daily is 49,000 (17.9 million annually), 100,000 (36.5 million annually) or more matters. Anybody following trends, making forecasts or deciding on M&A strategies should understand the size of the market and where the opportunities lay. The lower number is the amount of music landing on the world’s most popular audio streaming platform. The higher number better represents the size of what’s called “the creator economy,” or the universe of music being produced by novices, professionals and everybody in between.
The future of music is more music. People will still flock to chart-topping artists and congregate around a small number of superstars. But the barriers to entry are now so low that virtually anybody can commercially release music, and music streaming services increasingly serve every music niche in existence. The music creator tools market was worth $4.1 billion in 2022, according to MIDiA Research, and MIDiA forecast that the number of people paying for music software, skills sharing and learning will grow from 30 million in 2021 to nearly 100 million by 2030.
The technology to get that music online is well-established. Decades ago, Apple's GarageBand opened the doors to self-produced music. Today, making music is far easier. BandLab, an online music creation platform, has 60 million users. Spotify-owned Soundtrap is another online music creation and collaboration tool. Any number of low-cost distributors, such as DistroKid and TuneCore, will get creators’ music to download and streaming sites around the world. LANDR cuts out the middleman and acts as both digital audio workstation and distributor.
That glut of music is good for some, bad for others. It’s great for distributors and developers of music creation tools. It’s bad for record labels that must fight harder to get their tracks heard and risk ceding market share. It’s a mixed bag for consumers who have unlimited access yet face a paradox of choice. How the industry will deal with all this music is unclear. What’s certain is there’s a lot of music out there -- and the pace of new releases is only going to accelerate.
UPDATE: This article was updated at 4:57 p.m. EST on Feb. 7 to include additional information from a record label source.