3 FastForward Facts About Playlists

Media Services
Feb 2019
Alice McLean - CWF (Author)

In its fourth year in Amsterdam and expanded now to Sydney and London, FastForward has positioned itself as a leader of good music chat, focusing on where the music industry is going, not where it’s been. This year was no exception, with interesting, inspiring and engaging panels covering a wide range of musical-topics, such as vinyl, the rental economy, face recognition in music, health and wellness on the road, and many others.

Playlisting was of course a big focus, discussed in-depth on a panel aptly named “We Need To Talk About Playlists.” On this panel heaps of interesting insights, opinions and stats were thrown around. There were too many for one blog post, so we’ve picked three of the most interesting insights about playlists that we learned at FastForward Amsterdam 2019.

1) The Power of Catalogue:

Did you know that roughly 75% of streaming is catalogue listening? This is one of the big stats the panel threw around that grabbed our attention.

But what’s classified as catalogue? How long does a track need to be out to fall into this category? The definitions of this vary, but on average we’d say it takes about 12 to 18 months.

At first glance the stat of 75% of listening is catalogue may seem high, especially with how much time people spend in the Discover Weekly or Release Radar worlds, but with such a small window for a track to be considered a ‘new release,’ this actually seems relatively low.

And as I’m sure many of you know, streaming has meant that musical eras and decades don’t really matter anymore. ~ Music has transcended time. ~

For example, 80% of listening on Tencent, China’s number one streaming service, is catalogue. This is because they didn’t have access to these songs when they were originally released so “Let It Be” by The Beatles or “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac is new music for them.

Music no longer need to be contextualised. Now it can just be good music.

2) People Prefer Their Own Playlists:

Aditi Aurora of Gracenote (USA) was very kind to share some interesting slides on playlists during the panel. Here’s one of them.

From this we learned that last year 78% of all listening on streaming platforms was via playlists, an increase from 74% in the previous year. Not so surprising if you think about your own behaviour.

The surprising part is however that of that playlist listening, 46% (the significant majority) is on playlists that users created for themselves. Meaning that people to listen to playlists they make, even if it potentially means they keep listening to the same songs.

That’s where Discover Weekly and Release Radar come in. After listening to their own playlists, 32% of playlist listening happens in algorithmic playlists that are generated by your own listening habits.

Combined, this “personalised” listening takes up 76% of all playlist spins.  

Is this not creating an echo-chamber for listeners you may ask? Well yes, yes it is. But that’s what people seem to enjoy so for now we’ll just need to bite our tongues, look forward and help the artists make the most of these trends and find their niche.

3) Writing Songs Specifically For Playlists:

There was a unanimous frown around the FastForward room when the panel started talking about how artists have been writing songs specifically for playlists.

There was chats of artists doing things like making sure the chorus hits within the first 30 seconds to keep listeners attention or writing a song with a specific playlist in mind.

FYI: the 30 second mark is when Spotify counts the listen as one ‘stream’ and what’s so wrong about doing an acoustic version of your track so that you can pitch for the likes of ‘Totally Stress Free’ or ‘Evening Acoustic’?

You could argue that it’s always been this way in some form or another. There have always been the artists that try to fit into a mould, vs. the ones who focus on developing their own authentic sound.

And at the end of the day, we’re firm believers that good music will speak for itself. Playlist or no playlist.