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Spotify’s New “Active Audience” Ain’t It, But We’re Getting Closer


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Spotify Active Audience

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.
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Have you seen the new “Active audience” in Spotify for Artists?

Spotify just rolled this out to help you better understand how active your listeners are. Spotify explains your “active audience” as “These are valuable listeners who have intentionally streamed your music in the past 28 days from active sources like your artist profile, album and release pages, and their own library and playlists.” To be clear, this is everyone who is not listening to your music on official editorial playlists, radio, auto-play, algorithmic playlists, or user-generated playlists (that the listener didn’t create).

Why does this matter? How does it help? I recently asked Spotify this directly and they told me that there will be more use cases for this info in the future, but it’s their attempt at giving us more insight into who our listeners are. Of course, the real insight we want is the ability to actually CONTACT our active listeners and to get their emails. And of course, get paid DIRECTLY from them (ala user-centric payment model, or Fan Powered Royalties as SoundCloud calls it).

At the Music Biz conference in Nashville a couple weeks ago, I caught the SoundCloud presentation from the SVP of Creator, Tracy Chan. He discussed the new SoundCloud for Artists interface and the new “Fans” dashboard which actually gives artists the ability to message their fans (one on one). Sure, it’s through the SoundCloud interface and no they aren’t giving us our fans emails or the ability to mass message them (yet) or filter by location (yet). But it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

My favorite quote from Tracy at this speech was:

“At Soundcloud, we believe the fans belong to the artist. They don’t belong to the service.” -Tracy Chan, SVP, Creator, SoundCloud

Whew! What a concept. A breath of fresh air no doubt.

I appreciate the steps that SoundCloud is taking to help artists grow fandom (not just listeners or streams). Unfortunately, at this moment however, SoundCloud makes up an extremely tiny portion of the market share in terms of revenue paid out to artists. But hopefully this will encourage Spotify and Apple to move in this direction.

Back to Spotify (the dominant streaming service of the moment with over a half a billion users and 210 million paid subscribers and the platform that currently pays out the most money to artists and songwriters / labels and publishers).

Spotify has now broken down listenership into 4 categories:

  1. Super Listeners
  2. Moderate Listeners
  3. Light Listeners
  4. Everyone else (they don’t have a name for these listeners yet, so let’s call them Lean Back Listeners)

Spotify explains that this “active audience” (the listeners in the first 3 categories) “on average, people who actively stream a song will play that artist’s music 4x more in the next 6 months.”

The only actual real world use case I can see using this info for right now is bragging rights to labels, booking agents, and radio. Maybe. Like “We have 60% active listeners on Spotify.” Which, honestly, would be extremely impressive. This means that the majority of your listeners are seeking you out to listen to you. NOT hearing your song on merely a playlist they follow.

But other than that, not sure what use this new breakdown is for.

Spotify also recently rolled out Discovery Mode. You can read my full breakdown of Discovery Mode here. 

+Spotify Opens Up Discovery Mode Wide Enabling Artists To Get More Listeners and Streams – For a Cost

And yes, many artists who opt into Discovery Mode see a bump in streams and listeners.

I’ve seen around a 10 – 40% bump (depending on the month and songs). It’s definitely not a silver bullet, and there are plenty of glitches I’ve personally found (and have seen people vent about on TikTok), but it’s a way to juice up your Lean Back Listeners a bit.

There’s this weird chasm right now in the music industry.

Some artists have TONS of Lean Back Listeners (oftentimes in the millions of monthly listeners) with very few Active listeners and very few real (ticket-buying) fans.

But because every stream (outside Discovery Mode) essentially pays the same, these artists are making A LOT of money from streaming even if they don’t have any fans. In 2022, Spotify revealed that nearly 20,000 artists made over $50,000 from just Spotify royalties alone. That’s a lot of artists making a living just from Spotify royalties.

And then there are artists with actual ticket buying fans who are barely making any money on Spotify. Because these artists might have 10,000 true hard core fans that would spend $100/year on the artist via merch, sales, tickets, crowdfunding, VIP or what have you. But these artists would only get a fraction of that from Spotify if all 10,000 fans streamed their music 100 times a year (that’s 1,000,000 total streams a year, equalling about $3,500 a year). Woof.

Because the good, hard-working people at Spotify who genuinely love music and love artists (I know many of them personally), know that their current streaming model absolutely sucks for fan-to-artist payments, Spotify has started integrating merch and tickets front and center on EVERY SONG!

Madison McFerrin Spotify profile showing tickets to upcoming shows and merch
Scroll up on an artist’s Spotify profile to view tickets and merch.

Yes, if enabled, whenever anyone listens to your song, they can scroll up and see Lyrics, Artist Profile, Merch and Tickets. So this is helpful. And a step in the right direction.

But I ain’t gonna be happy until Spotify actually gives us the ability to CONNECT with these fans. How can we let all of our Active listeners in Denver know that WE’RE PLAYING DENVER?! How can we let all of our fans know that we have a new merch drop?

We need our fans’ emails. Full stop.

Enough of this placating with more data. I agree with Tracy. The fans belong to the artist. Not the service.

Bandcamp gives us our fans emails. It’s not that hard.

But here we are.

And when Monthly Listeners on Spotify is the current currency that everyone in the music industry deals in, we gotta play the game.

How do you increase your Spotify Monthly Listeners and open up that “top of funnel”?

Well, of course we’ve seen what viral moments on TikTok has done for some songs over the past few years. But TikTok is now becoming a lot more fragmented with far fewer viral moments. No doubt, TikTok is still driving a LOT of traffic to Spotify (et al) and is the quickest (and cheapest) way to increase your (Active!) listeners extremely quickly. But it’s like playing the lottery. Unless you’re working at TikTok all day every day, it’s really hard to get something to go. It’s a lot of luck right now.

And unless you have $50,000+, it’s pointless to run an influencer campaign. Like, where you pay people who are good at TikTok (i.e. lots of followers or rather lots of average views on most of their videos) to use your song in their videos all at the same time. Too often labels (and artists) try influencer campaigns with like $5,000 and get zero results. What are results? Streams of course! On Spotify.

So what else is there?

Well, we know that press doesn’t move the needle anymore at generating streams. Radio similarly does nothing for streams.

What else?

User generated playlists (UGP) is big business right now.

There are tons of playlist plugging services out there where you can pitch playlisters (for a fee), and they may include your song (sometimes also for a fee – which is against Spotify’s TOS btw). I’ve tested a bunch of these services (and continue to test them.) And there are so many shady ones out there with bot-listeners that it’s really hard to sift through and find the playlists that not only have human listeners, but human listeners actually listening from countries that pay a decent amount (and that you might tour to someday). A lot of these playlists might have a lot of Likes (followers) but no active listeners. And even more of these playlists might have listeners, but all from countries that are cheap to advertise to (to get followers to the playlist), but won’t pay much in streams.

+SubmitHub Review: How To Submit to Spotify Playlists

And playlist listeners rarely convert into fans.

So what else is there?

Well, nearly every label and marketing agency is still devoting a big chunk of their marketing budgets into social media advertising.

Like Instagram ads. To get good at this takes a shit ton of expertise (that actually many artists have gotten extremely good at seeing phenomenal results – thanks to the Ari’s Take Academy course Streaming and Instagram Growth). But it’s time consuming. If you don’t have the time to do this, you can hire a marketing agency to run your campaigns for you. Most will cost you $1,000+ a month NOT INCLUDING ad spend. But many artists (who learn how to do this on their own) are seeing success at around $10-15/day.

But we know once you’ve opened up that “top of funnel” and gotten more people to actually listen to your music. The work has just begun. You then have to convert them into die-hard, lifelong, ticket-buying fans. But that’s for a different post. Or rather a book.

About The Author

Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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