One of the huge upsides in the new digital distribution economy is access to data. Artists and content creators have more tools for tracking their content than ever before.
In fact, not that long ago you just kind of had to "guess" what was going on with your music. Now, with at least two major platforms, you can watch it happening in real time.
The downside, of course, is that there isn't a ton of uniformity. Each service has its own little quirks and you kind of need to come up with the metrics that matter most to you.
Let's take a look at some of the defining characteristics of the different "analytics for artists" platforms related to services like Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Pandora, and YouTube.
What They All Have In Common
All of these platforms help you look at the big picture. That means things like number of streams over time, number of listeners etc. Typically, the most common time frames include looking at these changes over 7 days, 28 days, the year so far, or for as long as they've been tracking the data.
But they all have a unique way of measuring how fans engage with your content. And they all have some extra tidbits worth paying attention to.
Spotify for Artists
Probably the current "standard" for these platforms. Spotify for Artists underwent a huge overhaul beginning in 2018 and continues to release new updates with regularity. Most semi-serious artists probably at least know about Spotify for Artists.
Spotify was the first platform to really "brand" its metrics. The most obvious example of course, is "monthly listeners" — an otherwise arbitrary statistic that Spotify has chosen to make front-and-center on its platform. Much like Helen of Troy, this was the metric that launched a thousand marketing plans.
But the most important metric available to users is actually "saves," a metric that is mostly unique to Spotify for Artists (but not Spotify as a consumer-facing platform). Saves are probably the best indicator of user engagement with a song. A good "saves to listeners" ratio helps you make sure your song is resonating with the right people.
Spotify of course hasn't released any official language on this, but general knowledge says that if at least 10% to 20% of the people who listen to your song also save it, you'll be in a great spot algorithmically.
Other Metrics Of Note
Although not entirely unique to Spotify, you can also track your "followers" in Spotify for Artists. The unfortunate thing about followers is we don't *really* know what they're "worth" at this point. Obviously if somebody follows you on Spotify, they're more likely to hear your music than if they don't. But how much more? Spotify doesn't really say.
Your followers aren't necessarily guaranteed to see your new music — a point emphasized by Spotify's recent push to get people to advertise new releases to Spotify in platform.
There is also "Canvas Views" for people who upload a Canvas for their song. It is, frankly, not that interesting of a metric.
Spotify also has a few articles available to read. They are definitely intended for brand new acts. Like, read them. It only takes a few minutes. But you probably won't come away feeling like you just feasted upon the Tree of Knowledge.
One Thing To Know
Spotify for Artists is how you officially submit a song for editorial consideration. That doesn't mean you might not end up on an editorial list if you don't submit the song. And it certainly doesn't mean you will end up on a list just for submitting your song.
But "best practices" for Spotify include submitting your song through their submission portal on Spotify for Artists. You technically need to do it a least a week in advance, but a month or longer if you've got it is typically preferred.
Definitely. Spotify for Artist does a good job of letting you control your artist profile presence on the platform. It's pretty self explanatory, but definitely make sure you upload plenty of pictures, create playlists, add a bio, link your socials, and all that other good stuff.
Spotify is pretty clearly working to make Spotify for Artists a "two-sided marketplace." That means they ultimately want to monetize the platform by offering services within it.
They've already started doing this by acquiring SoundBetter, a platform designed to help artists find collaborators, singers, producers, mix engineers, mastering services, and more. Spotify has advertised SoundBetter within Spotify for Artists.
We're just speculating here, but we won't be surprised if Spotify continues to move more and more into paid services for artists through Spotify for Artists. This includes even (potentially) bringing some of their advertising platform over to Spotify for Artists in a limited capacity.
Apple Music For Artists
Apple Music lagged behind Spotify in releasing an analytics platform for awhile, but when it finally got out of beta, the Apple Music for Artists platform offered some interesting new metrics.
It's much more of a straight up analytics platform, meaning there aren't any editorial submissions or extra content. In some ways, that keeps it nice and clean. But in others, it means there's not a whole lot of reason to hang around for more than a few minutes.
Apple Music for Artists has two distinctly unique metrics worth paying attention to. The first one is downloads. This is important because, well, people still buy digital downloads (especially internationally) and it's money in the bank.
For instance, one artist we work with has a song that, while it doesn't get streamed much, has sold hundreds of downloads specifically in Italy. Like, it's as likely to get a download as it is to get a stream. That's an insight you wouldn't be able to get from any platform besides Apple Music for Artists right now.
The second unique metric is Shazams. You remember Shazam, right? The app that helped you identify what song was playing? Well Apple bought it awhile back and incorporated it into things like Siri. And believe it or not, people still use it quite a bit.
Shazams are a metric that can indicate interest in your song. The more a tune is "Shazamed," the more it means people are interested in listening to it again.
Other Metrics Of Note
While it's possible for a user to favorite a song on Apple Music, we don't have a way of seeing those numbers right now in the analytics platform. Maybe in the future, but it just doesn't exist. However, Apple music does prominently display radio spins, which can be another good indicator of your song getting long-term algorithmic support.
Here's another interesting thing about Apple Music: instead of displaying a monthly listener stat, they go with Average Daily Listeners. Just, you know...in case you care about that.
Apple Music's geographic location is also a lot more robust. While Spotify only lets you look at top cities, Apple Music for Artists shows you legitimately every place your music was played on a heat map. It's probably the best geographic information of all the platforms, along with Pandora (which is only in the U.S.).
One Thing To Know
Apple Music typically pays better than Spotify because they don't offer a free version. While the platform has fewer users than Spotify and you might get fewer listeners there, the money is better.
In other words: don't sleep on Apple Music. Millions of people still use it and the Apple Music for Artists platform is robust enough for you to measure potential marketing effects of sending people to Apple Music.
Apple Music is probably the slowest when it comes to updating data. It's pretty much always two days behind (sometimes three) and can update at completely random times of the day. The platform also doesn't have any "real time" measurements, which overall means it all just lags a little behind the others.
Amazon Music for Artists
Oh yeah, did you know about this one? Well if you read the rest of our articles you might. But if not, BUCKLE UP.
Ok, it's really nothing too exciting — because it's still very much in the early beta stages and only launched a few months ago. But there are still some pretty interesting things to look at with Amazon Music for Artists. Also, it's worth mentioning that the streams and listeners do update in real time, making it the most up-to-date platform of the three so far.
Hands down the most unique metric (and also potentially the most confusing of all the platforms) is "Voice" and "Daily Voice Index." What it boils down to is: how many people asked Alexa to play your music.
Amazon breaks these down by voice requests for Artist, Album, Song, and Lyrics. (That last one is definitely unique). So basically, this is how Amazon is measuring a user's engagement with your music. Similar to Apple's Shazams feature, it seems like it could limit a lot of actual engagement and might be better for determining certain trends with songs.
It's also clearly in line with their goal of making Alexa a huge priority. The Daily Voice Index basically shows you if the number of requests indicates you are "Cool," "Warm," "Hot," or "On Fire." Outside of the obvious implications, we don't really know what that means. Amazon's official explanation for this is that "Daily Voice Index compares this artist’s total number of requestors with artists that have a similar-sized audience on Amazon Music."
Other Metrics Of Note
Amazon Music for Artists also has one other section that is unique to it: Fans. Again, not a lot of information about what exactly constitutes a fan or a "Superfan" (a subcategory within fans), but right now Amazon says, "Fans are a segment of an artist’s listeners from the trailing year who show a high affinity for their music."
Which makes it sound like they're using how likely somebody is to listen to the artist over time as an engagement factor, which is pretty cool. Because it's all still in beta we don't have a ton of info on how useful any of this is just yet. But it's nice to see Amazon working towards offering unique insights based on its platform.
One Thing To Know
Amazon is very interested in becoming a one-stop-shop for artists. That includes things like offering artist merch directly in Amazon itself. They are currently testing the waters and sending fairly frequent surveys to beta users about potential features to include.
So that is to say, the one thing to know about the early iteration of Amazon Music for Artists is: expect it to change, probably drastically.
Yeah — if you stream on Twitch, you can connect your Twitch account and your streams will show up in Amazon Music. That is *super* cool. So do it. We wrote more on this here.
Amazon Music for Artists is still really behind in a lot of areas, but it's cool to see the platform carving an interesting path in others.
Pandora (Next Big Sound)
Alright, so Pandora is kind of confusing. Technically Next Big Sound is the platform for viewing and understanding your Pandora data. But Pandora AMP (artist management platform) is where you go to manage your artist presence on Pandora. It also features some of the same stats as Next Big Sound. But not all of the stats.
The whole thing is quite muddy. So for the sake of not being confusing, just consider Next Big Sound and AMP as somewhat interchangeable, for analytics purposes. If you have to choose one, choose Next Big Sound. But just know that things like creating playlists, recording messages for listeners, and controlling your profile happens in AMP, not Next Big Sound.
Pandora uses "Thumbs Up" as a user engagement ratio, which is pretty simple. There's not much that can be said about this other than it's how users say they want to hear more of a song (and possibly an artist). Tracking a Thumbs Up is similar to tracking a Spotify save.
But then there's also "Station Adds," which can happen at either the song level or the artist level. Pandora doesn't really let you know what the difference is, but it's easy to assume there are algorithmic tweaks for the users. In general, we see more Thumbs Ups than station adds (it's an easier and more prominent action for users).
Other Metrics Of Note
One of the cool things Next Big Sound does is show you the name of the stations where your songs are getting played. These stations can help you understand some of the similar artists and genre styles the song is being associated with.
The negative thing, of course, is there isn't really much of a way to directly affect where your song shows up. Outside of getting clever with some advertising campaigns.
The heat map for listener location also shows you if Pandora thinks the song is over performing or under performing in a region, another somewhat hard to pin down metric — but interesting when looking at geographic data nonetheless. And another potential way to measure marketing efforts.
One Thing To Know
Pandora is still one of the most popular streaming platforms out there. So don't disregard it as a place to look for data. That being said, it's also one of the more difficult platforms to put a finger on in terms of controlling your consumption. And, of course, it's only available in the U.S.
Pandora also has a premium version which functions more like a regular streaming platform. Next Big Sound helps you differentiate which of these streams come from paid Pandora and which just come from the regular old radio Pandora.
Also, do make an effort to create a Pandora AMP account and see what your options for adding audio "campaigns" are. It can't hurt, and it's free.
YouTube has recently used "YouTube Analytics for Artists" interchangeably with YouTube Studio, but we'll just keep calling it YouTube Studio for now because, well, that's what it's called in YouTube.
First of all, props to YouTube for being the only platform that includes its analytics dashboard directly in its core product. But that's also because YouTube is the only one of these platforms where you can directly upload your content without a middleman.
Technically, YouTube's various iterations of analytics are the OG. They date all the way back to 2008 in some form or fashion. So with 12 years to get this analytics platform right, how good is it?
Very, very good. YouTube Studio's data puts all the others to shame. But that also means it can be a bit overwhelming. So when it comes to looking at YouTube Studio like you would the other three mentioned above, what are some of the important stats?
Like we just mentioned, YouTube Studio has so many metrics that are unique to it that we could write a whole post just on YouTube and barely scratch the surface. Most people already know about likes, comments, and subs though. Instead, let's look at a particularly interesting metric: watch time.
Watch time is a pretty solid indicator of engagement because it allows you to see just how much of a song a user is listening to. We know Spotify has this data (which they refer to "skip rate") but they don't share it on their platform. That means your ability to get in and see how long people are watching videos for can really help you understand which songs might be resonating the most.
Another critically important unique metric: MONEY. If you're monetizing your channel, YouTube Studio can show you your estimated earnings from the ads playing on your videos up to a few days ago.
These two unique metrics alone make YouTube Studio very powerful.
Other Metrics Of Note
YouTube just added a very cool feature that allows you to see how your songs are doing in videos where you have a copyright claim. What does this mean? It means if somebody uploading their own lyric video of your song, you get to track those views and engagement in your YouTube Studio, even though it's not technically your video.
Another cool thing is that you can see your views in real time, meaning if you're running ads (either on YouTube or elsewhere), you can monitor their effectiveness. If you're using Google Ads to run YouTube ads, it will even break down that traffic source for you.
Oh, and traffic source — another great metric. Really this whole platform is just head and shoulders the best one for analytics nerds. Except for general age and location data, which is surprisingly not great. That's probably due to the fact that YouTube doesn't require you to have an account or enter any of that data to watch a video.
One Thing To Know
The monetization for YouTube is not like the other platforms, so it's much harder to pin down. And because you can upload a lot of content that isn't just strictly your music, it's up to you to be organized enough to make use of the data.
Like we said, it's a lot that can get out of hand fast, especially if your YouTube channel is more than just music and lyric videos.
You really just need to jump in and start looking around. That's the best way to look at it all. And while something like Amazon Music only takes a few minutes to see everything to offer, it seems like we're still learning something new about YouTube Studio every now and then.
Don't get overwhelmed. Be happy the data is out there. Don't let it consume you. And don't obsess over it.
There are several other platforms that might be working on analytics backends we don't know about yet. Places like Deezer and TIDAL seem to be good candidates for them, for sure.
At RootNote, we're working on ways to help take this data and turn it into actionable insights using our platform CODa. You can start playing around with what we're working on by creating a free account and linking some of these platforms (all but Amazon, so far).
Keep making music you love. Celebrate when anybody hears it. The worst part (philosophically) about these platforms is it can tend to make you think of people as just numbers. Which means you might look at your 500 monthly listeners and weep when you look at somebody else with hundreds of thousands to millions.
But that's 500 people you've touched with your music. That's a whole freaking club full of people! Be proud of that.