45 Million Tracks With Zero Plays. If You Build It Will They Come?

The prevailing wisdom over the last decade or so has been that any artist should get their songs online early and often. It didn’t cost that much, and at least your chances of being discovered is greater than zero. But are they? According to music data company Luminate, 45.6 million music tracks online received zero plays in 2023. Not only that 158.6 million songs, or a full 86% of all songs online, received fewer than a thousand plays, and 43% clocked fewer than 10 plays.

Tracks with zero plays

Someone that’s very smart on a private list that I’m a part of figured out what that might cost a streaming service.

“In terms of pricing for deep storage, Amazon, for example, charges $0.0036 per GB per month for their S3 Glacier service. There are different charges for different levels of retrieval times that vary from milliseconds to hours.  An average pop song in uncompressed .WAV format will be around 50MB. Spotify uses Ogg Vorbis, which means the file size of that song will probably be 5MB, which means it will cost around $0.000018 to store that song. If that song remains unplayed, after the initial costs for onboarding a track, it won’t cost much more than that.”

So it doesn’t cost the streaming service all that much on a pre song basis, considering TuneCore and DistoKid charge an annual fee. CDBaby only charges a one-time setup fee and then takes a 9% cut of the revenue, but it’s still not losing money if your song gets zero plays.

To put it in perspective, Luminate points out that there are 2.17 million new tracks uploaded every month. The storage costs for all those tracks will only be $39.06.

It’s Publishing

While those figures scream that it makes no sense to Spotify to introduce the new 1,000 play limit, what everyone forgets is that the publishing side of streaming can be a nightmare of customer service issues. Royalty tracking can be time consuming, especially when there are 10 writers on the song. When it comes to tracking down writers or trying to resolve issues with writers who were not credited, etc., it can be a customer service nightmare.

I think it’s inevitable that the streaming services will begin to charge for low or zero plays of songs, and that might be a good thing. Just because you can upload a song doesn’t mean you should, and the vast number of songs with zero plays backs that up.

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