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What happens when every platform has different top artists? Hint: it may be a good thing

Cover image for What happens when every platform has different top artists? Hint: it may be a good thing

Photo: Courtesy of Chartmetric

Photo of Tatiana Cirisano
by Tatiana Cirisano

Fragmentation is on full display in Chartmetric’s H1 2022 trends report, which lists the top 10 “breakthrough artists” between January and June for each of eight different platforms. It is immediately obvious that each list is completely different.

We know that consumption is becoming ever more fragmented in the era of on-demand streaming and hyper-personalised feeds. Chartmetric’s report proves that point and demonstrates just how deep fragmentation has become. What does this mean for the way artists, labels, and platforms operate?

Differentiation is the magic word

Thanks to streaming, people are now spreading out their music listening across many different artists, which is a good thing for the long tail. However, this has also meant that it is more difficult than ever for artists to stand out, earn revenue, and build fanbases. Making matters worse, the world of DSP streaming offers little differentiation (because every major platform offers the same sort of experience), and so the same type of artists — superstars with massive, but often passive, listener bases — are always the ones who benefit most. 

Enter Chartmetric’s report, which shows that actually, individual non-DSP streaming platforms, such as YouTube and TikTok, tend to have their own niche music stars. This is in part because these platforms are highly differentiated — each one offering a completely different experience that benefits a different type of artist and different type of fan. For example, Chartmetric notes that the end of a Twitter ban in Nigeria “reignited fan engagement” on the platform and helped three Nigerian artists make the list (Yemi Alade at number one, Erigga at number three, and Rema at number eight). On the other hand, French duo Supermassive top the YouTube list, perhaps thanks to their ability to connect the audience for their comedic YouTube Shorts to their music videos.

New strategies: Specialise or segment? 

This means that while it may be harder than ever (if not impossible) to dominate the entire internet, artists can figure out which platform serves them best, and subsequently focus energy there. In a landscape where artists have more demands than ever, this kind of efficiency is extremely valuable. There is also an opportunity to use different platforms to target different fan segments. For example, releasing a full album on Spotify (for everyone), TikTok challenges for the songs (for active fans), and behind-the-scenes vlogs on YouTube (for superfans). Many artists are now building cross-platform brands where each audience feeds into the others. Take indie artist Mxmtoon, whose platform ecosystem includes YouTube (for vlogs and ukulele tutorials), Twitch (for video game streaming and fan chat), and TikTok (for Q&As and day-in-the-life videos).

Your move, DSPs

Chartmetric does draw some correlations between the platforms, noting that TikTok drove many of the “breakthroughs” on both YouTube and Spotify. Yet the TikTok, YouTube, and Spotify lists are still completely different. This illustrates that followers do not always equal streaming listeners, which can serve as a warning to marketers. But there is a finer point here, too: non-DSP consumption is going from being a funnel for DSP consumption to a distinct segment in its own right.

Overall, artists are increasingly turning to platforms — not traditional industry players, like DSPs and record labels — to serve their needs. MIDiA terms this the ‘platforms era’, and it should motivate DSPs to differentiate their offerings, such as adding more fandom-building tools or incorporating consumer creation. Without greater differentiation, DSPs risk losing artists’ attention to platforms where they feel they actually have a chance.

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