Taylor Swift may have her doubts about the music streaming market, but listeners are leaving little doubt about where the future lies: It’s online and it’s on demand. In the first half of 2015, we’ve already streamed more than 1 trillion songs on the Internet, according to the latest numbers from music analytics company Next Big Sound. And that doesn’t even include Apple Music and its reported 10 million users.
Streaming music is blowing up. By comparison, Next Big Sound tallied nearly 450 billion streams for all of 2014 in its last year-end report. That we’ve already doubled that number halfway through 2015 is a telling sign of just how explosive this segment of music consumption truly is.
So which artists are being streamed the most? As you might guess, Drake is dominating the Internet, topping the streaming charts on Rdio, SoundCloud, and Pandora, the latter of which sees more new Drake-inspired Internet radio stations added than any other artist. Drake also came in third place on the Spotify chart, where he was beat out by Chris Brown and EDM superstar Calvin Harris. With recurring names like Nicki Minaj, Ed Sheeran, Beyoncé, Maroon 5, and Lil Wayne, the top 10 streaming charts for the most popular services aren’t exactly loaded with surprises.
One name that doesn’t appear on these charts as much as you might expect is Taylor Swift’s. While she’s the most popular artist on Vevo so for this year and continues to dominate social platforms like Instagram and Twitter, Swift has refused to include her music catalog on most music subscription services, leaving more Rdio, Spotify, and SoundCloud streams for the Drakes and Calvin Harrises of the world. Swift remains critical of the streaming business model and its paltry per-stream royalty payouts for artists, although she did agree to include her catalog on Apple Music after the tech giant caved in and agreed to pay artists during the introductory three-month free trial period for its new streaming service. Next Big Sound doesn’t yet track Apple Music plays but a spokesperson says the company is “constantly adding and dropping sources as the music industry evolves,” adding that “there are no specific timelines at this time.”
Despite the proliferation of subscription services from bigger players, SoundCloud appears to still be going strong. The Berlin-based, “freemium” streaming service has seen enormous growth in streams over the last year. SoundCloud saw 4.9 billion streams in May 2015 alone, an 88% increase over the same period last year. SoundCloud’s total number of monthly of streams has continued to climb steadily, despite growing pains and looming questions about its ability to secure proper licensing deals with major labels–not to mention nail down a scalable business model. In the meantime, SoundCloud remains a go-to service for DJs, rappers, mix tape curators, and indie artists, with bigger names like Drake, Major Lazer, G-Eazy, and Chris Brown helping to reel in more mainstream listeners.
One important caveat worth noting: Next Big Sound’s 2014 numbers did not include data from Pandora, who acquired Next Big Sound earlier this year. So some amount of the 2015 jump in streaming comes from this year’s addition of data from Pandora’s 81.5 million active users, although it’s hard to imagine that this factor alone accounted for half a trillion new streams.