A few posts back I wrote about the difficulty of using proxies in music. Proxies are approximate measurements used to measure things which are difficult to quantify. That post discussed the use of proxies to try and determine which band was the greatest ever. This proves difficult because there is no one measurement for greatness and measurements which are associated with greatness still don’t account for personal preference and subjectivity. Other issues which can occur with proxies can arise due to the way they are calculated. This is the theme for discussion for today’s post.
One of my favourite bands of all time are The Beatles. They also happen to be arguably the most successful band of all time. This is still evident to see today with the band still having over 20 million listeners on Spotify. However, there is one of their songs which has never even been streamed; Her Majesty. This is the final track on the Abbey Road album and one of my personal favourites. A note worthy point about this song is that it is only 26 seconds long. This is noteworthy because of the criteria for a stream on Spotify which states;
“Streams are counted in Spotify for Artists when a song is streamed for over 30 seconds.”
This means that if you were to get a database of The Beatles songs on Spotify this song would show up as never having been played. I know this can’t be the case because I have listened to it multiple times, but none of those plays counted as a stream because the song at no point exceeds 30 seconds.
Now the reasoning for this 30 second rule is probably a well-intentioned. I would imagine it’s to ensure the measurement for streams on Spotify captures meaningful streams as opposed to streams where the song was played on shuffle for a few seconds and was then skipped. This is a good idea from a business perspective as well because Spotify must pay artists based on their streams. However, this does mean that the Spotify’s proxy for streams isn’t fully accurate.
By Daragh O’Leary