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Spotify Streaming Rules: How Does Spotify Count Plays?

By Matthew Vultaggio

March 31, 2021

Spotify has a large number of streaming rules, with some being fairly obvious and some being much more behind the scenes. I’ve researched all the ways that Spotify counts plays and streams, and wrote about it here for you.

Spotify counts a stream once a song has been listened to for 30 seconds. Streams will be counted after 30 seconds even if the song is on repeat but will not be counted if the Spotify app is muted.

So, when streaming music on Spotify, make sure you listen to a song for at least 30 seconds before skipping it if you would like that stream to count towards that artist’s stats.

However, with that said, there are additional streaming rules that can affect an artist’s behind-the-scenes Spotify stats when it comes to how long a song is listened to and how the listener interacts with the Spotify app before, during, and after listening to a song.

For a deep dive into Spotify’s streaming rules, simply keep on reading, my friend. 🙂

Spotify Streaming Rules Explained

At the most basic level, Spotify counts a stream once that song has been listened to for 30 seconds, however, there are a few other streaming rules that can affect whether a stream is counted or not.

I’ve listed the basic streaming rules in this neat table below as well as wrote more detailed descriptions of how each of these rules work later in this article.

Streaming RuleStream Counted?
The listener streams for 30 secondsYes
The listener repeats the song after listening for 30 secondsYes
The listener skips the song before listening for 30 secondsNo
The listener skips the song right after 30 secondsYes
The listener streams the song while Spotify app is mutedNo
The listener is using a free Spotify accountYes
The listener is streaming while offlineYes
The listener is the actual artist of the songYes
This table shows the basic Spotify streaming rules.

The above table really only goes into the very basics of how streaming works: whether a single stream is counted or not.

However, did you know that how listeners engage with the song and Spotify app can greatly influence how Spotify rewards (or punishes) the artist?

Spotify is built around a complex algorithm that collects user listening data and behavior to figure out how to recommend great songs to its users.

For example, positive engagement will send positive signals to the Spotify algorithm which may result in that artist getting that song pushed into more Spotify algorithm playlists, greatly increasing that artist’s streams and reach.

Here are some of the ways that listener engagement can influence the behind-the-scenes Spotify algorithm stats for artists.

Positive streaming rules

  • Listening to a song multiple times (not even necessarily back to back ), the Spotify algorithm may see this as a positive signal
  • If you follow the artist after listening to a song, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a positive signal
  • If you hit the like button on the song, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a positive signal

Negative streaming rules

  • If you skip a song before 30 seconds, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a negative signal
  • If you hit the dislike button on the song, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a negative signal
  • If you stop using the Spotify app after listening to a song before 30 seconds, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a negative signal
  • If you stop listening to a Spotify algorithm playlist or Spotify editorial playlist after listening to a song, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a negative signal

Advanced streaming rules

The Spotify algorithm also looks at different relationships between artists, songs, and even users to provide really great song recommendations to listeners.

For example, if Spotify notices that people who listen to Jay-Z tend to also listen to Kanye West, the Spotify algorithm may add a Jay-Z song to Kanye’s fan’s playlists (even if they are not following Jay-Z) because they are likely to enjoy the song.

So, when you stream a song and positively (or negatively) engage with that song, Spotify is also looking at what you streamed before that song and what you streamed after. They may not always use that data, but they are collecting it.

This can also impact a song’s position on one of Spotify’s algorithmic and editorial playlists. A song that gets positive engagement may move up to a higher position on that playlist, while a song that gets negative engagement may move to a lower position and even eventually get removed altogether.

Does Spotify count streams on repeat?

Spotify counts 1 stream when the song has been listened to for 30 seconds or more, regardless of what song was played before.

For example, if you listen to a song for 30 seconds and then listen to it again for 30 seconds, that will be counted as 2 streams.

Essentially, listening to a song on repeat as a casual listener is okay, but repeatedly streaming songs inorganically in an attempt to game the system is not and can even result in negative consequences for the artist.

To learn more about how streaming songs on repeat works, check out my article: Does Spotify Count Streams On Repeat?

Do Spotify streams count on mute?

Spotify will not count any streams that are on mute in the Spotify app, however, they may still count streams that are muted outside of the app (ie: your computer or phone’s mute button and note the Spotify app mute button).

Repeatedly streaming a song on mute could be seen as “artificially increasing play counts” and could result in that song’s streams being taken away or that song being removed completely.

It is, of course, okay to stream music on mute from time to time. For example: muting Spotify and leaving it running for hours is something a real human might do every once in a while. However, doing this every day or extremely frequently might trigger a red flag for Spotify.

To learn more about how streaming songs on mute works, check out my article: Do Spotify Streams Count On Mute?

Do streams from free Spotify users count?

Streams from free Spotify accounts do count towards an artist’s streaming stats. However, any streams done from free Spotify accounts will result in a lower streaming royalty rate in the artist’s payout for those free streams.

Spotify pays anywhere between $0.00331 and $0.00437 per stream, and streams from free accounts tend to pay out on the lower end of that scale.

To learn more about how Spotify pays it’s artists, check out my article, Do Spotify Artist Get Paid, for more.

Do offline Spotify streams count?

Offline Spotify streams do count towards an artist’s streaming stats. Any streams done offline are counted and saved inside of the app and then sent off to Spotify’s server the next time the user goes online.

Any streaming done while in private listening mode are also counted towards an artist’s streaming stats.

Does Spotify count your own streams?

If you are an artist streaming your own songs, Spotify will count those streams. There is no reason to believe that Spotify does not count streams when you stream your own music.

However, considering that Spotify pays anywhere between $0.00331 and $0.00437 per stream, you would need to stream your own music thousands and thousands of times to make just a few dollars (there are better ways to hack the Spotify algorithm).

In addition to this, when you consider that playing any music over and over for days could be looked at as “artificially” increasing that song’s streams, I would not recommend doing something like this to increase your Spotify royalties.

Can you fake streams on Spotify?

Although it may be able to fake streams on Spotify, the Spotify Terms and Conditions (that you must agree to in order to use Spotify) mentions that you are not allowed to artificially increase play counts (Section 9, point 8).

In most cases, fake streams are coming from fake playlists made up of bots or click farm employees. For more on the downsides of suspicious playlists, check out my article on Spotify Jedi.

Spotify has a lot of data on its music and how its users interact with that music. They can use this data to notice when things look artificial and take action against those users and artists.

When you consider that Spotify may be losing millions of dollars due to fake streams, it makes sense that they have started focusing on taking this very seriously and are increasingly adopting a no-tolerance approach to how they deal with cheaters.

Can Spotify Take Away Streams?

Spotify can take away streams if Spotify believes any streams are coming from fraudulent accounts. However, as the artificial streaming problem becomes more of an issue for Spotify, they are increasingly taking more and more severe action against any artists engaging in any bad activity.

In addition to taking away streams, Spotify to take action in the form of:

  • Completely removing the song with artificial streams
  • Removing the artist’s ability to distribute songs to Spotify

To learn more about how this works and how you can make sure it doesn’t happen to you, check out my article: Can Spotify Take Away Streams?

How To See Stream Counts on Spotify

There are 2 main ways to check a song’s streams on Spotify, depending on if you are the actual artist or not:

  1. Listeners can visit the artist’s Spotify profile and see the songs listed under the “Popular” section
  2. Artists can check their Spotify streams for any of their songs by signing up and logging into Spotify For Artists

It is much harder to find a song’s specific play counts unless you are the actual artist and have access to the Spotify For Artists dashboard.

To learn more about this (including a detailed walkthrough of how to do each of the above options), check out my article, How To Check Spotify Streams, for more. 🙂

How To Become A Spotify Artist

To upload to Spotify as an artist, you first need to sign up with one of Spotify’s preferred music distributors and submit your music, artwork, and artist information through that music distributor.

I personally use and recommend DistroKid because they allow you to upload unlimited songs for just one small annual fee (as opposed to having to pay for every upload individually – which can add up).

If you would like to learn more about this, I actually put together a big fat DistroKid review, that covers everything you need to know about their service. Alternatively, you can compare DistroKid to other popular music distribution options:

After getting your music distributed to Spotify, you can make things even more official and claim your Spotify artist profile. This gets you the beautiful blue verified checkmark, access to behind-the-scenes stats, and the ability to pitch your music directly to Spotify’s editors.

There are 2 methods to claiming your Spotify artist profile. These are:

  1. Instantly through your music distributor (ie: with DistroKid)
  2. Manually claiming your profile with Spotify

To learn more about all of this, check out my article on How To Create A Spotify Artist Account & Become An Artist On Spotify. 🙂

P.S. If you also want to learn about music publishing and make sure that you are not leaving any money on the table with your music distribution setup, I’d recommend checking out these 2 articles:

Some of my favorite music marketing tools

Thank you for reading this article, my friend, and I hope you found it helpful as you build your own successful career in music. 🙂

Here is a list of my favorite and most recommended tools and resources that I’ve personally used to get my music streamed over 4,000,000 times on Spotify as an artist.

Any of the paid services or tools listed here are most likely affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a small commission.

But in all honesty, these are the exact tools that I personally use, love, and recommend to anyone – including my own friends and family.

Music Distribution

To get your music on Spotify on all the other streaming services, I use DistroKid because you get unlimited song uploads for a low annual price.

If you want to learn more about DistroKid and music distribution, check out the in-depth DistroKid review that I’ve put together.

Or, if you want to get started with DistroKid right now, you can save on your first year with the DistroKid discount.

Facebook Ads For Spotify Success

Although Facebook Ads can be a real pain to get working properly, there is no denying that they are incredible for growing Spotify streams and getting your music in front of real fans.

This is why I’ve put together a completely free course that you can check out called Facebook Ads For Musicians’ Spotify Streams. 🙂

Music Publishing Royalties Collection

For collecting all of the publishing, mechanical, and live performance royalties owed to me whenever my music gets streamed or played, my go-to is Songtrust.

Songtrust is a publishing administration company which means that in addition to collecting all of those royalties for me, they do it on a global level.

To learn if Songtrust is right for you, I’d recommend checking out this article on Songtrust vs BMI.

And if you want to get started with Songtrust right now, I’d recommend learning about the Songtrust discount code so that you can get the best price. 🙂

Website & Smart Links

I’m personally not a big fan of the link-in-bio and smart links for music pages like ToneDen and Hyppeddit.

Instead, I prefer having a full-blown WordPress website that allows me to have a full website in addition to unlimited music links.

For getting started with this, I really like Bluehost because it is the cheapest and a theme called Thrive Themes because it is the most flexible and easiest to use.

I’ve actually created a free Smart Links Course that you can take to learn how to get set up and start getting more streams with custom smart links (I’ve even included the templates I am using!).

Want more tools and resources for your music career?

If you’d like to see even more of my favorite marketing tools and resources for musicians and music artists, I’ve created an even larger list on this page: Best Marketing Tools & Resources For Musicians (& Music Artists).

P.S. There are even some free tools and resources included on that page as well! 🙂

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