When I was first taking my Spotify stats more seriously, I got confused about the difference between streams and listeners on Spotify, so I wrote about it in depth here to clear things up.
Spotify streams are how many times your song is played past the 30 second mark, while Spotify listeners are the unique individuals who have played your song past the 30 second mark. Spotify only counts a listener as a listener one time but will count multiple streams from that listener if they continue to listen to stream your music past the 30 second mark.
There are a few other things to consider to really know the difference in depth, particularly in the case of listeners of a song vs what your monthly listener count is.
So is it better to have more streams or more listeners? What are monthly listeners? And, how specifically, does Spotify track streams and listeners?
Great questions! And I called those out because I obviously intend to answer them below.
So let’s hop right into it. 🙂
Spotify Listeners vs Streams
To clearly understand the difference between Spotify listeners and Spotify streams, it is important to clearly understand each separately, as well as Spotify’s streaming rules, before comparing the differences.
For a quick refresher, remember this:
- Streams are the number of times your track has been played
- Listeners are the number of people that have played your track
- Now let’s start by diving into the details of those sweet, sweet streams.
How does Spotify count a listen or stream on a song?
Spotify counts a single stream of a song when that song has been listened to for 30 seconds or more. Once the song hits the 30-second mark, a stream is counted in Spotify’s system.
This is important to note because once a stream is counted then that stream gets added to your sweet, sweet Spotify royalties in 2 to 3 months on your royalty statement.
However, you should also know that Spotify can take away streams if you are doing anything sketchy.
But why 30 seconds, you ask?
..who knows! But it is what Spotify has decided so we have to deal with it (haha).
So, whenever someone hits the 30-second mark, the Spotify For Artists listening now number will go up and you will see a new stream for that song in your Spotify For Artists dashboard the follow day.
There are also two other things to note when it comes to streams:
Do Spotify streams count on mute?
Spotify does not count streams that are on mute. While streaming, do not put the song on mute or else it will not count towards streaming counts.
To learn more details about this rule, check out my article called Do Spotify Streams Count On Mute.
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. 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.
To learn more details about this rule, check out my article called Does Spotify Count Streams On Repeat.
…why is this important?
It is good to know these things because they are part of the puzzle in knowing how much Spotify pays per stream.
Armed with this knowledge, you can use a Spotify royalty calculator to get an idea of how much money you stand to gain.
Now that you know how Spotify counts streams, you may want to learn about when they update stream counts and what to do when your Spotify stream count is not updating.
For a more in-depth look into how Spotify streams work, check out my article on how to check spotify streams. It gives a breakdown for both artists and listeners.
Now! With stream counts out of the way, let’s move on to nailing the details of what Spotify counts as a listener.
How does Spotify count a listener?
Spotify only counts a listener as a listener if they have streamed your song at least once past the 30 second mark.
So we were pretty clear on the 30 second rule that applies to streams from before. And now we know that once someone has reached that 30 second mark for the first time they also become a listener in Spotify’s system.
Here is an important factor to remember: Spotify only counts listeners once, so if they stream the song multiple times, it still only counts as 1 listener.
When playing around in the Spotify For Artist’s dashboard, you can sometimes specify different time periods like weekly, last 24 hours, and lifetime. If you select those options, Spotify will show you the number of streams and listeners you got during that specified time period.
If you don’t have access to the dashboard, consider switching distributors to DistroKid. It is also what I use and recommend, and they make it super easy to get access.
If you would want to learn more about what DistroKid has to offer, you can check out my big fat DistroKid review. 🙂
On the other hand, if you are all set up with a distributor and just need to learn how to get access, I’ve got you covered as well, my friend.
You can learn more about getting access (with or without DistroKid) to Spotify For Artists in my article: Does DistroKid Make A Spotify Account For You?
With that said, you may have also noticed that, in addition to calculating listeners for a song and listeners over a specific time period, Spotify also mentions monthly listeners. In fact, Spotify actually displays the count for monthly listeners very prominently on an artist’s profile.
So clearly this must be important right?
It is.. to some extent. On the one hand, it is a bit of a vanity metric (a number that makes you feel good about yourself) but it could be a helpful way to track your progress and see if your audience is growing from month to month.
Let’s break down exactly what the heck monthly listeners are below and get into how they differ from streams and listeners.
Spotify Monthly Listeners vs Spotify Streams
In addition to being able to make Spotify editorial playlist submissions in your Spotify For Artists dashboard, you may have also noticed that there is a stat for monthly listeners both in your dashboard in the Audience section as well as right on your artist profile.
So what exactly is a monthly listener and how does Spotify calculate monthly listeners?
Spotify only counts a listener as a monthly listener if they have streamed any of your songs in the past 28 days. If a listener does not continue to listen to any of your music after 28 days they are no longer counted as a monthly listener.
The main difference then between monthly listeners and listeners, is that a listener is anyone who has streamed a particular song while your monthly listeners is the total amount of anyone who has streamed any of your songs in the last 28 days.
So why 28 days?
Spotify uses 28 days to calculate your monthly listeners. Spotify fully states that they chose 28 days because it is the lowest amount of days that a calendar month can have.
Because the number of days in the month fluctuates so much, they must have found it safer to stick with the lowest possible number.
They also state that they chose 28 days because this always allows for an equal amount of days to be included (ie: the same amount of Mondays, Tuesdays, etc.) This is why over time you will notice that your monthly listeners can fluctuate quite a bit: people listen to music differently throughout the week.
So which is more important to have the most of between streams and listeners?
Why It’s Important to Have More Streams Than Listeners
To some the answer to this might be pretty clear but I want to dive into the topic just to be sure. As the heading above suggests: it is important that you have more streams than listeners.
The reason for this are as follows:
- More streams than listeners mean that your fans are listening to your music on repeat.
- More streams than listeners mean that your fans are listening to a bunch of your songs.
- Having a good listener-to-stream ratio is useful for the algorithm, and, ultimately, your success on Spotify.
Both are obviously pretty important but it is important to keep an eye on your listener-to-stream ratio or your repeat listen rate.
The more that your listeners play your music on repeat, the better signals get sent to Spotify’s algorithm. This increases your chances of getting on algorithmic playlists like Release Radar and Discover Weekly.
By first focusing on algorithmic playlists, I ended up getting on over 7 Spotify editorial playlists and racking up over 300,000 streams. 🙂
So if you notice that your streams are higher than the amount of listeners you have that is a very good thing. That simply means your listeners are listening to your song more than once or are diving into your back catalog to listen to your other songs!
However, if your listeners and streams are pretty much even this can be a very bad thing.
The reason for this is because it means that people don’t like your music enough to listen repeatedly or, even worse, you are getting streams from fraudulent sources like playlists with bots, click farms, or fraudulent streams.
For more info on suspicious playlists, check out my article on Spotify Jedi for more information.
So what is the problem with these playlists?
This can result in no algorithmic playlist pushes or even your stream counts going down or even disappearing completely.
And even worse… you could even get kicked off of Spotify and your distribution service completely…
What To Do If You Get Kicked Off Your Music Distributor
If Spotify thinks that you have been getting fraudulent streams there are essentially 3 things that might happen:
- Only the fraudulent streams get removed
- Your entire song gets removed
- You get kicked off your music distribution service
Spotify is taking the issue of fraudulent streams more seriously every day. With more and more artists complaining that they are getting kicked off, it looks like the punishment is getting worse and worse.
If you do get kicked off, you can use the suggestions in the above section to contact Spotify and your distributor or you may need to start looking for a new music distribution service entirely.
My top suggestion for a music distributor is definitely DistroKid, however, I’ve compared DK to other popular services if you are in the market for a new digital distributor.
Popular alternatives to a music distribution service like DistroKid include TuneCore, CdBaby, Ditto, and Amuse.
If you would like to see how DistroKid compares to these services, more closely check out this articles:
- DistroKid vs TuneCore
- DistroKid vs CdBaby
- DistroKid vs UnitedMasters
- DistroKid vs Ditto
- DistroKid vs Amuse
- DistroKid vs SoundCloud
Or, if you would like a more detailed look into what DistroKid has to offer, you can check out my big fat DistroKid review. 🙂
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:
Why did my Spotify streams go down?
Spotify stream counts will go down momentarily while they are in the middle of updating stream counts and permanently if Spotify believes any streams are coming from fraudulent accounts.
When it comes to Spotify’s live stream counts, unfortunately, these are known to fluctuate and in particular, can be unreliable on the last day (which is the 7th day your song has been released) that live stream counts are available.
Why is my Spotify stream count not updating?
Another great question!
Spotify only updates the audience, song, and playlist stats once per day. If your Spotify stream count is not updating, simply wait until approximately 3 PM EST.
However, Spotify can update their stats from anywhere between 8 AM EST and 5 PM EST and they simply state 3 PM EST to be safe.
What do Listeners mean on Spotify?
Another great question!
Listeners are the unique individual people that have streamed a song at least once. If someone plays a song multiple times, they only get counted once as a listener.
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.
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.
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! 🙂