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Some artists have millions of streams on Spotify, but only a couple of hundred followers. Why does this happen?

Well, playlists play a huge role in boosting streams and listener numbers. Every artist out there is vying for a spot on Spotify’s highly-coveted editorial playlists. Independent playlist curators require a fee for them to even consider adding you to their playlist. However, are random playlist listeners actively listening to your music, or are they using it as a soundtrack to their chores? Unfortunately, playlists do not do much when it comes to building a community of fans that support your work. 

This is where the listener-to-follower ratio comes in.

What is the listener-to-follower ratio?

It’s a ratio that you can work out using the following formula:

Listener-to-follower ratio = Spotify Followers / Spotify Monthly Listeners

A listener-to-follower ratio of 1 means that your listeners are all converting to followers. If it’s less than 1, it means that not all of them are actively following you on Spotify. If it’s more than one, your follower count (a.k.a your fans) is larger than the number of monthly listeners.

The difference between followers and listeners

If we take this metric into consideration, an artist’s bankability doesn’t depend on streaming numbers and monthly listeners. Artists who play the long game invest in followers as these are the individuals that are truly invested in your career. By following you on Spotify, they’ll be one of the first people to receive notifications about your newest release. Your music is also more likely to influence the algorithms of personalised playlists such as Daily Mix and Release Radar. 

Case Studies

Established artist: Beyonce

As of the time of writing (August 2021), Queen B has 28,215,469 followers and 32,027,302 monthly listeners.

Let’s work out her listener-to-follower ratio:

28,215,469/32,027,302 = 0.88

This means that nearly 88% of all those individuals who listen to Beyonce on Spotify also follow her.

Established artist: Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran is an interesting case, as his listener-to-follower ratio is actually higher than 1. 

He currently has 82,900,612 followers and 62,258,735 monthly listeners. His listener-to-follower ratio is 1.33. This means that people might follow Ed Sheeran without even listening to him on a regular basis. This might also be due to the fact that he was on hiatus for a year or so, before releasing Bad Habits in June. 

Viral artist: Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo currently has 58,247,262 monthly listeners and 5,815,571 followers. Her listener-to-follower ratio is 0.099. Her album is hugely successful on the streaming platform due to her lead single, drivers licence, going viral. She’s also added to top editorial playlists such as Today’s Top Hits, just hits and Mega Hit Mix. However, she still has to grow a dedicated fanbase that is ready to follow her every career move. 

Emerging artist: Sans Soucis

Emerging songwriter and producer Sans Soucis have 65,728 monthly listeners and 4,340 followers, with a 0.066 listener-to-follower ratio. This means that roughly 7% of those listening to her music are actual fans. Her other listeners come from editorial playlists such as Pollen, Ethereal, and Indie Frequency. 

What does a low listener-to-follower ratio mean?

Artists with a listener-to-follower ratio that’s less than 0.1 are most often pushed into big editorial playlists before they have the chance to build an organic following. Low listener-to-follower ratios are very prevalent amongst artists whose song goes viral on TikTok or get added to ambient music or mood playlists. Many a time, this is a disservice to the artist themselves. Sure, they may get a lot of streams – and corresponding royalties – but it doesn’t necessarily reflect their true fanbase. 

Final notes

When analysing your listener-to-follower ratio, you should consider where you’re at in your career, your current status (i.e. whether you’re actively touring/promoting an album or on an extended hiatus) and the size of your catalogue (many albums vs one single). 

A healthy ratio is usually somewhere between 0.1 and 1. If it’s lower than that, you should consider avenues that will help you grow long-term fans that will support you throughout your career. 

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