The lockdown winners on Spotify

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the careers of many artists…but not all artists. Some artists managed to use the global lockdown to their advantage by releasing new songs and leveraging Spotify. 

Genre growth

Globally, the top 5 genres between April 2020 and April 2021 were Pop, Hip Hop, Latin, Rock, R&B and Electronic. Hip Hop and Latin artists seem to have had a solid listener-to-follower ratio, highlighting their established fanbase. [Source: Viberate]

Classical music has also received a boost, as people started adding more “chill” music to their playlists. According to Rolling Stone’s Samantha Hissong, “Numbers from Alpha Data (the analytics company that powers the Rolling Stone Charts) and data from streaming services show that listeners in America and abroad are tuning into chiller, more mood-oriented music — while children’s music has seen the biggest spike in listening.

Spotify has noticed more “chill” music on users’ playlists in general, as people add songs that are noticeably more acoustic, less danceable, and have lower energy than songs they’ve added in the past, the company said.” [Source: Rolling Stone]

The biggest growth in Pop

The top 5 pop artists with the biggest growth between this period were Denmark’s Maximillian (who experienced +3430% growth in followers and had 3.3 million monthly listeners on Spotify), Russia’s Jony (+580% growth and 2.4M monthly listeners), Brazil’s Giulia Be (+514% growth and 4.3M monthly listeners), the UK’s Arlo Parks (+508% growth and 3.1M monthly listeners) and Indonesia’s Nadine Amizah (+462% growth and 2.6M monthly listeners). 

Maximillian featured heavily in indie pop and chill oriented playlists. His fans are mostly based in Asia’s trigger cities: most notably, Quezon City, Cagayan de Oro and Bacoor in the Philippines. Maximillian used this to his advantage and collaborated with Filipino artist Moira Dela Torre on a remix of his hit Beautiful Scars to maximise his potential in the booming Asian market.

The biggest growth in Hip Hop

The US’ J.I the Prince of N.Y saw the biggest overall growth. Between April 2020 and 2021, he had 3M monthly listeners, a 6.4 listener-to-follower ratio and +426% in follower growth. 

Superstar Megan Thee Stallion came in at number 2 with +328% growth and an impressive 33.6M monthly listeners, followed by Germany’s Pashanim (+274% growth and 1.6M monthly listeners), Brazil’s L7NNON (+273% growth and 3.6M monthly listeners) and Russia’s Timati (+270% growth and 1.9M monthly listeners). 

J. I the Prince of N.Y experienced massive growth in 2020 and Q1 of 2021. This Gen Z star is set to take over the Hip Hop market with a new Hip Hop sound that’s inspired by New York. He has attracted shoutouts from Drake, Cardi B and Jadakiss and has been picked by Spotify as a RADAR programme partner. 

The biggest growth in Latin

Latin music’s dominance is spreading like wildfire. The genre’s popularity has given a huge boost to the following artists: Mexico’s Los Dos Carnales (+2,030% growth and 5.8M monthly listeners), Brazil’s TIERRY (+1,220% growth and 4.8M monthly listeners), Brazil’s MC Dricka (+624% and 2.5M monthly listeners), Puerto Rico’s Rauw Alejandro (+454% growth and 33M monthly listeners) and CAUTY (+185% growth and 275K monthly listeners). 

Los Dos Carnales are very popular in Mexico and South America, but they also have a solid fanbase in the U.S. In June 2020, they released an album that spawned their hit single Cabrón y Vago. They’ve been heavily supported by Spotify and are in tonnes of Latin playlists on the platform, which has boosted their profile. 

The biggest growth in Rock

Canada’s Mother Mother saw the biggest growth between April 2020 and 2021 (+585% growth and 8.2M monthly listeners), followed by the U.S’ Beach Bunny (+192% growth and 5M monthly listeners), Current Joys (+181% growth and 3.7M monthly listeners), Mitski (+148% growth and 4.5M monthly listeners) and New Zealand’s Salvia Palth (+136% growth and 1.6M monthly listeners). 

 Canadian indie rock band Mother Mother have released 8 studio albums but managed to reach a more global audience last year after their track Hayloft went viral on TikTok. After going viral, Mother Mother were included in more than 300 Spotify playlists.

The biggest growth in R&B

Nigeria’s Tems had a breakout year in 2020. She experienced +1,820% follower growth, had 500K monthly listeners and reached 3.6M Spotify users via playlists. She was followed by Mexico’s Samantha Barrón (+1,340% growth and 922K monthly listeners), Ghana/US’s Amaarae (+523% growth and 379K monthly listeners), Belgium/Congo’s Lous and the Yakuza (+503% growth and 1.3M monthly listeners) and the US’ Mariah the Scientist (+307% growth and 254K monthly listeners).

Tems’ September 2020 track Damages blew up, followed by the Wizkid collaboration Essence, which managed to land the number one spot on the BBC 1Xtra Airplay Chart.

The biggest growth in Electronic

In 2020, the top 5 electronic artists with the biggest growth on Spotify were Germany’s Ben Böhmer (+143% growth and 1.9M monthly listeners), the US’ Yves Tumor (+127% growth and 764K monthly listeners) and INZO (+106% growth and 862K monthly listeners), Ukraine’s ARTBAT (+104% growth and 1.3M monthly listeners) and Germany’s Unknown Brain (+96% growth and 2.6M monthly listeners). 

German deep and progressive house artist Ben Böhmer enjoyed Spotify success after releasing his 2020 tracks Cappadocia and Moments. His tracks were included in key Spotify editorial playlists such as Chill Tracks (3M likes), mint (5M likes) and Night Rider (1M likes). He has supported his releases by hosting a series of live streams, most notably the Cappadocia Livestream, which now has more than 13M views on YouTube. 

Final Notes

These statistics clearly show that playlists play an important part in artists’ growth. Undoubtedly, editorial playlists attract a lot of attention; however, user-generated playlists have a more dedicated following. Hip Hop and Latin artists seem to be the most successful at using playlists to their advantage and converting casual listeners into fans. The same cannot be said when it comes to Electronic artists – which may be due to the phenomenon of ambient music, or music that you listen to while doing something else. TikTok has proved to be a major player in breaking emerging acts and resurfacing old favourites. Mother Mother and Megan Thee Stallion are two excellent examples of TikTok’s power. 


Janelle knows a thing or two about the music industry. Having been involved in the industry since the age of 13, she's now involved in a variety of music-related projects and is always keen to share industry tips 'n' tricks with fellow musicians.