It’s that time of year again. Artists are posting their Spotify Wrapped, a collection, synthesizing, and summarizing of their streaming stats. For some artists, it’s an encouraging season and it’s fun to celebrate with their fans. But for many artists, it’s a “dark night of the soul” type of vibe. It’s complicated. Here’s why, and here’s how you can approach it (this year or in future years).
The Comparison Trap
Comparison is the biggest hangup for many indie artists, regardless of their level of success.
It’s natural to be curious about industry benchmarks and how other artists are doing. But it’s so important to approach it with a healthy perspective.
Comparing your stats with other musicians’ stats is dangerous for many reasons. It’s bad for your mental health and your artistic growth.
Whenever you’re tempted to compare your stats with someone else’s, keep these things in mind…
Success looks different for each person
Every musician’s path to success is unique. Success in the music industry doesn’t follow a one-size-fits-all formula. What works for one artist may not work for another. Comparing your stats will lead to unrealistic expectations of yourself and frustration if your trajectory doesn’t mirror someone else’s.
We all have different starting points
We each start with different opportunities and natural abilities. We have different backgrounds, financial support, connections, and resources. So comparing stats without considering these factors is misleading and demoralizing.
Quality vs. quantity
Streaming stats do not equal success. Numbers don’t necessarily reflect the quality of your work. So obsessing over the number of Spotify followers, streams, saves, playlist adds, and likes will only distract you from creating meaningful and authentic music. Quality and artistic integrity should be your primary goals, not just the quantity of engagement.
Mental health impact
Constantly comparing yourself to others takes you down a dark road. It can make you feel inadequate, jealous, or like an impostor. That’s why it’s important to prioritize your mental health and focus on your personal growth rather than external benchmarks.
Spotify stats can fluctuate for many reasons, like changes in the algorithm or the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Standing your success on these metrics leads to frustration.
Long-term artist development
Building a sustainable and fulfilling music career requires long-term commitment and growth. Comparing your short-term streaming stats to others’ stats probably doesn’t accurately reflect your potential for long-term success and development as an artist. Think long-term.
Different artists have different audiences
Your music may not be generic pop that will appeal to most passive music listeners. My sad folk music isn’t going to appeal to as many people as Olivia Rodrigo’s heart-broken rock-pop songs. So just focus on your unique audience instead of trying to appeal to everyone.
Spotify and Artists: a Toxic Relationship
Now we need to talk about the toxic relationship Spotify is causing with artists. Namely, how they value the music based on what and how they pay out streams.
First, there’s the average payout of $0.003 per stream. Initially, the low payout is why some artists boycotted the streaming platform, like Taylor Swift, The Beatles, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell. As an artist myself, it does feel insulting.
Another more recent issue is that Spotify will not pay artists for songs that get less than 1,000 streams in 12 months. This will increase the per-stream rate for songs that do get at least 1,000 streams, but it’s only alienating smaller artists.
All this to say, even if you’ve gotten streaming stats you’re happy with, posting your Wrapped may feel strange. You’re basically giving Spotify free promo, but they’re not paying you fairly. So, while I usually post my Wrapped, I understand why some artists wouldn’t want to.
How To Approach Spotify Wrapped
Here’s how to approach Spotify Wrapped every year. Here’s how you should approach your creative output and your entire music career.
Only compare yourself to yourself.
Only measure your growth against yourself from last month, last year, 5 years ago. Only focus on how far you’ve come and how much better your music is now than it used to be. Don’t pay attention to other artists’ streaming numbers.
This is easy to say but hard to do. So I recommend writing down your goals and where you want to be as a musician. Then just focus on pursuing that.