Why Play Counts, Views, and Hits Don’t Necessarily Translate To Success In Music

There’s nothing more exciting for a new artist than finding out that listeners are starting to learn about and enjoy their music. But using play counts, views, and hits as the only metrics to measure musical success is a bad idea.

If you think about it, using statistics like views and plays to measure an artist’s traction with fans is a relatively new thing. Sure, the music industry has relied on radio charts and record sales to gauge and understand what music is resonating with listeners and what music isn’t, but those metrics are completely different than measuring how often listeners play a particular track on a streaming platform.

When bands used to get played on mainstream radio and sell lots of records, their popularity could easily be translated to money. But in 2018, getting millions of plays across various platforms might not be enough to earn artists a livable wage depending on various factors like whether they’re signed to a label or not. Play counts don’t translate to a significant amount of money until they get extraordinarily high, but even more important than that, it’s problematic to have such narrow definitions when it comes to thinking about what music is and isn’t successful.

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If you only measure success in music with how much money an artist earns from their work, then you’re leaving the most important component out of the equation. This, of course, is the emotional fulfillment and joy a person gets out of making music. It’s the kind of love that sustains songwriters and musicians through years of artistic development and discovery that’s almost always accompanied by heartbreak, disappointments, and hardship. A bunch of plays can’t tell you anything about that kind of stuff.

Your band’s single will sound exactly the same whether it has five plays or 5,000,000.

Obsessing over the numbers when it comes to how often listeners are playing your music is also problematic because it can be addictive, distracting, and discouraging. Yeah, your band’s single is up to an impressive 50,000 plays, but what can you do to get it up to a million? Statistics like these give a value to music that doesn’t really exist. Your band’s single will sound exactly the same whether it has five plays or 5,000,000. If your goal in music is to write terrific songs and get people to listen, then obsessing and lamenting over the numbers isn’t going to help you.

With constantly evolving artist analytics and more platforms than ever to stream music on, it makes sense why so many artists constantly look to the numbers to determine whether their music is successful or not. But if you want lasting fulfillment in music, you’ll have to find it on your own terms and not by fretting over likes, streams, and play counts. We’d all probably be much better musicians and writers if we spent more time with our craft and less time obsessing over whether we’re successful or not.

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

JayWhy Play Counts, Views, and Hits Don’t Necessarily Translate To Success In Music


Join the conversation
  • Wale Baggis - February 15, 2018 reply

    Thank you.

  • Debra - February 18, 2018 reply

    Yes. Thank you

    Timflyte - August 22, 2019 reply

    One of my recordings, the most played song , does not have a play icon by it. It did before.what happened ?
    How come ?

  • Geisa - February 20, 2018 reply

    One of those articles we sure like to reread every now and then, just to keep the morale up 🙂 Thank you, Patrick.

  • BarryTones - February 21, 2018 reply

    Another reason to enjoy ReverbNation – with 99% of my subscribers being musicians or bands, I’m essentially constantly being peer-reviewed, often by professional people. Thanks. Baz

  • David Sandler - February 21, 2018 reply

    Well put, selling music and getting recognition is certainly nice, but the joy that comes from creating and playing your own tunes, the feeling you get playing a cover song you love, and the great fun of jamming with friends is priceless.

  • Chris - February 21, 2018 reply

    Thanks so much for this article. My band has nowhere near enough plays and views to get mildly excited about, but it’s reassuring to know from articles like this, that one has to put things into perspective and that we’re at least trying to stay on the right track and that’s that we love to play and write. On our East Coast of Canada scene, where there’s a plethora of bands that are amazing across many genres, it’s a reality, that money isn’t the name of this game and just being able to play live and see the reaction and participation of the crowd that is most fulfilling.

  • Jason McIntyre - February 21, 2018 reply

    True indeed thank you

  • Melissa - February 22, 2018 reply

    Size does not matter.

  • rocky lazar - February 22, 2018 reply

    What is music? That is the Eternal Question.It,s mans way of keeping in touch with his soul. ROCKY LAZAR P.S That means more than all the money on earth.

  • rocky lazar - February 22, 2018 reply

    Music is love from the other side.

  • Jay ace - February 22, 2018 reply

    I agree 100 percent

  • Robin Damron II - February 22, 2018 reply

    It’s so easy to get caught up in this. I’m actually writing a song right now called Good Enough, that, while tied directly to my emotional feeling of rejection in the music industry, I’ve tried to broaden the lyrics to relate to anyone who feels like they don’t measure up in something. No this isn’t a completely original idea, but it’s what I’m feeling right now, so I’m leveraging the emotion.

  • Oboybadguy - February 22, 2018 reply

    Well said.

  • Jeff - February 22, 2018 reply

    It’s a good message. But the headline is misleading. I didn’t learn -Why- play counts don’t translate to success. I heard an opinion that I play counts don’t mean much and that it may be helpful to change your measure of success. Again, not a bad message, but it’s frustrating when the headlines don’t match the content.

  • Jeff - February 22, 2018 reply

    A better headline is in the first paragraph.
    Using play counts as the only measure of musical success is a bad idea.

  • David - February 22, 2018 reply

    There is no good music anymore.
    By the year 2028, musicians will be extinct & no one will even care. Sad but true. So I say plug in now, while you still have the chance.

  • Lori Lynn - February 23, 2018 reply

    Rush put it the best, “the real relation, the underlying theme.” We create because we’re inspired to and monetary value doesn’t always translate to great tunes. Some of the most commercial songs, I find boring and some of the deep cuts are the best, because maybe they have more artistic value or have a closer relation to the artist who created them. Just because your songs aren’t generating an enormous amount of cash, doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. Without artists creating new work, our world would be a very bleak place.

  • Terrell - July 23, 2018 reply

    So that you can play this game the player makes a gamble
    before any cards are dealt.

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