List & Shout: Beatles vs. Bieber

In case it had somehow escaped your notice, The Beatles are streaming. After a bumper-but-bumpy year in which high-profile holdouts such as Adele and Taylor have threatened to take the wind out of streaming’s sails, endorsement by the world’s most famous band was just the vote of confidence it needed.

As I clicked on the Beatles banner emblazoned across Spotify this morning, eager to stream Revolver through my Sonos speakers for the first time, one thing struck me more than anything. At the top of the dedicated Beatles page sitting behind it, it’s Spotify’s own curated playlists, not those thirteen cosmos-transforming studio albums, that feature most prominently.

‘Come Together’ is ‘The best of The Beatles, all in one playlist’. ‘The Long & Winding Road’ tells the story of the band’s journey from playing small clubs through to Beatlemania. ‘Twist & Shout’ is ‘the ultimate Beatles party playlist’. Scroll down from here to ‘Share A Song’, and then down some more – we’re below the line now – for the albums. Playlists, social, albums – in that order.

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I’ve written at length about this apparently unstoppable new unit of consumption. I’ve spoken on more panels than I can remember this year about whether playlists will kill the album, or radio, or both. Spotify downgrading The Beatles’ albums below their own take on the music – admittedly an exciting new way to (re)discover it – speaks more volumes than there are Beatles albums.

In Listomania, a series of white papers published this week about the power of the playlist (get your free copy here), I noted that the most featured artist on Spotify-curated playlists currently is Justin Bieber – and by a country mile, with twice as many features as the number two most-playlisted act Ed Sheeran. Bieber had a ‘Playlist Feature Count’ (PFC) of 616. Sheeran’s was 299.

He’s just been toppled from his throne. As of this morning, The Beatles’ PFC (defined as ‘the total number of times all tracks by this artist appear across all Spotify-curated playlists’) is 633. Bieber has been reduced to 420, with Coldplay coming third on 241. The most playlisted Beatles song today is Norwegian Wood, featuring on 10 playlists. A total of 277 Beatles songs have been included in Spotify-curated lists.

Most featured Beatles songs on Spotify-curated playlists:

  1. Norwegian Wood
  2. Ticket To Ride
  3. Yesterday
  4. Hard Day’s Night
  5. You’ve Got To hide Your Love Away

Including the ‘red and blue’ collections, Past Masters Vols. 1 and 2 and the ‘1’ anthology, there are a total of seventeen ‘studio’ albums on Spotify. Contrast that with eleven Beatles-only playlists so far created under the main Spotify profile, and a further 277 Beatles songs added to a total of 633 playlists, and the direction of travel is clear.

We know from research carried out by Universal that fewer than 10% of free users on Spotify listen to complete albums. But if we needed a further reminder that playlists are fast outpacing albums as the default mode of digital music consumption – and of streaming’s pivotal role in bringing that about – then Spotify’s demotion below playlists of arguably the most famous album collection in the world would be it.

Listomania: Winners & Losers in the Battle for Spotify Playlist Supremacy and Justin Bieber & The Self-Perpetuating Upward Spiral are available free here. Thanks as always to Labs.fm’s Rich Oakley for his help pulling the data.