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Dutch rapper Mr Probz self-released his song ‘Waves’ late last year. Soon afterwards, German house producer Robin Schulz remixed the song on Soundcloud. Ultra Music and Sony Music Entertainment (SME) co-signed the track and it immediately topped charts in all major EU markets.
To date, the track’s had 2.4 million downloads globally, and Mr Probz was streamed a million times a day on Spotify throughout summer, and has kept good momentum since. ‘Waves’ received considerable support from club DJs in Europe. But how did it break America, travelling across the Atlantic and straight into the US Spotify top 40 chart by early April?
Careful interpretation of data from the months when ‘Waves’ first started to break out can explain. The below chart looks at discoveries of Mr Probz in the US from February to July, broken out by source. Note that discoveries are first listens, not total streams. What’s clear is that the ‘lean back’ mechanism of curated playlists (as opposed to the ‘lean forward’ method of search which drove European streams) led to the early success of Mr Probz in the US.
Put simply, the lean-back mechanism of curated playlists carried Mr Probz across borders that he otherwise would not have crossed.
- Search: Finding Mr. Probz through the search box
- Other: Our catch-all term for a variety of immaterial discovery methods
- Other’s Playlist: These people discovered the track on another user’s playlist
- Top list: Here, they found it on our popularity chart
- Curated: This section, the largest, refers to users hearing the track for the first time on a playlist created by Spotify
Now, let’s see how those first-play discoveries line up with total streams and the U.S. charts over the same time period.
The chart on the left lays out the growth in U.S. daily streaming of the track ‘Waves,’ and the chart on the right shows its daily US chart position. Clearly, the chart action started in early April, and importantly, showed a lot of staying power.
We can show how, thanks to Spotify’s curated playlists, a big hit in Europe made its way across the Atlantic with next to no conventional support, by overlaying Spotify streams, Shazam tags and radio plays onto the same chart.
Mr Probz’s ‘Waves’ started gaining traction on Spotify in the U.S. as early as February. Strikingly, Shazam tagging didn’t really hit the radar until late April. However, what is really telling is that radio is seen to be lagging a full three months behind, and its actual number of its radio spins was barely noticeable, with around 2,000 in the first half of the year.
This is the anatomy of a hit in an age of streaming and sharing – an age in which consumers can become broadcasters. Conventional logic might have it that Spotify should follow radio, yet the way the track has taken off in the second half of the year in America suggests that radio might want to follow Spotify.
Special thanks to Patrick Moxey, David Waxman and Doug Christman (Ultra Music), Adam Granite, Rick van Shooten and Daan Grasveld (Sony Music Entertainment), Cait O’Riodran and Daniel Danker (Shazam), Aisha Thorn (Musicmetric), David Bakula (Nielsen Entertainment), Amy Gould, and Eliot Van Buskirk @ Spotify.