How many hours spent on the platforms? To listen to what? In music too, statistics are used a lot. By apps to better target their users, but also by listeners, who are increasingly compulsive.

“In 2016, Parisians listened to The Weeknd mainly on Fridays”, could be read in large format in Bastille at the end of November 2016. Other messages covered the walls and occupied digital screens and social networks: “To the Parisian who listened to Cold Water 26 times on the hottest day of the year. Well seen.” or : “Dear Parisian user who listened to the “Summer BBQ” playlist on the coldest day of the year, you are our hero.” Humorous, very visual and colourful, this campaign signed by the internal advertising agency Spotify In House (renewed at the Forum des Halles in 2018 by the Yard agency) marked the Swedish company’s desire to develop its image as a cool platform, well rooted in the daily lives of music fans. But this operation also shows another desire of Spotify: to bet more on the listening data of users, editorialized and shared.

The operation directly echoes the Spotify Wrapped tool, launched in 2015 under the name of Year in Music, which offers users an annual report of what they have listened to the most. Different criteria are put forward, such as the genres that marked the year of the listener, the number of minutes listened to or the time of day when Spotify is most used. And every year, the reactions rain down. If they are so interesting, it is because these statistics often reveal the musical tastes of users and can sometimes reflect aspects of their personality. From the astrological sign most represented in your listening to the BPM (beats per minute) of the pieces supposed to define your character, because “you are what you stream”, as the platform proclaims.

“A free marketing campaign”

Spotify has understood this well: the data storytelling, this desire to contextualize and personalize listening data appeals. This pushes the streaming service to renew its analysis criteria from year to year. An interest that is also in line with the times, where the profusion of analytical elements concerns all aspects of daily life, as explained by Antoine Markarian, developer of the Stateeztics application. “This is not only due to the ease of retrieving this information via streaming platforms, but it is also part of the quantified self movement. [«mesure de soi»]. We track the number of his steps, his hours of sleep, the number of floors that we climb or the beat of his heart. It is also natural to measure his musical listening.”

If Apple Music seems uninterested in the subject, Deezer offers a monthly statistics report for users and has been pushing the third-party application Stateeztics since 2013, a table combining personal data and that of friends, which has almost 530,000 users. “After a small promotion of Deezer, the number of users exploded, we added social features. It accelerated the growth of the app. Users have organized contests between friends based on their Stateeztics.”

Usually practiced alone, the use of a streaming platform now tends to be communicated within user communities. On the Spotify side, easily shareable statistical inserts from Spotify Wrapped flourished on social networks at the end of the year. Annual report passed on the streaming service, these data are, once published, commented on and compared with those of other users. A social facet allowing the firm to build customer loyalty and develop its image as a benchmark platform, which exceeded 100 million paying subscribers a few weeks ago.

Users are “more and more impatient to discover their Wrapped at the end of the year and are eager to be able to compare their interactions on Spotify with the rest of the community”, welcomed June Sauvaget, global marketing director of Spotify, in a press release. A logical success for Sophian Fanen, journalist for lesjours.fr and author of stream boulevard (Le Castor astral, 2017), which reminds us that “streaming platforms have put the figure back at the heart of music” thanks to all the data in their possession, while specifying that it is a great operation for the brand: “They have a free marketing campaign every 1er of the year. Everyone swings their stuff: “Oh yeah, last year, I listened to 85 hours of Drake…” Spotify has nothing to do. It’s zero in terms of budget. So it’s very comfortable for them.”

Through these data reports revealing consumer practices, it is no longer simply listening to music that generates excitement, but the surprise of learning more about oneself and one’s musical choices. “In general, when I have a big crush on an artist, I like to know how much he climbs in my ranking of the number of listens, advances Valentin Sincé, an avid music consumer and avid music stats. Sometimes I can listen to an album on a loop over a period of time, and I will find that I have listened to this artist as much as others that I have known for longer and that I like a lot. It’s fun to see how much you like an artist when you have a high number of streams.”

In contrast, for many music fans who care deeply about what they listen to, Spotify or Deezer are just jumping on the bandwagon. For more than a decade, Last.fm has imposed srobbling, this practice which consists in referencing all its plays and being able to consult them at any time. Very popular during the second half of the 2000s, this site was already acclaimed for its famous scrobbles, but also tried to establish itself as a web radio, social network and music recommendation tool. After a move to an uninspired paid version and a dispersed community, Last.fm is still standing – or at least what’s left of it – and now relies above all on the accuracy of its statistics.

“I will beat my record”

For the most passionate, such a tool can be a real stimulus. “When you are insatiably curious like me, you always want to discover more artists. And so, let it be counted. For the past four years, the number of my streams has increased every year. So, it’s a bit silly but I say to myself: “Hey, this year, I’m going to try to beat my record.” A motivation that can sometimes turn to obsession, as explained in 2013 a user on his blog, who had made the decision to leave Last.fm, too addictive. “For me, it went a little too far when I got to it: leaving the music playing even when I couldn’t listen to it (in the shower, when I went out), in order to ‘fill in’ some “holes” in my stats.” A way to fill in the gaps left by uncounted artists and albums listened to on CD, with the aim of having a library of scramble more representative of his real tastes. Abuses that lead to overconsumption, at the risk of forgetting the main thing, the music? We are still far from it regarding the statistics of streaming platforms, according to Antoine Markarian: “The motivation to appear at the top of a leaderboard [classement] will never provide as much pleasure as listening to music itself. On the contrary, thanks to a better understanding of one’s musical habits, one learns more about oneself and what one likes.