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Big Hits Are Now 2 Billion Streams

PSY 2 billionIt wasn’t that long ago that we were impressed by any song that received 100 million views or streams, but in the age of streaming that number is ancient history. These days, a billion streams is well within reach for a hit, and more and more songs are even hitting the once unthinkable 2 billion mark.

Think about that for a second – 2 billion (with a “B”) streams. That’s a 2 with 9 zeros behind it, or 2,000,000,000.

A reader complained to me the other day that he only received $5 from his 10,000 streams. While that figure seems a little low, it’s dependent upon the service, the tier and the kind of royalty stream (artist, copyright owner or publishing – the differences left for another post). While the royalty payment is one thing, the fact of the matter is that 10,000 streams isn’t even a rounding error in today’s digital music business. It means nothing in the grand scheme of things to a label, publisher, or anyone with any clout in the industry.

In fact, today a song with a million streams doesn’t really get you on the industry’s radar – you need at least 10 million for that.

A very minor hit now comes in at around 50 million.

Real hits start at around 100 million, but most blockbusters are in excess of 500 million.

Of course an elite few reach a billion, and some of them now go to 2 billion and beyond. Who has the most? It’s still PSY with “Gangnam Style” at 2.88 billion, but it picks up around a million per day and will be the first to 3 billion soon. But Psy is far from the only one at that level, and here’s a list of the 2 billion club, courtesy of my colleague at Forbes Hugh McIntyre:

Psy – “Gangnam Style”

Wiz Khalifa – “See You Again (ft. Charlie Puth)”

Justin Bieber – “Sorry”

Mark Ronson – “Uptown Funk (ft. Bruno Mars)”

Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee – “Despacito”

Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”

Enrique Iglesias – “Bailando (ft. Descemer Bueno & Gente De Zona)”

Maroon 5 – “Sugar”

Katy Perry – “Roar”

Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”

Major Lazer – “Lean On (ft. DJ Snake & MØ)”

Meghan Trainor – “All About That Bass”

So let’s put this into perspective. It used to take around 100,000 sales to get noticed by the music industry – today it’s about 10 million. You needed 500,000 sales to be considered a minor hit – today it’s 50 million streams. A real hit was at 1 million – today it’s 100 million.

That means we have to adjust our thinking by a factor of 100!

Now consider this. The most played song on U.S. radio ever is The Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” at 8 million plays over the course of 55 years, and they never made a penny from those plays (the songwriters did, but artists are not paid for terrestrial broadcast radio airplay as they are online).

An artist may not get paid much per stream in our new digital music economy (it varies from $0.002 to $0.008 according the service and tier), but at least he gets paid for every one. And that payment keeps going forever, unlike the one-time upfront payment for a CD, vinyl record or download. With that in mind, if you just put 2 zeros behind whatever figure you think is big from the old physical product days, then you’ll have the correct economic mindset to operate in the new music business.

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