Can having your music streamed get you a record deal?

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Can having your music streamed get you a record deal?

Music streaming
Words by Christie Eliezer

Over 7 trillion songs were streamed in 2023, with the biggest growth in country, Latin, K-Pop, J-Pop and Afrobeat.

Music streaming can get you discovered by music fans. But the reality was that 24.8% had zero plays and 158.6 million songs fell below 1,000 plays.

So moving on, what are the chances that uploading your stuff on streaming services can actually get you signed as well? There’s fierce debate on this. But a new study from music data company Viberate found that 63.2% of A&R execs around the world go into streaming services to discover new artists daily, and 29.6% do so on a weekly basis. Additionally, 38.4% use streaming data provided on a daily basis, and 33.6% weekly.


These figures were collated from a survey of 125 music industry execs from around the world.  77% were label managers or label A&Rs (artists and repertoire representatives.

These are the ones who court the act, understand where they’re coming from, and “sell” them to the rest of the company as someone who should be their priority. They help make the deal, guide their development, find them songs, help choose the right producer, and bat for them if the hits don’t come and the label starts to go “Siberia” on them.

Also Asked

Also asked about the role of DSPs in artist discovery by Viberate were artist managers, booking agents, digital marketers and distributors. 24.7% who took part were from the US. 8.6% were German, 6.5% from the UK, 6.5% from Brazil and 5.4% from France. Australia was lumped in with the 48.3% which made up Rest Of The World, with no single territory accounting for over 5%.

Significant Spotify

According to Viberate: “Respondents ranked Spotify as the most significant source of artist discovery data among the streaming services.

“(They) also find Spotify a necessary music discovery source for their day-to-day work; only 4% could do without it.”

Just as an aside, Spotify last month revealed that in 2023, independent artists and labels generated US$4.5 billion (or Australian $6.89 billion) from the platform – “about half” of its total revenue. This figure also represents about 20% of what the global music industry generates.

More On List

The others ranked by the A&Rers on Viberate were YouTube at #2, SoundCloud at #3, Apple Music at #4, and Amazon Music at #5. They saw YouTube is seen as having the best choice of latest music, and featuring tracks not necessarily on other DSPs.

But SoundCloud is generally regarded as where “early discovery is most likely.” According to Viberate: “YouTube has the highest level of agreement for having the biggest choice of fresh music among the streaming services. 

“It’s also rated as the service that’s likely to feature songs other DSPs don’t, but here SoundCloud is better rated.”

Track Appears

The report also addresses the belief by some that once a track appears on SoundCloud, the chance of getting signed is gone. That’s wrong, insist most of the A&R folk who took part in the study.  

“Also, 51% of A&Rs say that they have discovered new artists on SoundCloud who later became commercially successful.”

Discovered On SoundCloud

Acts discovered on SoundCloud and later signed included Billie Eilish, Post Malone, Lizzo, Kygo, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Nas X, Kehlani, 21 Savage, Rico Nasty, Juice Wrld, Bryson Tiller and Lil Yachty. A 12 year old Eilish started uploading “just for fun” on SoundCloud in 2014 songs as  “She’s Broken” and “Fingers Crossed” that she had written with her brother Finneas.

They created a vibe, she got signed two years later by Universal Music imprints, hailed as the “voice of her generation”, became the first act born in the 21st century to have a #1 American single (“Bad Guy”) and went on to sell 10 million albums.

Unknown Post

The unknown Post Malone posted “White Iverson” on SoundCloud in early 2015. 

It earned 1 million plays in a month, and record companies came charging at him from all directions frantically flapping chequebooks. After he signed to Republic Records, the song ultimately reached 1 billion views, and the Beerbongs & Bentleys and Hollywood’s Bleeding albums topped the global charts.

Melissa Viviane Jefferson a.k.a. Lizzo posted tracks like “Luv it” and “Faded” that, in 2011, led to her signing with Warner Music and worldwide acclaim. One of SoundCloud’s biggest success stories was DJ and producer Kygo. His first bit of spotlight action outside his native Norway came with a remix of the Ed Sheeran song “I See Fire” which got 50 million views.

His own single “Firestone” generated 80 million plays on YouTube and SoundCloud. He became his bank manager’s new best friend when he became the fastest artist to reach one billion streams on Spotify in 2015.

More Figures

Meanwhile, more figures from Viberate revealed: “When asked about the other sources they use for talent discovery, Instagram was chosen by 75.3% of respondents, TikTok by 49.5%, and music analytics tools (like Viberate, Chartmetric, and Soundcharts) by 46.5%”.

Most A&R people will tell you they go with their instinct when they get acts to scribble X on the signature line of their record deals. They still find their acts through traditional methods as demos, club tracks blowing up on the dancefloor, on specialist shows on community radio, or leads from DJs, journalists, venue owners, managers and lawyers. Online sites to also find new or undiscovered music are Indie Shuffle which is aimed at DJs, the record store Bleep, for more mainstream tastes, and Boomkat for heavier preferences.

No To TikTok

TikTok is the current sexy thang and it does have blow-outs that go viral.

But A&R people have long rejected the notion they throw up artist with a long term career. One from a record label told Mixdown, “Getting on TikTok is just about instant gratification – both from the creator and the fan.

“True, it has the considerable numbers to unearth new acts. But its users are just interested in the now. They’re not going to dig deeper in the act’s career or their background or necessarily where they’ve come from musically.

“It’s always tempting to jump on a trend. But in reality that’s a dead end. You might have a hit. But when the trend moves on, that one-hit wonder is back working on the construction site.”

Going Viral

In a 2022 piece in The Guardian about TikTok’s influence on A&R decisions, Dipesh Parmar, president of Ministry of Sound Records in the UK expressed some apprehensions. He said, “The industry can get very excited about something going viral, but it’s not necessarily the sound that’s going viral, it’s the content, and the music is secondary.

 “That’s where you’ve got to use your gut and listen to the music. That’s where A&R is key.”

Certainly analytics on streaming and social media help music industry executives spot trends, identify which cities they’re coming from, and what age group is driving the change. But Parmar also warned about relying on too much analytics. 

“It’s easier to find the artists, but then it is so much more competitive because everyone’s looking at the same data,” he commented.

Go In Hand

Viberate founder, Vasja Veber, argued: “Data and A&R go hand in hand.

“Although we strongly believe that ears and good music taste will always be the key factor in finding and matching talent, using data services like Viberate makes every A&R’s life easier. 

“I think that the results of our survey only back our hypothesis.”