Spotify recently conducted a survey researching the loyalty of various generic audiences, looking at what they define as the ‘core artists’ of each genre, and the amount of repeated listens they have garnered. The results were as follows…
Metal comfortably beat other genres such as Pop, Folk, Country, Hip Hop, Jazz, Blues and so on. Many may (and have) assumed that this means metal is the most popular genre – it’s had the most streams, therefore it’s the most popular. This obviously isn’t the case – if metal was more popular than pop music, it would be both filling the charts and consistently topping them; an occasional number one album or Christmas single campaign to beat the X Factor release doesn’t count. So why have these results come out this way?
The most obvious answer is the musical content of the respective genres. Pop, as a genre, is based on the new. Obviously there are genre heavyweights, who tend to stick around for the long haul (I continue to have no idea how or why Train are still relevant), but for the most part the popular acts are those that have risen to prominence within the last 2-3 years. Ed Sheeran and One Direction are perfect examples here, having become the second and third most popular acts in the world in the last few years.
Metal, in contrast, is about heritage. Again, there are new acts who do extremely well (Alter Bridge etc), but for the most part, the most popular listened to, spoken about and seen live are long-running legacy acts. In the rock/metal charts now, the highest ranking acts are Rage Against the Machine and Lynyrd Skynyrd, both with songs released over 20 years ago. The biggest bands in the genre include Slipknot, Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Black Sabbath, all of whom have been around for at least 20 years.
The contrast between the two is the main reason for the difference in listener loyalty. Metal fans listen to the same artists almost religiously whilst pop artists are comparatively fickle, listening predominantly to ‘the next big thing’. The methodology Spotify used looked at ‘core artists’, which undeniably (although not deliberately) favours the metal genre and fans. Pop’s core artists are constantly changing whilst Metal’s are constant.
The point of the Spotify survey was to show which genre has the most loyal fans. The structure of Metal means its fans are very loyal – the entire genre is essentially based around authenticity. There’s a whole subculture based on the genre, which others simply don’t have. Pop is for the casual listeners as well as the true fans, which has stunted the growth of a particular subculture to go with the style of music. Whilst Metal certainly has a more ‘hardcore’ fanbase, Pop has a much more diverse but less invested one.