In 2011, we collectively listened to 64,876,491,602 songs on the Internet. Whether it was on YouTube, SoundCloud, Rdio or MySpace, the citizens of the Web listened to quite a lot of music last year. Bands and musicians made over 3 billion new fans, who viewed artist profiles over 16 billion times. These are just a few data points recently released by Next Big Sound, a startup that tracks the popularity of music and individual artists across a range of digital music providers and social services.
Digital music only continues to grow and mature, as streaming services explode, Internet radio companies go public and developers begin using the power of open APIs to mash up sounds and services. SoundCloud alone saw 231% growth last year, while Twitter saw a 104% increase in music-related activity.
The top artists on the Web are mostly unsurprising. You knew that people can’t get enough Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, for better or worse. Rihanna. Katy Perry. Adele. No shockers there.
What’s interesting, though, is how the Web is paving the way for unsigned, independent artists to reach levels of popularity that rival major label acts. This is especially true on SoundCloud, where unsigned artists flock to upload their recordings. But even across the larger Web, three unsigned artists broke into Next Big Sound’s “Social 50” list, which chronicles, the 50 biggest artists across all of the social and music sites that they track.
These numbers, while impressive, should be taken with a grain of salt. Next Big Sound has gone to great lengths to pull data from sources like YouTube, Rdio, Last.fm, Pandora, SoundCloud and several others. One service missing from their list is Spotify, which just launched in the U.S. this past summer and has seen enormous growth since then. Still, it looks like they’re using a pretty hefty sample of online music data to draw their conclusions. You can take a closer look at their methodology. if you’re curious.