Published in the International Journal of Industrial Organization, research conducted by the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management concluded that indie and women artists are platformed the most on the wildly popular playlist, which is curated each week by Spotify’s editors.
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In their research, co-authors Luis Aguiar, Joel Waldfogel and Sarah Waldfogel analyzed “more than 5,700 songs assigned to more than 14,500 top 20 slots” on the playlist throughout 2017. The researchers sought to find if Spotify showed a bias toward any certain group of artist, and did so by comparing each song’s rank on the playlist to its streaming performance.
They found that on the New Music Friday playlist, music put out by an indie label typically receives a higher ranking than its eventual streaming numbers would predict, resulting in an average boost of two spots on the playlist. Songs by women artists also benefitted from a higher ranking on the playlist than their eventual streaming numbers might warrant, albeit to a lesser extent, boosting them by approximately 1.4 ranks.
“Despite challenges that independent-label artists and women face in the music industry, Spotify’s New Music curation appears to favor them,” Carlson professor and co-author Joel Waldfogel said in a statement. “After accounting for the curators’ playlist ranks, songs by independent label artists stream less, indicating bias against major-label music.”
However, the research team did emphasize in a press release that this outcome can only be applied to the New Music Friday playlist, and that despite the higher ranking they may receive, this “does not address the challenges these groups face.”
“For instance, streams for music by women account for about a quarter of total streams, a share that is low compared to the number of women listening, among musicians and in the population as a whole,” the press release stated. “Instead, the takeaway is New Music Friday does not compound the challenges these groups face in the music industry.”
The researchers also note that overall, Spotify’s most-followed playlists do tend to promote music by artists who are already well-established in the industry. Spotify did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment on the study.
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