87.6% of all musicians releasing music are ‘Undiscovered’

A new Chartmetric report puts grim stats to just how difficult it is to make it in music, with the vast majority classified as “Undiscovered” – which it defines as artists that have yet to establish a brand or following.

by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0

It’s always been difficult to make it as an artist or band in the music industry. You can go all the way back to the 1950s and it’s almost always a one in a million chance that an artist would break through. Even as the democratization of music creation has developed in the 2000s, it’s apparent that accessible music distribution and marketing on social media still hasn’t made it any easier. So we know it’s difficult, but until now, we were never able to put a truly scientifically-derived number on it. The annual report from Chartmetric has changed all that.

There are now 3,642 new artists a day being being added by Chartmetric, which measure global music streaming data, and last year that amounted to more than 1.3 million artists (there are 9.7 million artists tracked by the company). 64% are solo artists as compared to bands, while 77% identify as he/him. Talk about competition!

The service breaks artists into 6 categories:

  • Undiscovered, or artists that have yet to establish a brand or following
  • Developing, or artists in the top 35,000 to 100,000 (out of 9.7 million!)
  • Mid-level, or artists in the top 12,000 to 35,000
  • Mainstream, or artists in the top 1,600 to 12,000
  • Superstar, or artists in the top 1,500
  • Legendary, or artists with a lasting music legacy more than 30 years old

What The Numbers Show

Now here comes the grim part. Of the 1.3 million artists added last year, 87.6% fell into the Undiscovered category, while 12.3% reached the Developing stage. Only .05% reach the Mid-Level stage or higher, meaning they ranked in the top 35,000 on the platform. It’s been noted that the majority of artists stagnate in their respective categories and never move up in popularity and career success.

It’s a little worse than that actually. Of the 1.3 million artists added last year, only 710,000 even made it to a career stage at all. A lot of this was because of insufficient profiles and data, or duplications.

Where The Stars Come From

According to Charmetric, most artists that do make it to Superstar level make the jump from the Mainstream category and not from Undiscovered or Mid-Level. That means that you’ve probably already had considerable success before you break out into true superstardom. It also means that you shouldn’t use a viral TikTok video as a strategy.

It turns out that there is some upward momentum from artists, but it really isn’t much. About 12% of developing artists were able to rise to Mid-Level status (12,000 to 35,000), but far fewer jumped all the way to the higher categories. Just 0.25% of developing artists jumped the Mid-Level category to reach Mainstream (1,500 to 12,000) or Superstar (top 1,500).

The Numbers Don’t Lie

So there you have it. Real-world numbers on how difficult it is to make it in the music business. Now it’s important to understand that “making it” means different things to different people. Some musicians are perfectly happy just making a living playing music, while others have a drive to get their music out to as many people as possible. “Making it” is different in both cases.

That said, if you have dreams of becoming a music superstar, don’t expect going viral on TikTok or Instagram to do it for you. The odds are really stacked against you.

Bobby Owsinski is a producer/engineer, author, blogger, podcaster, and coach. He has authored 24 books on recording, music, the music business and social media.

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