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Spotify's RapCaviar Playlist Is Driving the Culture

The debate about Spotify has been about compensation, but the true story is influence.
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Spotify's RapCaviar playlist is driving the culture. It's more important than radio. It's where rap records get started, and rap rules America.

How did this happen?

MILLENNIALS! The pooh-poohed generation has taken over. They threw a monkey wrench into the British election and they're skewing music listening. This is the way it always happens. Just when you think everything's copacetic, when there is no change, change happens.

The debate about Spotify has been about compensation. But the true story about Spotify is INFLUENCE!

Spotify is where records get started. And they do so very quickly. This is not radio, where you massage program directors and wait for your slot, where you have arguments about what and what doesn't work. Spotify knows INSTANTLY! Either a track is saved or skipped. And with this data, the service places winning tracks on other playlists and they become hits. Radio is last. And at this point, radio reaches more people, but 6,962,977 people are subscribed to RapCaviar, and that's just plain NUTS!

And on the mobile version, there are videos interspersed in the playlist, there's a whole culture, a whole ecosystem, which is lacking in other genres, especially those which have not moved to streaming.

Once again, country and rock and every other genre should IMPLORE their acolytes to subscribe to Spotify. As for Apple Music, it's a black hole behind a paywall with no readily discernible data. It's anti-now. Apple should be publishing reams of data, to not only help artists but to cement their place in the culture.

But right now it's limited to Spotify.

And why is it African-Americans are always on the cutting edge of technology? First with pagers, then with smartphones and now streaming. They're open to something new, they go where the action is, they create the action, they're aware of the rules whereas everybody else keeps whining that their cheese has been moved.

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And African-Americans drive the culture.

So the whites are hip-hop fans, and they're all aware of RapCaviar, they pay attention to it.

The most popular rock playlist on Spotify is Rock This, with only 3,664,155 followers. Even Rock Classics only has 2,315,715 followers.

Hot Country has 3,794,358.

ElectroNow has 4,253,946.

Ultimate Indie has only 1,707,052.

None of the Folk and Americana playlists break seven figures, they don't even get to half of that. Metal is even worse. Punk is just about as bad.

So if you're focusing your fans on downloads and CDs you're only hurting yourself. People discover new music on Spotify. And it will only become more powerful. They're going to steal radio's thunder while stations keep putting out press releases how healthy the genre is. In an instant world, who wants to be last? In an on-demand world, who wants to wait to hear what they want and be unable to skip?

Right now hip-hop rules Spotify, that's where all the money is going. If you want to get paid, you need to advocate for your genre's playlist, you've got to play the streaming game.

Or you're gonna be left out.

By Bob Lefsetz. Reprinted with permission from The Lefsetz Letter, subscribe via


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