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Old 12th July 2012
Lives for gear

Originally Posted by sound_music View Post

i wish someone would cook up some sort of tracking software that could survey the zillions of playback devices out there... i'd love to see data on music consumption today that's as accurate as when there were actually sales receipts and radio tracking to account for it!

the fact that the majority of music is consumed without payment today makes it impossible to get even a ballpark idea; legal purchasing, streaming, radio tracking, and youtube views etc only tell a portion of the story.
Lastfm gives a great ballpark idea of the whole story. In case you don't know what that is, it's a service/software that imports users iTunes playcounts and then tracks iTunes and spotify plays. It reportedly has about 30 million active users, and iTunes supposedly has around 500 million active users. So maybe we can roughly, conservatively estimate that lastfm represents about 10% of music listeners. Of course the demographics of lastfm are probably pretty limited, and wouldn't cover older listeners or very young listeners, so you would have to factor that into your estimates.

Still you can look up an album on there, see how many listeners it has, and at least get a feeling for the minimum number of people who have bought, streamed, or illegally downloaded that album. Then you can probably make an educated guess as to how many multiples of that number would represent the total reality.

So for example, I read that Gotye's Making Mirrors has sold around 2 million copies globally. On lastfm the album has 476,761 listeners. So if lastfm represents 10% of music listeners, we might reasonably estimate that there are around 4 million people who have listened to the album through legal or illegal means. The single of "Somebody..." sold around 7 million copies worldwide and has 540k listeners on lastfm, implying that lastfm represents a much smaller slice of the public than 10%. 540k is about 8% of 7 mil. and accounting for some piracy, let's say it's more like 4%.

It seems like a reasonable estimate to me to think that lastfm numbers represent about 5 to 10% of reality. You could estimate a sliding scale based on demographics and other factors. An artist who is popular on the internet among the types of people who would use lastfm might lie more on the 10x multiplier end of the scale, while something with mass mainstream exposure like "Somebody T.I.U.T.K" might need a 20x multiplier to get an accurate estimate. I bet if you analyzed more artists you could come to some kind of more accurate average range.