Spotify has a large number of streaming rules, with some being fairly obvious and some being much more behind the scenes. I’ve researched all the ways that Spotify counts plays and streams, and have written about it here for you.
Let’s start with the big one.. how Spotify counts a play (aka stream or listen) of a song on Spotify:
Spotify counts 1 single stream at the point that a song has been listened to for 30 seconds. Streams will be counted after 30 seconds even if the song is on repeat but will not be counted if the Spotify app is muted.
So, when streaming music on Spotify, make sure you listen to a song for at least 30 seconds before skipping it if you would like that stream to count towards that artist’s stats.
However, with that said, there are additional streaming rules that can affect an artist’s behind-the-scenes Spotify stats when it comes to how long a song is listened to and how the listener interacts with the Spotify app before, during, and after listening to a song.
For a deep dive into Spotify’s streaming rules, simply keep on reading, my friend. 🙂
Spotify Streaming Rules Explained
At the most basic level, Spotify counts a stream once that song has been listened to for 30 seconds, however, there are a few other streaming rules that can affect whether a stream is counted or not.
I’ve listed the basic streaming rules in this neat table below as well as written more detailed descriptions of how each of these rules works later in this article.
Streaming Rule Stream Counted? The listener streams for 30 seconds Yes The listener repeats the song after listening for 30 seconds Yes The listener skips the song before listening for 30 seconds No The listener skips the song right after 30 seconds Yes The listener streams the song while Spotify app is muted No The listener is using a free Spotify account Yes The listener is streaming while offline Yes The listener is the actual artist of the song Yes
The above table really only goes into the very basics of how streaming works: whether a single stream is counted or not.
However, did you know that how listeners engage with the song and Spotify app can greatly influence how Spotify rewards (or punishes) the artist?
Spotify is built around a complex algorithm that collects user listening data and behavior to figure out how to recommend great songs to its users.
For example, positive engagement will send positive signals to the Spotify algorithm which may result in that artist getting that song pushed into more Spotify algorithm playlists, greatly increasing that artist’s streams and reach.
Here are some of the ways that listener engagement can influence the behind-the-scenes Spotify algorithm stats for artists.
Positive streaming rules
- Listening to a song multiple times (not even necessarily back to back ), the Spotify algorithm may see this as a positive signal
- If you follow the artist after listening to a song, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a positive signal
- If you hit the like button on the song, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a positive signal
Negative streaming rules
- If you skip a song before 30 seconds, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a negative signal
- If you hit the dislike button on the song, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a negative signal
- If you stop using the Spotify app after listening to a song before 30 seconds, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a negative signal
- If you stop listening to a Spotify algorithm playlist or Spotify editorial playlist after listening to a song, the Spotify algorithm may see this as a negative signal
Advanced streaming rules
The Spotify algorithm also looks at different relationships between artists, songs, and even users to provide really great song recommendations to listeners.
For example, if Spotify notices that people who listen to Jay-Z tend to also listen to Kanye West, the Spotify algorithm may add a Jay-Z song to Kanye’s fan’s playlists (even if they are not following Jay-Z) because they are likely to enjoy the song.
So, when you stream a song and positively (or negatively) engage with that song, Spotify is also looking at what you streamed before that song and what you streamed after. They may not always use that data, but they are collecting it.
This can also impact a song’s position on one of Spotify’s algorithmic and editorial playlists. A song that gets positive engagement may move up to a higher position on that playlist, while a song that gets negative engagement may move to a lower position and even eventually get removed altogether.
Does Spotify count streams on repeat?
Spotify counts 1 stream when the song has been listened to for 30 seconds or more, regardless of what song was played before.
For example, if you listen to a song for 30 seconds and then listen to it again for 30 seconds, that will be counted as 2 streams.
Essentially, listening to a song on repeat as a casual listener is okay, but repeatedly streaming songs inorganically in an attempt to game the system is not and can even result in negative consequences for the artist.
To learn more about how streaming songs on repeat works, check out my article: Does Spotify Count Streams On Repeat?
Do Spotify streams count on mute?
Spotify will not count any streams that are on mute in the Spotify app, however, they may still count streams that are muted outside of the app (ie: your computer or phone’s mute button and note the Spotify app mute button).
Repeatedly streaming a song on mute could be seen as “artificially increasing play counts” and could result in that song’s streams being taken away or that song being removed completely.
It is, of course, okay to stream music on mute from time to time. For example: muting Spotify and leaving it running for hours is something a real human might do every once in a while. However, doing this every day or extremely frequently might trigger a red flag for Spotify.
To learn more about how streaming songs on mute works, check out my article: Do Spotify Streams Count On Mute?
Do streams from free Spotify users count?
Streams from free Spotify accounts do count toward an artist’s streaming stats. However, any streams done from free Spotify accounts will result in a lower streaming royalty rate in the artist’s payout for those free streams.
Spotify pays anywhere between $0.00331 and $0.00437 per stream, and streams from free accounts tend to pay out on the lower end of that scale.
To learn more about how Spotify pays its artists, check out my article, Do Spotify Artist Get Paid, for more.
Do offline Spotify streams count?
Offline Spotify streams do count toward an artist’s streaming stats. Any streams done offline are counted and saved inside of the app and then sent off to Spotify’s server the next time the user goes online.
Any streaming done while in private listening mode are also counted towards an artist’s streaming stats.
Does Spotify count your own streams?
If you are an artist streaming your own songs, Spotify will count those streams. There is no reason to believe that Spotify does not count streams when you stream your own music.
However, considering that Spotify pays anywhere between $0.00331 and $0.00437 per stream, you would need to stream your own music thousands and thousands of times to make just a few dollars (there are better ways to hack the Spotify algorithm).
In addition to this, when you consider that playing any music over and over for days could be looked at as “artificially” increasing that song’s streams, I would not recommend doing something like this to increase your Spotify royalties.
Can you fake streams on Spotify?
Although it may be able to fake streams on Spotify, the Spotify Terms and Conditions (that you must agree to in order to use Spotify) mentions that you are not allowed to artificially increase play counts (Section 9, point 8).
In most cases, fake streams are coming from fake playlists made up of bots or click farm employees. For more on the downsides of suspicious playlists, check out my article on Spotify Jedi.
Spotify has a lot of data on its music and how its users interact with that music. They can use this data to notice when things look artificial and take action against those users and artists.
When you consider that Spotify may be losing millions of dollars due to fake streams, it makes sense that they have started focusing on taking this very seriously and are increasingly adopting a no-tolerance approach to how they deal with cheaters.
Can Spotify Take Away Streams?
Spotify can take away streams if Spotify believes any streams are coming from fraudulent accounts. However, as the artificial streaming problem becomes more of an issue for Spotify, they are increasingly taking more and more severe action against any artists engaging in any bad activity.
In addition to taking away streams, Spotify to take action in the form of:
- Completely removing the song with artificial streams
- Removing the artist’s ability to distribute songs to Spotify
To learn more about how this works and how you can make sure it doesn’t happen to you, check out my article: Can Spotify Take Away Streams?
How To See Stream Counts on Spotify
There are 2 main ways to check a song’s streams on Spotify, depending on if you are the actual artist or not:
- Listeners can visit the artist’s Spotify profile and see the songs listed under the “Popular” section
- Artists can check their Spotify streams for any of their songs by signing up and logging into Spotify For Artists
It is much harder to find a song’s specific play counts unless you are the actual artist and have access to the Spotify For Artists dashboard.
To learn more about this (including a detailed walkthrough of how to do each of the above options), check out my article, How To Check Spotify Streams, for more. 🙂
How To Become A Spotify Artist
To upload to Spotify as an artist, you first need to sign up with one of Spotify’s preferred music distributors and submit your music, artwork, and artist information through that music distributor.
I personally use and recommend DistroKid because they allow you to upload unlimited songs for just one small annual fee (as opposed to having to pay for every upload individually – which can add up).
If you would like to learn more about this, I actually put together a big fat DistroKid review, that covers everything you need to know about their service. Alternatively, you can compare DistroKid to other popular music distribution options:
- DistroKid vs TuneCore
- DistroKid vs CD Baby
- DistroKid vs Amuse
- DistroKid vs Ditto
- DistroKid vs UnitedMasters
- DistroKid vs SoundCloud
After getting your music distributed to Spotify, you can make things even more official and claim your Spotify artist profile. This gets you the beautiful blue verified checkmark, access to behind-the-scenes stats, and the ability to pitch your music directly to Spotify’s editors.
There are 2 methods to claiming your Spotify artist profile. These are:
- Instantly through your music distributor (ie: with DistroKid)
- Manually claiming your profile with Spotify
To learn more about all of this, check out my article on . 🙂
P.S. If you also want to learn about music publishing and make sure that you are not leaving any money on the table with your music distribution setup, I’d recommend checking out these 2 articles:
- Is DistroKid A Publisher?
- Songtrust vs DistroKid