We’re in the age of the Like button. The comment, thumbs up, follower, karma. We’re addicted to the instant gratification and approval social media moves. Social Media numbers have become so important that many hip hop artists treat it as a part of their job. And yes, it is a very important aspect to becoming a popular artist, but it is as important as everyone thinks?
In this article, several data insights will be discussed. I was able to pull Instagram follower count & Spotify monthly listener count for 100 hip hop artists, with a strong focus on Lyrical Rappers. We used the streaming data to place each artist into a tier. This tier isn’t based on quality but based on how many monthly listeners they currently have on Spotify.
Who’s this Article for?
This article is aimed at hip hop artists to give them some gauge of how well their social media plan is working. But fans, this is also good for you! If you’re a fan of any of the artist you see in this article, and notice that their “Social Ratio” is low, then do what you can to help that artist succeed. Go listen to their music, share it to your friends. Comment on their post. Like their post. Follow them. This is a hard grinding business, and every little bit counts.
Artists, you’ll notice that a lot of you are placed into tiers. This is a data technique used to compare like artists in similar stages of their career. Its hard to compare Eminem to an up-and-comer rapper. The data is just two skewed. But by placing several artists next to each other in the same space, it allows for better insight in comparison to your peers.
Hip Hop Artist tier is something I have been mulling over for a while. I’m a data guy, and like to categorize things, but its hard when the scope of artist we cover are in so many different stages of career. I made 6 Tiers based on the Monthly Listener count on Spotify.
The “Monthly Listener” is a fluid number that looks at how many users listened to an artist. Its doesn’t capture actual listeners but shows how popular the rapper is currently. If the number constantly jumps ups and down month to month, that will tell us that the fan base is fleeting. While an artist that has a steady fan base could mean they have a strong base, but also not growing. There’s a lot of different ways to think about it, it just depends on the story and value you’re looking for.
I probably noted before, but every rapper we have on this list is someone we like and listen to all the time. We don’t see much difference in quality from a lot of these guys. So please use this as a tool for success.
- Tier 1 – Up to 1,000 monthly listeners
- Tier 1 is the first stage of the rap game. These artists are either just getting started or are still trying find what works best for them. This tier will be faced with the greatest challenge at growth.
- Tier 2 – 1,000 to 30,000
- This tier could represent the guys from tier 1 that found some success and are learning the game. They could be brand new hot talent, or guys that’s been in the game for a little while and are breaking the mold. Progress is slow here as well, but as the artist gets close to 30,000, there’s a big jump in opportunities.
- Tier 3 – 30,000 to 250,000
- Tier 3 and 4 are basically filled with your who’s who of the underground rap game. You’ll find the labels reaching out here, or the new talent that is really exploding onto the scene.
- Tier 4 – 250,000 to 2,000,000
- Tier 4 is the main names in the underground/indie Lyrical Rap space. These are the artists who are on the verge of becoming full celebrity status, but still pull a good crowd regardless.
- Tier 5 – 2 million to 20 million
- This tier of artists have basically transcended the “Lyrical” monikers and are now top of the charts of all rap/hip hop genres. This tier puts out an album they’re going get a lot of listeners.
- Tier 6 – 20 million plus
- This tier is basically god mode. They’re numbers are so high that they don’t have to rap anymore, and they’ll be good to go. I didn’t even include this group in a lot of the main analysis because it just throws off the numbers too much. This is your Eminem’s, Drake’s, Kendricks, etc.
Does more Instagram Followers mean more monthly Spotify Listeners?
Back to the original question at hand. In general, it makes perfect sense to assume that the more followers you have on Instagram, the more listeners you’ll have, but that is not always the case. Yes, in the grand scheme, with all artists lumped into on big whole, the numbers do correlate. If one is high, the other will be too.
It’s when you start separating the artists into their tiers that numbers start to get interesting, and what I found, social media is less important the smaller you are. I will talk about this more later as I go into a group analysis of each tier.
What is “InstaQuality”
This is a made up term I made to describe a set of data. It’s basically a look at the quality your Instagram fan base is bringing to your Spotify music account. This ratio is calculated by divided the “Monthly Listener” by Instagram followers.
InstaQuality = Spotify Monthly Listeners / Insta Followers
The average InstaQuality over all 100 rappers is 340%. So, if any artist wants to measure if their Instagram follower count is working for them. They simple need to look at how many Instagram followers they have, and multiply that by 3.4. If you’re monthly listener count is not at that number of greater, then your not operating at the industry standard in the Hip Hop Lyrical Genre.
What does it mean if your “InstaQuality” is low?
What if the random number I generated isn’t meeting the rap industry standard? That’s alright, don’t get too down, as my insight here is only of many that can be used to measure success. If your number is low though, that means that your social media followers aren’t taking the time to go listen to your music on Spotify.
This could mean:
- That you are not marketing your new music (or old) effectively to draw traffic
- Not enough new releases
- You are going after the wrong Instagram users
- Instagram users may enjoy some other aspect of you, other than music
There are 13 hip hop artists in Tier 1 that we cover. We’re pretty good friends with most of the artists on this tier, and understand many of the struggles they take to break out of this mold. The two interesting insights to take for this group is that there isn’t any correlation between Listeners and Instagram followers, and the InstaQuality average of this group is way below the industry average.
This means that at this, the number of Instagram followers doesn’t really increase your audience. Or at least the artists aren’t finding the correct fan base, based on an InstaAverage of 11% for Tier 1. That means out of 100 Insta Followers, only 11 are taking the time to listen.
The artist here will need to look at how they can get the right followers. Are they putting out enough music? Is it quality music? Is it getting in front of the right people? Perhaps linking up with an artist in an higher tier will help with exposure. Constant quality music releases and genuine fan interaction will help pull the traffic to your Spotify page.
If the artist in this tier could grow this “InstaQuality” to the industry standard of 340%, then Riddy K could potentially jump into Tier 3. JimmyBeam, ZP Ratik, and Kwon Rabbit would make it into Tier 2. Everyone will need to continue to find a way to break through, and like I’ve said, this will be the hardest group to escape.
The group of escapees from the clutches of Tier 1. This phase of success is where the correlation between Instagram and Spotify is the greatest. That means the more insta fans you have, the more you have over in Spotify. This group also has a decent overall InstaQuality at 276%, not quite industry standard, but enough success to push these artists out of Tier 1.
Joey Cool, Lil Dee, and Versvs are 3 artists that stand out in this group from the Instagram perspective. They have more followers then many in the tier above them, but for some reason that Instagram success isn’t following them over into Spotify.
Joey Cool is at 40K insta followers, but I’m not sure why he’s not getting the pull. He is a part of the “New Strange”, where he may have gotten a lot of followers from Tech N9ne. He’s been putting out a lot of quality singles lately, but it doesn’t seem like its sticking with his fan base. I believe a new album is coming out and when the Strange tour kicks off, I expect Joey Cool to get back into Tier 3.
Lil Dee, as covered in our latest feature, had a lot of viral success a few years ago, and his fan base numbers may still be up from that. He’s also still only 16, but there’s probably a little more pressure on him to perform then when he was 12, strangely enough. Because all of his fans are probably waiting on him to something so stupidly viral again. These may be hard people to impress, but the numbers are their for another potential explosion as he’s only tapping into 45% of that fan base.
We’ve been following Versvs for a while, and I believe a lot of his initial fanbase and success came from multiple collabs he had with the Slaughter House crew, and some other great artists. These collabs quickly catapulting him up in numbers, but when the collabs stopped, his numbers stopped growing as well. There’s tons of potential here for growth, and it seems like he’s found his stride again with some solid releases lately, but time will tell if he can pull it off alone.
If we were writing this story six months ago, Buggie would have been the top of Tier 2 going in to Tier 3. He’s been up there before, but even though he’s like our best music friend, he hasn’t released much besides videos since February. He is relentless about growing his media base, with the 5 spot in most Insta follower of Tier 2, but he has the lowest InstaQuality out of the whole group. He may be pursuing the wrong fans, or is just not getting the music in front of them to enjoy. Is too much effort going into Instagram at that point?
Kvng Moses has been on a release tornado the last couple months, and even though he has the smallest number of Instagram followers, he has converted them the greatest in the group, at 1,041%. If he was able to keep up with the grind, but find a way to find the right fans, he’ll be jumping through the tiers.
|Odd Squad Family||96,888||34,700||279.22%|
|Durand the Rapper||31,000||20,300||152.71%|
This is one our biggest groups, and one of the strangest with correlation. At this stage, it doesn’t matter if you have a lot of fans on Instagram or not, the two don’t seem to be related. This group also has the highest degree of InstaQuality. That means this group is getting the most of their Instagram users.
So why is that? Weird right.
I’d say that this is the area where die hard fans start bringing in more passive listens. This is also the space where smaller artist may have exploded through the ranks with a great sound, or worked with a lot of higher tier artists and began to make a name for themselves. Whatever the reason, having a lot of Instagram fans isn’t as important here. The music is starting to speak for itself. I would call this group the “Cult Classics” as the treasure found in the Underground.
P.Mo is the biggest surprise out of this group. P.Mo has the highest InstaQuality of any rapper on the list at 2190%. This means that this dude is hot, and a lot of people are looking for him on Spotify. This may be due to the current concert he’s on with Ekoh. They got the chance to play in front of Jelly Roll’s crowd, which also probably also boosted numbers. Numbers like P.Mo’s and a few others is probably is what is throwing off the earlier correlation.
|Royce da 5’9″||1,061,641||980,000||108.33%|
At this level, there’s still no relationship between Instagram Followers and Listeners. They’re basically just both high as fuck, but a few of these artists have more followers then they have listeners. This means that their celebrity can be leaving the Spotify realm, and going into other places. Or their ‘followers’ aren’t real. One could use the InstaQuality here to really examine who the ‘hottest’ up and coming artists are.
If I was a label or someone in the music industry. These guys on the top would be the ones I would be approaching about a deal. Their fan engagement shows the fans love them, and they’re getting exposure outside of their bubble. That means Vin Jay, KAAN, Khary, Eazy Mac, Trizz, Ekoh, Cal Scruby, Chris Webby, & Grip killing it right now. But this whole group really is.
The correlation gets a little screwed up here too, because this group is full of celebrities. A lot of these artists are getting Instagram followers on star power alone (like Young M.A. who probably jumped after being featured on Eminem’s track), but for the most part they’re getting more listeners then followers. The quality of Instagram fan starts to even out at this stage, offering up advice for how the other tiers should be operating.
God mode tier. Yeah, I didn’t include many in this field, as I knew I wouldn’t be including it in the analysis with the other, but these are the artist who’ve surpassed any standards the others face. This is also the smallest group in the “Lyrical Rap” genre. If this is the genre you want to play music in, this will probably be the ceiling you’re going to reach. Its sad, because a lot of other genres seeing a lot higher number then ours. Hell, any trap rapper out there is getting like 20 million plus monthly listeners. So, we as the fans have to do what we can to increase these numbers, and artists just have to keep putting out quality stuff that we want to continue to listen too.
What does this all mean for me?
If you’re an artist on this list, or have similar numbers in the rap industry then you can use these numbers to gauge your success. Instagram followers isn’t everything, but it can be an indicator to how well you’re music is doing, and how far your career may go. If you’re Spotify Listener count is greater than 300% of your Instagram following, then you should feel comfortable knowing that you’re marketing plan is performing to the industry standard.
If you’re number is lower, you may need to do some research on how to correct the problem. You may be gaining the wrong type of followers on your Instagram account, not releasing enough music, or not sharing the right content to drive traffic. Or, you may just have to look at your music and see if its really the quality it should be.
If you’re a fan, and don’t want your favorite artist to stop releasing new hits. Get out there and start listening to their music. Encourage them. Tell them that they mean a lot to you. Buy their merch. Go to their shows. Spread the word.
Thank you, I hope you enjoyed this Ted Talk. If you have any questions about the data I gathered, or would like to look into other Insights, please contact me. I’m happy to help!