Music Streaming as Global Diffusion


The Music streaming as global cultural diffusion project uses daily global rankings data from Spotify to analyse patterns of cultural diffusion in the music arena.

Core methods

As of late 2021, the music streaming platform Spotify was available in 69 countries and reported having more than 400 million users.  Daily rankings data (the top 200 most-streamed songs) are available for each country since 2017.  We use this large dataset to examine patterns of global cultural diffusion, that is, the spread of cultural objects (songs) around the world.

Methodological challenges and questions:

Diffusion models are commonly used in the study of social networks, organizational processes and social movements, among other areas.  In these models, we analyse the spread of some object or practice (in this case, a song) among a population of actual or potential ‘adopters’ (in this case, countries where these songs may or may not become ‘hits’).  The extent and speed of diffusion are two important observations that provide insight into the underlying social processes producing global hits.  In order for songs to achieve millions or even billions of streams, they need to reach audiences in multiple countries, often quickly in order to sustain momentum.  In this initial pilot phase of this project, we are developing the necessary manipulation infrastructure and evaluating descriptive metrics for the speed and extent of diffusion of songs.


We use R, RStudio and the tidyverse suite as our core data analysis tools


Tod Van Gunten, Edward Martin.  This project was made possible by funding from the Creative Informatics programme.