K-pop, short for Korean pop music, has been steadily growing in popularity globally thanks to its catchy melodies, impressive choreography, and attractive idols. With addictive choruses and feel-good vibes, it’s no wonder K-pop has amassed a dedicated following worldwide. But just how many people are listening to K-pop on the popular music streaming platform Spotify? Let’s take a closer look at the data to find out.
The Rising Popularity of K-pop
While K-pop has been around since the early 1990s, it only started to gain widespread international attention in the late 2000s and early 2010s with the rise of online social media platforms like YouTube. This allowed K-pop music videos and live performances to be easily accessed by music fans across the globe. Popular K-pop bands like BIGBANG, 2NE1, and EXO began building significant fanbases outside of South Korea.
Other factors that catalyzed the global spread of K-pop include the internet’s ability to bring together fans in online communities, South Korea’s focus on exporting culture through “soft power”, and K-pop artists strategically releasing English versions of their songs. The catchy tunes transcended language barriers. By the mid-2010s, the K-pop industry was valued at over $5 billion with over 800 K-pop bands operating.
The K-pop phenomenon kept expanding in the late 2010s and 2020s. BTS achieved particular success, becoming the first K-pop group to top the Billboard 200 chart in 2018. Their meteoric global rise led to sold-out stadium tours and even a speech at the United Nations. Other bands like BLACKPINK, Stray Kids, and NCT 127 also gained sizable international followings. K-pop’s fanbase became more diverse, expanding beyond Asia to find fans in North America, South America, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
The Launch and Explosive Growth of Spotify
Spotify launched in 2008 as one of the first major on-demand music streaming services. Users could listen to unlimited music from a vast catalog for free with ads or pay a monthly fee for ad-free listening. Spotify’s user base experienced massive growth in the 2010s, reaching 140 million monthly active users by 2018. Key factors that drove adoption included Spotify’s user-friendly interfaces, music discovery features like playlists and Daily Mix, integration across devices, and expanding music library.
Importantly, Spotify also expanded internationally at a rapid clip. After starting in the European market, Spotify became available in the United States in 2011. Spotify then launched in new countries and regions nearly every year after that, including East Asian markets like Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. By making its streaming service accessible globally, Spotify positioned itself to grow in tandem with the rising international fandom for K-pop.
K-pop Consumption on Spotify
With both the popularity of K-pop and adoption of Spotify surging around the world, a natural question arises – just how many Spotify users are listening to K-pop music? Let’s dig into Spotify data on its most streamed artists, songs, and playlists to find out.
K-pop Artists among the Most Streamed Globally
One indicator of K-pop’s popularity on Spotify is the ranking of K-pop artists among Spotify’s most streamed artists worldwide. For 2021, both BTS and BLACKPINK made Spotify’s top 10 list:
BTS and BLACKPINK were the only Asian artists in the top 10. Another 10 K-pop acts including TWICE, EXO, and Red Velvet were among the top 100 streamed artists globally.
BTS and BLACKPINK making the top 10 demonstrates the incredible reach of these K-popphenomenons. Considering Spotify has over 406 million monthly active users, ranking among the platform’s most streamed artists worldwide signals millions of engaged listeners.
K-pop Songs Going Viral Globally
In addition to artists, a number of K-pop songs have also put up huge streaming numbers on Spotify as they go viral around the world:
|“Boy with Luv”||BTS||1.26 billion|
|“How You Like That”||BLACKPINK||863 million|
|“Kill This Love”||BLACKPINK||717 million|
|“DDU-DU DDU-DU”||BLACKPINK||701 million|
These songs have amassed hundreds of millions of streams, reflecting their widespread appeal. Of course, these songs also benefitted from repeat listening by die-hard fans. But gaining this level of streams still indicates they connected with a huge number of Spotify listeners as viral global hits.
The Popularity of K-pop Playlists
Beyond individual artists and songs, Spotify playlists centered around K-pop have also accumulated significant followings:
|K-Pop Daebak||4.7 million|
|K-Pop ON!||3.3 million|
|K-Pop Rising||1.2 million|
These curated playlists that feature popular K-pop songs new and old have millions of followers. The number of followers indicates a sizable user base that seeks out K-pop music on Spotify specifically through playlists. Playlists allow fans to easily discover new K-pop artists and songs along with favorite hits.
K-pop’s Share of Streaming Compared to Other Genres
Compared to major global music genres like pop, hip hop, and rock, streams of K-pop songs make up a relatively smaller but still significant share of total streams:
|Genre||Share of Streaming|
So while genres more entrenched in Western markets like pop and hip hop predictably make up larger portions of streams, K-pop has still carved out a substantial niche. Its 3.6% share considering the total volume of streams on Spotify globally points to a sizable amount of users choosing to stream K-pop frequently.
Growth Trends for K-pop Streaming
Looking at how streams of K-pop have grown over time also provides perspective on its expanding popularity on Spotify:
|Time Period||Growth in K-pop Streams|
|2020 vs. 2019||+74%|
|2021 vs. 2020||+9%|
K-pop streams saw massive 74% year-over-year growth in 2020 vs 2019, likely reflecting pandemic conditions driving increased music listening. Growth in 2021 moderated to a still strong 9% with the reopening of live venues and activities. But the back-to-back years of significant growth highlight that streaming of K-pop continues to rise on Spotify.
Key Takeaways on K-pop’s Spotify Listening
Given the data on artists, songs, playlists and genres, what can we conclude about how many users are streaming K-pop on Spotify?
Tens of Millions of Regular K-pop Listeners
The billions of streams racked up by top K-pop artists and songs indicate a listener base in the tens of millions. With 406 million total monthly active users on Spotify, top K-pop artists streaming in the billions means a significant single-digit percentage of Spotify’s user base are regular K-pop listeners.
Concentrated in Younger Demographics
In Spotify’s major markets like the US, UK and Europe, K-pop listening is concentrated among teens and young adults. For example, over 75% of Spotify listeners of BTS in the US are aged 18 to 29. So K-pop streaming reaches millions of younger users in key Western countries.
But Also Growing in Asia
With Spotify expanding service across Asia, younger users in countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Taiwan are also driving significant growth in K-pop streams. So the K-pop listening base on Spotify spans both Western and Asian countries.
Driven by Playlisting and Music Discovery
Playlists like Mint and K-Pop Daebak play a key role in onboarding new K-pop listeners on Spotify and feeding their ongoing music discovery. The playlist follower numbers in the millions demonstrate how users actively leverage Spotify’s algorithms to find new K-pop to stream.
Still Significant Despite Competition from YouTube
YouTube remains the #1 platform globally for consuming K-pop, with YouTube views of top K-pop bands dwarfing their Spotify streams. But Spotify has clearly established itself as a mainstream option for streaming K-pop. Its tens of millions of K-pop listeners highlight its viability despite YouTube’s dominance for video content.
Spotify provides a metric for quantifying K-pop’s worldwide resonance. Considering streaming totals, Spotify’s user base size, and audience demographics, the analysis indicates regular K-pop streaming by tens of millions of users. While most live in Asia, Spotify data also shows significant listening in key Western markets. Backed by an infrastructure enabling music discovery, K-pop has cultivated a substantial fanbase on the platform. With streaming of the genre continuing to rise year-over-year, the worldwide fan community engaging with K-pop on Spotify looks poised for further growth.