A look into the Top 200 Spotify weekly streams in South Africa from 11 October 2019 to 23 October 2020

Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash

While patterns can be found in music from different places, tastes in music are a valid part of the human identity, with researchers over the years looking into correlations between musical tastes and individual personalities. There have also been forays into significant differences in musical tastes across cultures, exploring which audio features resonate with particular cultures. [1]

This particular article focuses on the songs enjoyed by the South African people, the genres, artists and the audio features that are preferred.


Looking at what was streamed most on Spotify throughout the time period, we can get an idea of where the South African music consciousness was this year.

Most Streamed Artists in South Africa

Juice WRLD gets celebrated posthumously, getting almost 8 million streams from the South African market, the newcomer Tones and I edging into the top 10 on the SA Spotify charts with about 4 million streams, is a testament of how well received her breakout single “Dance Monkey” was.
Kabza De Small is the sole South African artist in the top 10 artists for the time period, with the DJ extending his stay at the peak of the charts from last year.

Artists with the most entries

This chart looks at the number of times an artist gets onto the top 200 weekly streams chart. As several artists had a song on the chart for the entire 54 week time period of this analysis, the artists in the top spots of this chart emulated this feat with several songs.
In terms of number of songs used, the least was Harry Styles with four songs, Juice WRLD and Kabza De Small tied for most songs with 27, that is an extended album’s worth of tracks and all charted on the Top 200 streams for at least one week.

Comparing the two charts on artists, we see 5 artists who were dominant, it was a good year musically for Juice WRLD, Post Malone, Kabza De Small, Billie Eilish, and Ed Sheeran on the Spotify South African charts

Most Streamed Albums in South Africa
Album name at the bottom, Artist name at the top

*Albums here don’t always mean a collection of songs as sometimes Spotify singles get put out with the single name in the track name and album name column.*

Post Malone’s “Hollywood’s Bleeding” retains its rank as most streamed album from last year showing its prominence on the South African people’s musical tastes. Ed Sheeran, Juice WRLD and Pop Smoke close out the top 5 with The Weeknd, Kabza De Small and Billie Eilish are missing in action as their streams span multiple projects.
It is worth reiterating that Tones and I’s Dance monkey is just one song which outranks a number of full projects.

Albums with the most entries

Focusing on Harry Styles now, we have seen him in all charts except the top 10 most streamed artists, highlighting the masterclass his second studio album was and how well received it was by the South African audience. The Chainsmokers and Lewis Capaldi are some of the other artists who put out full projects in 2019 and reaped full rewards throughout this year.
Billie Eilish makes a return to the top with her project “When we all fall asleep, where do we go” still putting up numbers a year after its release.

Most Streamed Genres in South Africa

Dance pop and pop with the similarities between them are ascendant in the South African music space, with comparable streaming numbers, showing the trend of the musical tastes in the country. Afro house comes third in streams, as the sole “African genre”, it has entries from popular South Africans like Kabza De Small, Dj Maphorisa and Cassper Nyovest. Zimbabwean singer “Sha Sha” is also one of the most streamed artists in the genre.

Genres with the most entries

With several ‘rap’ genres, we see the granular breakdown of categories on Spotify, as genres are not generalized, location-based genres might pop-up, some genres might even have one artist as is the case of dfw rap which only has entries from Post Malone.
Maybe when compiled under more general categories, Dance pop and pop might have stronger competitors for the top spots.

Most Streamed Songs in South Africa

If you needed another reminder, Dance Monkey by Tones and I was heavily played in South Africa, The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights, Roddy Ricch’s The Box and Post Malone’s Circles were also well streamed by South Africans.
Maroon 5, SAINt JHN, Dua Lipa and DaBaby make their first entries into the top 10 with strong singles that all had about 2 million streams from South African music listeners.

That should be all for individual records, let’s take a look streams over the time period

Timeline of Spotify Streams in South Africa

Spotify management should be happy to see their total number of streams on the Top 200 trending upwards as more people tuned in to listen to their favorite songs.
The weeks between September and October saw a peak in the number of streams with nearly 6 million streams

Audio Features

Looking a bit into the audio features of the Spotify songs streamed by South Africans, we can get insights into where the most songs were concentrated

Let’s look at quotes from the Spotify docs to understand the range of the values above

  • The duration of the track in minutes. SA streams are usually between 2 and 4 minutes
  • Energy is a measure from 0.0 to 1.0 and represents a perceptual measure of intensity and activity. Typically, energetic tracks feel fast, loud, and noisy. SA streams are mostly above 0.5
  • Danceability describes how suitable a track is for dancing based on a combination of musical elements including tempo, rhythm stability, beat strength, and overall regularity. A value of 0.0 is least danceable and 1.0 is most danceable. SA streams are mostly above 0.5
  • The overall loudness of a track in decibels (dB). Loudness values are averaged across the entire track and are useful for comparing relative loudness of tracks. Values typical range between -60 and 0 db. SA streams tend to be above -10dB
  • Higher liveness values represent an increased probability that the track was performed live. A value above 0.8 provides strong likelihood that the track is live. SA streams were mostly less than 0.25
  • The overall estimated tempo of a track in beats per minute (BPM). In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. SA streams tended to be around 100 BPM
  • The closer the instrumentalness value is to 1.0, the greater likelihood the track contains no vocal content. Values above 0.5 are intended to represent instrumental tracks. SA streams are closer to 0
  • A confidence measure from 0.0 to 1.0 of whether the track is acoustic. 1.0 represents high confidence the track is acoustic. SA streams are mostly less than 0.5
  • Speechiness detects the presence of spoken words in a track. Values above 0.66 describe tracks that are probably made entirely of spoken words. Values between 0.33 and 0.66 describe tracks that may contain both music and speech. Values below 0.33 most likely represent music and other non-speech-like tracks which represented most of SA streams
  • Popularity is not really an audio feature, it is a representation of how popular a song is on Spotify, globally (0–100). SA streams tended to be above 50.

There were few strong correlations; energy and loudness (0.68), energy and acousticness (-0.55)

Cluster Analysis

Using a PCA (Principal Component Analysis) to reduce the dimensionality of the audio features to two variables, for easier clustering based on song features.

Our features were not as dispersed as possible with a large number of points between -2 and 2 on both axes. However, we can get three optimal clusters out of these data points

The clusters are uneven in size. Let’s look at scatter plots of the various audio features to conclude our analysis

Sunburst of the clusters and their most popular songs

repo with dataset curation and analysis
Cluster analysis
Tableau interactive

Researcher | Data Analyst | Psychology Graduate