Metal fans are the most loyal music fan base in the world, according to Spotify's internal analytics. Many music fans have a favorite genre — be it country, rock, hip hop, rap, or EDM — but some listeners are much more consistent in their listening than others.
According to data gathered by Spotify, metal fans listen to metal music more consistently than any other genre. By a long shot. The second most popular genre is pop, followed by folk.
Here's how Spotify says they determined these numbers: "We divided the number of streams each core artist had by their number of listeners. All of the charts are normalized against the genre with the loyalest fans."
It's important to note that what Spotify is measuring here is "loyalty" — not plays. Obviously, Beyoncé's biggest hit will have more plays than a track by the biggest metal bands; she has a larger fan base. But her fans are also listening to a wider swath of music. According to a Spotify spokesperson, Beyoncé is "categorized under a few genres for this one including pop, dance pop, R&B, and urban contemporary." She's a really easy crossover for fans of pop and hip hop. Her fans are more likely to listen to music, then, outside of her genre.
Genre is a muddy thing in 2015. For most genres in the top 40, the crossover rates are unbelievable. The Top 40 is no longer just pop music. It's filled with R&B, hip hop, rap, country, folk, and alternative rock. Songs are bleeding together, in terms of influence and sound, to the point that it's becoming difficult, even for industry insiders, to categorize popular songs.
Think about last summer's hit song by Iggy Azalea, "Fancy." With a braggy bass line and rapped verses, it could pass as a rap track. But the chorus was sung by a solid pop star, Charli XCX. So which is it? Is it rap or pop? According to the Grammys, it's both: the song was nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, and Iggy's album The New Classic was nominated for Best Rap Album.
What this chart really shows, then, is which genres are the most distinct from one another so that fans of that genre have little mobility into others.
This becomes way more apparent when we look at Spotify Listener Loyalty by Genre in specific countries. Check out the United States' listening habits for example:
In this chart, the top 10 genres aren't nearly the most popular. Folk ranks at number 12 for loyalty. Pop comes in at number 17. By far and away, the most loyal genre among United States Spotify listeners is Regional Mexican. This category, one assumes (Spotify did not release exact categorizations of artists), includes artists such as Julion Alvarez y Su Norteno Banda, Banda Los Recoditos, and La Septima Banda.
None of these names, are as popular or as well-known in the general American population as, say, Taylor Swift or Beyoncé, but for their loyal fans, these are the stars.
These charts don't really tell us as much as about what kind of music is popular in the United States as they tell us which genres remain unmuddied. Regional Mexican and Latin Pop, for example, have such signature sounds — the mariachi, and maraca, and vihulea — that if you want what you want, no other category will do. They keep their listeners hooked.
Metal is a genre like that, as is Emo (both in the top ten). Both have a solid listener base, sure, but what really makes metal fans and emo fans so devoted and loyal is that their genres have really starkly drawn borders around the edges. There aren't any crossover bands from metal to pop because the sound is just so different.
In an age where many bemoan the death of the genre, it seems that some are really thriving.
Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.