Nelly’s Peak-Hour Spotify Plays Have Tripled Since the Start of #SaveNelly

HOUSTON - JANUARY 29: Singer Nelly attends a press conference for the half-time show for Super Bowl XXXVIII at the George R. Brown Convention Center January 29, 2004 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

After SPIN pointed out on Monday that Nelly might be rescued from his seven-figure tax debt if fans banded together to stream his songs 287,176,547 times on Spotify and other streaming services, the world got on board. #SaveNelly became a rallying cry on Twitter, and Stephen Colbert and James Corden each devoted sections of their shows to the cause. Our own Brian Josephs, the #SaveNelly architect, penned an online op-ed for the Washington Post. But the questioned remained: was it all talk, or were people actually listening?

I asked Spotify data storyteller Eliot Van Buskirk for stats on Nelly’s play counts for the last several days. (Full disclosure: Eliot hired me for my first journalism job and is a friend of mine.) He told me that Nelly listening has tripled in the U.S. during Spotify’s peak streaming hours (about 2-6 p.m.) since we first published the post, and that the rapper is receiving a bump of “close to that much” at other times during the day. Not only that, but the effect isn’t wearing off; it’s actually increasing slightly day over day. “As of now,” Eliot wrote, “It looks like people really are listening to a lot more Nelly.”

Spotify can’t give out absolute play count numbers without the artist’s permission, so it’s impossible to know exactly how many streams that tripling during peak hours amounts to, but it’s certainly something. According to Nelly’s public artist page, his plays are up by 34,764 today, though it’s unclear exactly what that means, or what today’s plays are being measured against.

If you’re looking to thank Nelly for giving you a reason to shout “Must be the money!” at unsuspecting friends as a middle-schooler, you should know that Spotify has a few ground rules for what counts as a stream. The song must be played for at least 30 seconds for it to be logged, so repeatedly listening to the “Hot shit!” drop at the beginning of “Country Grammar” does not count. It’s unclear whether Spotify will count a song when your volume is off, but there’s reason to suspect that they won’t: when the band Vulfpeck released a silent album so fans could earn them money by playing it on a loop overnight, Spotify shut it down, and if you mute the Spotify player during a commercial, it automatically pauses and forces you to listen when you turn the volume back up. Just to be safe, you’re better off actually listening to “Hot in Herre” and “Ride Wit Me.”

Keep up the good work. Together, we really can save Nelly.


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