How Many Songs Are There?

Are there thousands? Millions? BILLIONS?

How Many Songs Are There?
Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Are there thousands? Millions? BILLIONS?

Before we can answer how many songs there are, we probably need to establish what we define as a song.

Defining a Song

There are typically two different aspects that we think of when defining a song, the work and the recording. The work is the musical composition, the melody and words of the song. The recording is the actual audio recording of the song. There can be multiple recordings for every work, think about all the cover songs that exist.

Let's consider a recording as a song because there is no way that we can exclude some of the amazing covers that exist * cough "Hurt" by Johnny Cash (originally Nine Inch Nails) cough *.

Total Songs Today

25,607,712 *

Are there more than this? Without a doubt, yes. There are surely tons of songs that have been recorded which have not been documented. However, this is the data that we have available and so it makes sense for us to use it.

Growth Over Time *

How did we get to today's grand total? Well let's take a look at new songs by year.

According to this chart, more than 100,000 songs have been pushed out per year starting in the late 1980's, more than 500,000 songs per year starting in 1998, and the year that had the most new songs was 2012 with 893,985.

What's Up With the Decline?

It looks like the number of new songs has been decreasing every year since ~2017. Why do you think that is?

  • Has there not been as much time for the data source to collect data about more recent songs?
  • Maybe changes in the industry? Streaming services have picked up a lot of steam over the past decade. Or maybe the Music Modernization Act in 2018 has something to do with it.

Let me know what you think and perhaps we'll attempt to figure it out in a later post: sovine@therecordindustry.io.


* Data from MusicBrainz database as of October 13, 2021