This article was prepared by Xiao'an Li (Music Strategist) and Gloria Huan (Music Analyst)

What Is Hit Potential?

Musiio’s Hit Potential Algorithm has been trained score songs from 0-100 according to the strength of their correlation with commercially successful music of today. The classifier can be re-trained with a new dataset at a later time to reflect evolving tastes or the tastes of a particular country or region.

We have performed several backtesting studies (Study 1, Study 2) to confirm that: Music that goes Viral or that receives a high number of streams (Spotify Top 200) is more likely to have a high HP score.

i.e. Songs that are more sonically correlated with the commercially successful music of today are more likely on average to also achieve commercial success.

Here is a graph showing the contrasting distribution of hit potential scores in a commercially successful set, versus a set comprised of unreleased, uncurated, user-generated songs.

Compared to a large set of completely uncurated and unreleased songs, commercially successful songs received significantly higher scores in general.

To further confirm this, we broke down the commercially successful sets into their varied constituents, including Viral music from Southeast Asia, Viral music from the USA, Top 200 music from South America, and Top 200 Global songs, to see if this finding holds true across multiple separate markers of commercial success.

Hit Potential Is Highly Correlated With Both Top 200 and Viral Chart Placement Across Different Countries

To dig deeper, we broke down the Commercially Successful songs into 4 constituent groups to see if they had higher average scores individually than the Unreleased, Uncurated Songs (labeled UGC here).

Not only did all 4 constituent groups have higher scores than the UGC group on average, each of these was also slightly different from each other, with the Global Top 200 demonstrating the highest average score and tightest clustering of scores, and the SEA Viral set demonstrating the lowest successful average score of the 4 groups. 

This suggests that the Hit Potential Algorithm is most effective at determining potential success on a global scale.

At this point, we were curious if any "cutoff point" might exist for music to achieve such success.

You Must Be This High To Get On This Ride

In addition, we found that certain “cutoff points” of Hit Potential Score may exist, with 91.48% of all songs in the Global Top 200 set scoring above 65. This was also true of other successful sets, though to a less significant extent.

In contrast, only 13.94% of the UGC set scored higher than 65, suggesting that this number represents a possible threshold that songs need to cross in order to have a higher likelihood of being commercially successful.

At this point, we were fairly satisfied that Hit Potential could serve as a reliable indicator of a piece of music's general likelihood of success or placement on the charts.

We wanted to introduce time as a controlled variable and exact stream numbers as a measurement of song performance to test the hypothesis that Hit Potential could also be used to predict a song's short term performance post-release.

High Hit Potential Scores Strongly Correlate With Better Immediate Streaming Performance Post-Release

We analyzed 2541 such songs and isolated 26 songs from the highest (16 songs above 80) and lowest (10 songs below 53) ranges. 

For the low range, we excluded songs that would clearly not do well (instrumental beats or highly experimental-sounding tracks) and selected those we believed had the highest chance of success in spite of their scores. We collected the Youtube and Spotify stream numbers of each these songs after 30 days of release.

We found that there was a striking difference in the streaming numbers of the high scoring and low scoring songs, with many songs in the high scoring group receiving average streams of 1M and above, while all songs from the low scoring group received streams below that number. 

This strongly suggests that Hit Potential Scores can serve as a predictor of immediate short-term song performance.

We've now verified several times that Hit Potential is able to predict the future performance of a piece of music to some degree even when controlling for geography, multiple classifications of "success", and time. So how do we turn it into a tool for record label executives, song funds, and streaming services?

The Hit Potential Quadrant System

Based on the last study, it has become apparent that it is possible to classify music into 4 different "quadrants" based on the combination of their streaming performance and Hit Potential score.

Based on these, a record label, song fund, streaming service, or other company in the music business may classify their music loosely into these 4 quadrants, with the exact dividing line between each quadrant being defined primarily by the unique makeup of each catalogue.

For example, a strongly "indie" sounding label might find most of their music falling into the left hand side of this system, and where one might draw the horizontal line dividing "low streams" from "high streams" may be dependent on the expectations of the business and the state of that particular niche.

These quadrants serve two purposes: Categorization, and Strategy

Categorization Of Songs In A Catalog

Here are the types of songs that are likely to fall in each of these categories - the lists may not be exhaustive, but should provide a general idea of what to expect. We've embedded examples of all of these at the end of the article - please note that the Algorithm will be updated soon and the scores will all be changing slightly.

The Niche Hits quadrant, the songs in a catalog that perform well, but do not sound like mainstream commercial hits.

  • Retro Hits By A Previously Famous Artist
  • Less Mainstream Songs By Current Well-Known Artists
  • Indie Artist With A Loyal And Specific Audience
  • Songs With Seasonal Popularity
  • Songs By Popular Instrumental Artists
  • Music Associated With Movies, TV Shows, or other Media
  • Children's Songs
  • Instrumental Covers Of Popular Songs

The Hidden Niche quadrant, the non-mainstream songs in a catalog that are underperforming.

  • Independent Artists
  • Background Music
  • Less Popular Genres (e.g. Classical)
  • This Quadrant Will Most Likely Contain The Largest Proportion Of Actually Bad Music (if the catalog is uncurated e.g. Streaming Service). If it is highly curated e.g. Indie Record Label, this will not be the case.

The Hidden Hits quadrant, the well-produced, mainstream-sounding songs in a catalog that are underperforming. Simply put, these songs would fit perfectly on a playlist with enormously popular songs of a similar genre - but for some reason, they haven't quite taken off.

The Hits quadrant, the well-produced, mainstream-sounding songs in a catalog that are performing at a high level.

How Different Music Industry Players May Use The Hit Potential Quadrant System

Some of the biggest players in the industry include Record Labels, Song Funds, and Streaming Services. Here are some strategies that may apply if you find that you have a number of songs that fall into either the Niche Hits or Hidden Niche quadrant.

Niche Hits Strategy

For a record label, catalog songs falling into the Niche Hits category may have a high likelihood of being 1. Created by non-mainstream artists with a large and loyal audience (e.g. Neil Young), or 2. A retro hit that is no longer stylistically current, but is continuing to ride off of its historical popularity.

Some strategic actions that could apply in these cases respectively might be:

1. Identifying the parallel interests (products/causes) of such a niche artist's fanbase to secure highly specific/underground brand endorsements or music licensing deals that ensure a high degree of relevance to the brand or advertiser's desired audience.

2. Remastering, re-recording, or covering this historically popular piece of music to give it new life and relevance in the context of the modern market, possibly engaging a younger artist in order for the song to reach new audiences.

Hidden Niche Strategy

A record label's catalog is more likely to be painstakingly curated than all the songs uploaded to your average streaming service on a daily basis. For this reason, the Hidden Niche quadrant is less likely to contain music that is objectively "bad". Instead, songs in this quadrant are better classified as "non-mainstream".

It is also worth noting that certain genres of music tend to receive lower scores. Jazz and Classical music, for example, receive lower scores due to their generally accepted lower mass appeal, while Pop and Hip Hop songs tend to receive higher scores due to their strong representation among the most highly streamed songs of today.

Therefore, to deal with this particular quadrant, it may be wise to first sort them by genre in order to avoid 'comparing apples with oranges'.

It is objectively quite difficult to increase the commercial performance of these songs in the usual way, but even low-scoring songs can be very successful when they are introduced to the market in the right context, or when associated with successful IP. For reference, see our article 'These Viral Songs Are "Bad", But Are They Really?" (section: Songs That Are Popular Due To Association With Other IP).

For this reason, a category of unusual-sounding songs, instrumental or otherwise, may be strong candidates for placement in TV shows or other media productions with music supervisors seeking a very particular flavor or even lyrical subject matter.

These songs, being low-performing and having little leverage, can also be licensed out at competitive prices to price-conscious production houses with the possibility of a hit TV series bringing in significant royalties for the artist and their publisher.

Generalized Usage Examples For Different Music Verticals

Record Labels (Sony, Kobalt)

  • Understanding why particular releases/acts are underperforming and figuring out strategies for improvement
  • Assessing overall catalog health and Indie/Mainstream balance
  • Identifying high-potential unknown artists to sign
  • Identifying portions of the catalog that may be more beneficial to sell or co-own with sync licensing companies to increase revenue opportunities for underperforming works.

Streaming Services (SoundCloud, Spotify)

  • Identifying underperforming/high potential mainstream-sounding artists/songs to put on discovery playlists, increasing the value of the service to less known artists and novelty-seeking audience
  • This in turn attracts more independent artists and a broader audience to use the streaming platform 
  • Using this tool to analyze individual listener history may reveal indie vs mainstream leaning tastes.
  • Provide more specific recommendations to listeners

Song Funds (Hipgnosis)

  • Metric for analyzing a catalog’s health and potential prior to acquisition
  • Identifying songs in existing catalog that may be candidates for re-recording and re-release (retro hits etc)
  • Discover potential talent and be the first mover in acquiring the rights to an promising artist’s future royalties


Musiio's Hit Potential Algorithm opens up a universe of creative and strategic possibilities for smart, data-driven decision-making executives in the music industry. Paired with performance numbers, it can provide detailed insight at the industry, catalog, and individual songwriter level.

If you are in the industry and seeking out new ways to make the most of your catalog(s), drop us a note and we'll be happy to make the technology available for you to test.

In the meantime, here is an extensive list of songs that might find themselves in each of the 4 quadrants that have been discussed. Thanks for reading!

Niche Hits (Low HP, High Streams)

Retro Hits By A Previously Famous Artist

Hit Potential Score of 48, 123M Views, 5.98M Subscribers

Less Mainstream Songs By Current Well-Known Artists

Hit Potential Score of 47, 11 Million Views, 43.3 Million Subscribers

Indie artist with loyal and specific audience

Hit Potential Score of 48, 26 Million Views, 5.95 Subscribers

Songs With Seasonal Popularity

Hit Potential Score of 47, 27M Views, 3.07 Subscribers

Popular Instrumental Artists

Hit Potential Score of 45, 138M Views, 1.18M Subscribers

Music Associated With Movies, TV Shows, or other Media

Hit Potential Score of 45, 222M Views, 983k Subscribers

Children's Songs

Hit Potential Score of 47, 347M Views, 119M Subscribers

Instrumental Covers Of Popular Songs

Hit Potential Score of 48, 13M Views, 91.6 Subscribers

Meme Songs

Hit Potential Score of 45, 136M Views, 271k Subscribers

Hidden Niche (Low HP, Low Streams)

Independent Artists

Hit Potential Score of 49, 5.4k Views, 1.19k Subscribers

Hit Potential Score of 43, 1.4k Views, 1.7k Subscribers

Background Music

Hit Potential Score of 43, 4.8k Views, 485 Subscribers

Less Popular Genres

Hit Potential Score of 43, 311 Views, 140 Subscribers

Hidden Hits (High HP, Low Streams)

Hit Potential Score of 83, 12k Views (172k Spotify Streams), 191 Subscribers, 4000 Instagram Followers

Hit Potential Score of 80, 468k Views (219k Spotify Streams), 9.42k Subscribers, 41.4k Instagram Followers

Hits (High HP, High Streams)

Hit Potential Score of 77, 576M Views (600M Spotify Streams), 50.4M Instagram Followers

Hit Potential Score of 81, 180M Views (528M Spotify Streams), 34.8M Instagram Followers

Hit Potential Score of 76, 191M Views, (372M Spotify Streams), 111M Instagram Followers

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