The curious case of “invisible music stardom”

Music streaming popularity is becoming detached from cultural relevance.

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The Future. Artists are going platinum and scoring chart-topping hits… all while going unnoticed by the general public. One example of this is NBA YoungBoy, who shares achievements rivaling that of Taylor Swift, but remains mostly unrecognized. This may signal a growing phenomenon in the music industry, where cult favorites with massive success are somehow still flying under the radar.

NBA who?
Music streaming popularity is becoming detached from cultural relevance.

  • In 2020, NBA YoungBoy made almost as much as Taylor Swift did in streaming revenue.
  • In 2019, the rapper hit #1 on the Billboard 200 and then twice again in 2020, making him the only artist (besides Taylor Swift)  to do so in the last three years.

Despite these impressive statistics, NBA YoungBoy is far from a household name. His megastar-level streaming accomplishments aren’t translating into general megastardom.

A cult favorite
Sheldon Pearce of The New Yorker describes this as “invisible music stardom.” One driver of the phenomenon, he says, is the “gap between what is promoted and what is popular.”

YoungBoy, who has a controversial history, is often passed over by the music industry to promote. But even for stars with a clean rap sheet, many are finding incredible streaming popularity yet being left out of the music industry’s promotion cycle.

Melody Song

Melody is a Bay Area-based writer exploring mental health innovation, psychedelics, and consciousness. When she’s not working with words, you can find her practicing yoga, soaking in the CA sun with a good book, or traveling somewhere tropical.


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