listener hears an explicit song

Will an Explicit Song on Streaming Platforms Impact My Streams?

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Musicians have long loved the freedom to express themselves through their lyrics and artistic choices. In a recent article, we explored whether or not you need to include a parent advisory explicit content label on your album. But another question is worth considering: Does the presence of explicit content in music impact streaming numbers and/or the overall success of an artist’s release?

What does explicit content in music mean?

What makes a song explicit? Explicit content refers to songs that contain language, themes, or depictions that some listeners may find offensive or unsuitable. It can include explicit language, references to violence, sexual content, or profanity. To ensure transparency and inform potential listeners, explicit songs are labeled with an explicit label to indicate that the content is intended for mature audiences.

Streaming platforms and explicit content

When it comes to distributing explicit content, streaming platforms like iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube Music have varying guidelines and policies. These platforms aim to strike a balance between artistic expression and protecting their users, particularly younger audiences, from explicit content.

iTunes, for example, allows explicit content but requires that artists mark their songs as explicit during the distribution process. This labeling helps users make informed choices about the content they consume. Similarly, Spotify and YouTube Music also provide options for artists to label their songs as explicit, ensuring appropriate content filtering and user control.

Having explicit content will not reduce your chance to appear in playlists, but it will give listeners the ability to filter out your content if they choose to do so.

How does explicit content impact my music consumption?

The inclusion of explicit content in your songs can have several implications for your music consumption and music career. Three ways explicit songs may impact your streams and revenue include:

  1. Stream counts. Explicit songs often attract a specific audience segment that appreciates the raw, unfiltered expression they offer. As a result, these songs may generate higher stream counts on a streaming platform, as listeners actively seek out and engage with content that aligns with their preferences. However, it’s important to note that stream counts alone do not guarantee long-term success or sustainability in the music industry, and including profanity or explicit content does not mean more people are going to stream your new music.
  2. Revenue. Hand in hand with the point above, explicit songs have the potential to generate revenue due to their popularity among certain demographics. Research suggests that explicit content performs well in streaming platforms’ algorithms. Comparatively, non-explicit songs may have a broader appeal and attract a wider range of listeners. Whether they generate the same level of revenue per stream as explicit songs depends on the quality of the material, but their versatility can lead to long-term success and exposure in more diverse contexts.
  3. User demographics and preference. Parental advisory explicit content tends to resonate with specific listener demographics, such as fans of certain genres like rap or hip hop. These audiences may actively seek out and engage with explicit songs, contributing to their popularity and stream numbers. By understanding your target audience and their preferences, you can tailor your new music and marketing strategies to maximize engagement.

Why do I need to mark my music as explicit?

Marking your music as explicit is crucial to maintain transparency and compliance.

Transparency. When learning how to make an album cover, marking explicit songs as such ensures transparency and empowers listeners to make informed choices about the content they consume. It also helps streaming platforms apply content filters and parental controls to protect younger audiences.

Compliance. By labeling your songs as explicit, you comply with the guidelines and policies set forth by streaming platforms. Failure to do so could result in content removal or penalties imposed by the platforms.

How to mark my music as explicit

The process of marking your music as explicit may vary depending on the streaming platform. Here’s how you can mark your songs as explicit on Spotify.

  1. Visit the streaming platform and access your artist dashboard.
  2. Select the release you want to mark as explicit.
  3. Navigate to the “Edit Track” or “Edit Release” option, depending on your preference.
  4. Look for the “Explicit Content” or similar option and enable it for the relevant songs.
  5. Save the changes and ensure the explicit label is displayed accurately.

Remember to comply with platform policies, mark your music as explicit when appropriate, and consider your target audience’s preferences to maximize the impact of your songs — whether they contain explicit material or not. Most importantly, you need to understand your audience’s preferences and make sure your music fits their expectations.

Music is a form of self-expression, and embracing its diverse facets, including explicit content, can help you connect with your audience authentically.

Don’t just stream your music!

Whether or not you add an explicit tag to your music, you need to make sure your songs sound their best on all the most popular streaming platforms to sell your music online. Disc Makers SoundLAB provides professional mastering services that will get your music streaming-ready and CD-release ready too!


Philip Kinsher is a writer, editor, and musician with a predilection for YA Sci-fi Fantasy books and rock and roll. And golf and pickleball.

The 90-Day Album Release Planner

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About Philip Kinsher

Philip Kinsher is a writer, editor, and musician with a predilection for YA Sci-fi Fantasy books and rock and roll. And golf and pickleball.

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