White noise: Spotify’s new pet peeve

White noise: Spotify's new pet peeve

When it comes to podcasts, one trend drives out another. That of the moment concerns white noise (“white noise”, in English), these soothing sounds which would allow students to better revise their lessons or even parents to put babies to sleep more quickly. White noise podcasts are enjoying phenomenal success on online music platforms, much to the displeasure of some.

Spotify is one of them. The world leader in music streaming has considered the possibility of banning, or at least restricting, white noise podcasts on its platform, according to information from Bloomberg. This extreme measure would have allowed him to increase his annual profits by 35 million euros, given the popularity of this type of online content. For good reason, white noise generates a large number of plays on platforms such as Spotify, Amazon Music or YouTube, due to their supposedly anti-stress properties.

White noise: what is it?

The hum of a vacuum cleaner, the lapping of the rain, the roar of a fan… White noises are sounds in which all the frequencies audible to the human ear (i.e. from 20 to 20,000 Hertz) are present at the same time and at a same intensity. This superposition of sound waves would saturate our auditory receptors, which would mask other surrounding sounds, or at least attenuate them.

This is why white noises are often presented as powerful allies for finding sleep or concentrating. However, their therapeutic virtues are still debated within the scientific community. In 2021, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania even claimed in an article, published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews, that they could alter the quality of our long-term sleep.

A disturbing success

But it takes more to distract listeners from this sound comforter. White noises are among the most popular content on online music services, and one of them, titled “Clean White Noise – Loopable with no fade”, even surpassed one billion plays on Spotify. In general, white noise and ambient sound podcasts would represent three million hours of daily listening on the platform chaired by Daniel Ek, according to Bloomberg.

This success annoys the cohort of artists who are struggling to be listened to on Spotify – and therefore fairly remunerated – but also the Swedish giant itself. Indeed, the latter would have invested a billion dollars in the podcast industry since 2019, including 230 million dollars (204 million euros) to afford the podcast studio Gimlet Media, and almost 200 million dollars ( 177 million euros) for The Ringer. This colossal investment has not yet really borne fruit: the leaders of the Swedish group declared in June that the podcast activity would become profitable within one to two years.

Meanwhile, creators of white noise podcasts are earning up to $18,000 a month from ads in their programs, Bloomberg revealed in 2022. Surprisingly, Spotify and its competitors have yet to invest. this segment of the podcast market, and don’t seem to have any intention of doing so. The Swedish giant, however, said it will continue to host such content on its platform in the future, although it has considered internally to ban it. Good news for independent white noise podcast creators and their millions of listeners.