How many songs does the average person have on their phone?

In the last few decades, the music industry has undergone a massive transformation with the rise of digital music and streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora. As noted in The Digital Music Distribution Revolution, the emergence of these digital platforms has disrupted traditional music sales and distribution models. Whereas before people had to purchase individual songs, albums or CDs, they can now instantly access vast catalogs of music online. This on-demand streaming has changed how most people discover and listen to music. With entire libraries available at our fingertips, gone are the days of being limited to the handful of albums physically filling our shelves.

With streaming services replacing traditional music libraries, an interesting question arises – how many songs does the average person now have readily available on their smartphone? This proliferation of music accessible anytime, anywhere indicates most people’s digital libraries now far surpass what they could realistically own physically. In this article we will explore how streaming has transformed personal music collections and try to determine the size of today’s average digital music library.

Growth of Digital Music

The rise in digital music downloads and streaming has significantly changed how people consume music over the past couple decades. According to Statista, digital music accounted for over 50% of all revenue generated by the music industry globally in 2020, compared to just 11.4% in 2008. Revenues from digital music have grown from $3.7 billion in 2008 to $13.4 billion in 2020.

Music streaming services in particular have seen rapid adoption. According to Statista, the number of online music streaming subscribers globally is expected to grow from 487 million in 2020 to over 1 billion by 2024. Popular services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music have driven much of this growth.

Downloads of digital music tracks and albums have declined in recent years as streaming has become the dominant model. However, downloading is still relevant, accounting for over 20% of digital music revenue in 2020.

Music Libraries in the Digital Age

In the past, music libraries consisted of physical collections of records, tapes, CDs, and other physical media. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), in the late 1990s, the average American music collection contained around 80 albums, mostly on CDs. This pales in comparison to the vast libraries available via music streaming services today.

Music streaming services like Spotify give users access to libraries of over 70 million songs for free and over 80 million songs for paid subscribers [1]. Rather than being limited by physical storage, streaming allows for nearly unlimited music libraries. Streaming services utilize cloud storage, so the size of one’s personal music collection is no longer constrained by shelf space. This has completely changed how people build and engage with their music libraries.

Music Consumption Habits

The rise of music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music has drastically altered how people consume and listen to music. According to research from Tilburg University, streaming services have homogenized listening by steering consumers towards popular playlists and songs [1]. Where listeners once curated personalized libraries of owned music, they now commonly rely on streaming platforms’ programmed playlists and radio stations.

With unlimited on-demand access removing scarcity, listening habits have become dominated by playlisting and shuffling. A 2021 survey found that 54% of Spotify users most often listen to playlists over albums or individual artists [2]. The ease of playlist creation and sharing has made them central to streaming consumption. Additionally, the shuffle feature caters to shortened attention spans by removing user effort in sequencing songs.

In summary, streaming has fundamentally shifted music listening towards passive, non-linear, and social habits that differ drastically from the carefully curated personal libraries of the past.

Factors Impacting Library Size

The number of songs a person has access to on their phone is heavily influenced by whether they use free or paid music streaming services. Free services like Spotify Free, Pandora, and Apple Music’s free tier all limit the amount of on-demand music a user can access. For example, Spotify Free users can only play songs on shuffle mode and are limited to 6 skips per hour (Source 1). Paid services offer unlimited on-demand streaming and much larger libraries. Spotify Premium gives access to over 80 million songs compared to just 2 million for Free users (Source 2). Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited boast libraries of around 90 million songs. Subscribers to these paid plans essentially have unlimited access to stream tens of millions of tracks on-demand, allowing for much larger personal libraries.

Study on Library Sizes

A recent study examined the size of digital music libraries of smartphone users. The study surveyed over 500 participants about their music listening and storage habits. It found that the average number of songs stored on a person’s phone was around 2,000. However, there was significant variation among respondents. While some only kept several hundred songs available offline, over 20% of participants had libraries of 5,000 songs or more.

According to the study, the most common library size was 1,000-3,000 songs. About 40% of respondents fell into this range. An additional 30% had 500-1,000 songs stored locally. Only about 10% of participants had fewer than 500 songs on their device.

In terms of storage capacity, most phones can hold libraries of 5,000-10,000 songs fairly easily with current solid state memory sizes. However, the study showed that convenience and intentional curation were bigger factors for most users than maxing out storage. Still, a small subset of “power users” sought to keep as much music offline and accessible as possible.

Maxing Out Storage

Today’s smartphones have impressive storage capacities that allow people to carry thousands of songs in their pocket. For example, the latest iPhones can have up to 1TB of storage, which Apple estimates can hold up to 250,000 songs. Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra offer up to 1TB as well. Even mid-range phones often have baseline storage of 64GB or 128GB, which can hold thousands of songs depending on audio quality.

While phone storage used to be a major limiting factor for music library size, most people today will max out the number of songs they desire to have on their phone before hitting device limits. Unless someone is intent on carrying their entire music catalog with them offline at all times, even 64GB phones provide sufficient local storage for robust playlists and queues.

Curation vs Hoarding

When it comes to building music libraries, people tend to fall into one of two camps: the curators or the hoarders. The curators carefully select and handpick songs, like a DJ building the perfect playlist. As S Freeman explains, “it is through a combination of algorithmic filtering and human curation that streaming libraries take shape” ( Curators may have smaller libraries, but their playlists reflect their tastes and moods.

In contrast, hoarders aim for volume, saving entire artist catalogs or genres. Rather than pruning their libraries, hoarders want access to everything. As one article notes, streaming algorithms allow for easy “curation of playlists and radio stations based on specific moods, activities, or themes” ( For hoarders less interested in curation, algorithms help surface their massive libraries.

Both approaches have merits. Curated libraries provide a more tailored, intentional listening experience. Hoarded libraries ensure you always have the perfect song for the moment. While their libraries differ in size, both types of users benefit from the algorithms and advanced discovery features of music streaming.

Key Takeaways

The way we consume and collect music has been transformed over the past two decades. With the rise of digital music and streaming services, our access to songs is unprecedented. Whereas the average music library was once measured in albums or CDs, today we carry thousands of tracks with us on our phones and devices.

Recent studies have found that the average digital music library contains around 3,500 songs. While environments and demographics play a role, most people now have access to more music than ever before. However, having extensive libraries does not necessarily mean engaging deeply with all of that music.

As our collections grow exponentially larger, our relationship to music libraries is changing. Streaming provides endless content, yet makes individual songs more ephemeral. While some embrace the abundance of choice, others aim to be more intentional curators. But across generations, it’s clear that digital music has fundamentally expanded our musical worlds.


The advent of music streaming services has utterly transformed personal music libraries. Where once our collections were limited by the number of CDs or mp3s we could store locally, now entire catalogs of music are available on-demand. Streaming has removed the constraints around music curation, enabling access to vastly more music than anyone could realistically own. One no longer needs to decide which songs make it into the permanent library – we can easily explore endless playlists and albums. While local music collections were treasured in the past, streaming frees us to follow our curiosity and engage more fully with the endless breadth of music. As our relationship with music continues to evolve, the joy of discovery endures.