Music

Splice’s Year-End Data Reveals What Producers Are Into: Amapiano & Phonk Skyrocket, Trap Is Down

Music tech company Splice has partnered with Billboard to exclusively release key data about what sounds have trended among their usership over the last year. This is the first time the company has made their end-of-year data public.

Since its founding in 2013, Splice has offered music makers a constantly evolving sound library of millions of samples and loops for royalty-free use, ranging widely from kick drum to kopuz (a Turkish string lute) samples. Its sounds are widely used by producers of all sizes — from hobbyists in their bedrooms to the talents making Hot 100 hits with Justin Bieber, Bad Bunny, Taylor Swift and Travis Scott.

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Splice has users in virtually every country around the world, but it is particularly popular in its top ten markets: U.S., U.K., Germany, Canada, France, Brazil, South Korea, Australia, Italy and India. 44% of its registered users identify as Gen Z.

To organize its ever-growing library, Splice uses a tagging system, adding genre and subgenre signifiers to help users find the sample they need. Some sounds have multiple genre tags. As the company’s creative director of Splice Sounds, Jay “Capsun” Pulman, explains, “when we have sample packs that are released that are tagged as K-pop, for instance, the vast majority of the time, they’ll be made by an artist, producer, or songwriter who is actively involved in K-pop in some way. They’re involved in that scene. The samples come out of the genre, as opposed to tagging every sound that could be used from Splice and made into K-pop.”

In sharing this data, Pulman, says the company can shine a light on the “very starting point of music making…It shows us the start point of where eventual trends bubble, even before getting to see [the trends] in mainstream hits.”

African Music

Most notably, downloads for sounds tagged as “amapiano,” a South African dance music genre often featuring log drums, are up 826% year-over-year. Its searches are up 309%, and it is trending in 17 cities. In Los Angeles, the highest trending city for the genre, its growth is up 1,003% year-over-year. It is also popular among Atlanta producers, surging 956% in the city this year.

According to Pulman, the discrepancy in downloads versus searches for amapiano suggests that users might not know to look up this nascent genre by name through their search bar. However, they’re still gravitating towards it when it’s featured in other ways on the site. On the Splice home page, the Splice team often creates groupings of sounds for different genres, moods and other categories to entice users to download sounds.

In the last year, African music has become popular on the Billboard charts as stars from the continent like Rema, Burna Boy, and Tems, crossed over into the American mainstream. “Calm Down” by Rema, with an assist from popstar Selena Gomez, peaked at No. 3 this year on the Hot 100 and even made the difficult move to No. 1 on the pop radio airplay chart for five straight weeks. In an acknowledgment of African music’s growth, Billboard launched a dedicated U.S. Afrobeats chart in association with Afro Nation, and Billboard reporters Heran Mamo and Dan Rys frequently cover the latest in the genre with their monthly roundup, Afrobeats Fresh Picks.

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Amapiano’s growth on Splice represents the continued proliferation of African music globally. To further fuel growth in trending genres, Pulman says Splice’s Sounds team watches their data carefully and hires musicians native to those genres to amass more authentic samples for the platform to offer its users.

Meanwhile, sounds that are tagged as “afrobeats” or “afropop” have declined by 45%, particularly in African metropolises like Lagos, Nigera. Splice believes this is because “users want authentic sounds from more specific Afro genres rather than generic samples that fall under a larger umbrella.”

Hip-Hop / Rap

Hip-hop remains the most popular genre on Splice, accounting for 19% of total downloads. Still, the genre is down 11% from 2022. This may foreshadow continued difficulties for hip-hop music on the charts. This year was widely considered to be an especially stagnant year for the highly-streamed genre, and that was reflected on the Billboard charts: August 2023 marked a full year since a rap song had been No. 1 on the Hot 100 – the first time this has happened in 23 years.

Splice has found that downloads of trap sounds are down by 14% globally since last year, even in the genre’s birthplace of Atlanta, where those downloads fell by 20%. (Meanwhile, Atlanta saw a 50% growth in techno downloads, a 21% growth in dubstep, and a 20% growth in soul).

Still, 86% of Splice users downloaded a hip-hop sample in 2023, and 57% of Splice users told the company in a recent survey that hip-hop interests them most when searching for samples. Pulman adds that producers who are making hip-hop, for example, might use sounds tagged as other genres in eventually creating hip-hop songs.

Phonk

This year, Splice introduced a tag for phonk music, and so far, the genre has seen growth of 1,246% year-over-year to more than 1 million downloads since the tag first became available. (This percentage is available because Splice says it has retroactively applied the “phonk” tag to older sounds in its catalog, created prior to the tag). Phonk samples are trending primarily in cities like Los Angeles, Tokyo, Berlin, Chicago, and Seoul. The new genre, which sounds like slowed down Memphis rap samples set to lo-fi beats, is especially well-known among gamers and car enthusiasts who are passionate about “drifting.” It is often used by those communities to soundtrack their social media videos. While phonk still isn’t well-known among the general public, it’s gained a much wider reach this year, thanks in part to its inclusion on the latest Fast and Furious mixtape, which was released alongside the franchise’s 10th movie earlier this year.

Electronic / Dance

Dance music genres saw a comeback this year on Splice. The company says drum & bass was one of the fastest growing genres this year, ranking as the 10th most downloaded genre in 2023 with 85% growth year-over-year. Jersey Club, a fast-paced subgenre that fuses elements of house and rap, also saw major growth with a 178% increase in downloads year-over-year. It’s trending in Nashville and six other cities.

Sounds tagged as “U.K. garage” are trending in nine cities Pulman says that while “it’s a fairly niche genre, it has made its way into larger genres like K-pop, for instance.” It also made its mark on Western pop through the work of PinkPantheress.

Various subgenres of house are also growing in popularity on Splice. Downloads for house samples are up 27% overall, and searches for the genre are up 17%.

K-Pop

Sounds tagged as “K-pop” have declined 17.97% on Splice in 2023, but the company states that this “may not be indicative of the genre itself declining,” given that K-pop is an amalgamation of various influences spanning from U.K. garage to trap.

In Seoul, the epicenter of the K-pop industry, Splice has seen sounds from amapiano, phonk, Jersey club, Baltimore club, U.K. garage and big room house trend in the last year.

Latin

Despite breakout stars like Peso Pluma and Grupo Frontera hitting the charts this year, Splice has not seen a notable uptick in the use of regional Mexican samples, including the subgenres ranchera, norteño, banda and mariachi. Splice says this is likely because most regional Mexican music makers do not heavily rely on sampling.

Reggaeton sounds saw 23% growth in downloads year-over-year, making it the 29th most downloaded genre on the platform. Reggaeton’s top city on the platform is Los Angeles, where the genre grew 26% year-over-year.

Sounds tagged as “baile funk,” or “funk carioca,” has also grown this year by 107% globally. This is likely thanks to exposure on TikTok with viral hits like “Automotivo Bibi Fogosa” by Bibi Babydoll, Dj Brunin XM, and KZA Produções and “Tuburao Te Amo” by Dj LK da Escócia, Tchakabum and MC Ryan SP. Downloads for the genre have grown especially quickly in Sao Paulo (92%), Mumbai (179%), Tokyo (81%), and Guadalajara (888%).

Country

Country music is not considered a sample heavy genre, but it is still growing among Splice users. Over the last year, Splice saw downloads for sounds tagged as “country” grow by 67%, while searches are up 21%. This mirrors the genre’s growth on the Hot 100 this year as country hitmakers like Morgan Wallen, Luke Combs, Jason Aldean and Zach Bryan became mainstream stars.

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