Today I want to talk about music streaming and its effect on the music industry. Maybe you know it’s making it difficult for emerging artists, which is certainly not new information, but do you know just how hard it is? I was shocked to discover how little money these artists are making and the ways that this listening format is changing not only the way we hear music but the types of music that are being produced.
Music for rent
Spotify’s global and personalized omnipresence cannot be denied. With shares and streams, it has become the ultimate testament to an artist’s fandom. We are living in a time where an artist’s revenue is coming from payments for access to apps like Spotify or Apple music instead of from an actual physical purchase of music, like CD’s and Vinyl. Today, we are essentially renting this media, with the illusion of ownership.
What it takes
The unfortunate truth as many of you know is that the artists that are making money from streaming music apps like Spotify are only the megastars while emerging artists struggle to compete. Even if you seem to be doing well, like in the case of Zoë Keating, a cellist from Vermont, USA who has always been very honest and forthright about her earnings and what it takes. Keating had an impressive two MILLION streams from 241,000 people in 65 different countries last year. Her fans listened to her music for a total of 190,000 hours. This sounds like a lot, yet even with this incredible amount of worldwide engagement she only made $12,231. This business model is eliminating the musical middle class, there are not a lot of people out there that can make a living from their music.
Not only do you need about 10,000 views to earn even $1 US but the algorithms used to find recommendations on Spotify may help you find new music you enjoy, it’s unintentionally preventing the music discovery it claims is happening. When it’s connecting the data points it takes from what you already like, its recommendations end up being more of the same, “you like eggs? try an omelet!” it’s actually limiting music discovery.
Now, singles are being produced to match certain beats and skip-rates with the right kind of hooks and choruses so that new music coming out will fit into the right kind of box to get it recognized as belonging to the list of hits, which are primarily mid-tempo pop derived from rap and EDM. This format is truly encouraging soulless and poor-quality music production.
New York Times pop critic Jon Caramanica regularly disparages this sound as “Spotifycore”.
So monotonous music in vast quantities is being produced because that’s how you get recognized, hence, the dominance of Drake. Because of the success of this business model, it seems that music is in danger of losing its feeling, losing its soul. I personally like my music to move me and to show me something new.
No one is discovering Alabama Shakes or St. Paul & The Broken Bones on this algorithm.
A crying shame.
So, while some bit of streaming in our lives is unavoidable, I like to think that by also buying vinyl records, we are preserving something. Doing something important for the music industry that we love and helping our beloved artists keep creating unique sounds for future generations to enjoy.
How do you feel about streaming music? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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