How streaming services revolutionized the digital culture landscape of music
Music streaming services have bombarded the music industry and have changed how people will listen to and discover music forever. Artists no longer have to create and sell albums or contact radio stations to get their music out there. With streaming services, people have access to anything they want to listen faster and cheaper than they ever have before. However, streaming has been all sunshine for artists.
// Music before Streaming
Although you might not have been part of the generation that had to handmake playlists with cassette tapes, listening to music has probably not been as convenient to you as it is today. Music has been consumed in the past (in historical order) by being played live, buying records, listening to the radio, buying vinyl and cassettes, and playing CD’s before music became digital. In this long era of music, people were typically stuck listening to whatever was made popular by music labels. Stores could only stock a limited amount of artists in their stores, thus leaving smaller names in the dust.
It was only when music became digital that the consumer began to have more of a choice in what they listened to. The MP3 allowed for people to “stockpile” music. Instead of saving money to buy an album, users could now buy singles using iTunes or file-share using Napster or Limewire. However, these routes still required users to search for files and download them to a device. With the emergence of streaming services like Pandora, Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Music, and more, people have more access to all types of music than ever before.
// The Sites That Changed the Game
Apple Music and Spotify are the leading music streaming services on the market. The services allow users to listen to over 30 million songs on an array of devices with just a connection to the internet and a subscription fee. However, Spotify has a feature that sets them apart from the rest: curated playlists. Spotify’s Discover Weekly uses other people’s playlists and compares them to your current tracks mashes them up into one beautiful masterpiece. Most people claim that they the reason they stay with Spotify is that their recommendation algorithm cannot be beaten. As a daily Spotify user, the service changed my music taste for the better by learning about my music tendencies and recommending me songs with similar vibes.
Soundcloud allows users to listen and post tracks all on one platform at an equal level as their peers. This platform was revolutionary because it no longer required a record deal for an artist to get their music out there. From bedroom rappers with no labels to stars like Drake, all types of users utilize this platform because they can make it on their own.
Pandora is a series of radio stations that are tailored to the user’s interests. This service allows users to listen to music that they love with the addition of music recommendations created by the Pandora’s algorithm. Although users of radio streaming services do not get to pick the songs that come up next, the stations are curated to match users’ interests.
All of these services and services like them have transformed the lives of the daily listener. Users no longer have to free up space on their devices to have songs in their libraries. Rather, they just need an internet connection and an account with the service to play their favorite tracks. Users have been more tailored too than ever before, allowing for artists to be discovered in a plethora of ways.
// The Impact on Artists
As mentioned previously, streaming is great on consumers’ wallets. Listeners no longer have to save to buy an album when it comes out or hoard iTunes gift cards to download the hits of the summer. Instead, people pay for maybe one service or listen to ads to hear music that is relevant to them at the time. There is no longer a commitment associated with a track because users are not paying per album or song. The flat fee that comes with streaming services permits users to try new music without fear of wasting their money. Therefore, new artists are given more chances to be heard. Artists can even have their albums go platinum with streaming numbers instead of album sales, thus awarding the artist of their album popularity but keeping the costs for consumers low.
Artists now utilize the streaming culture as a way to reach to the top without a label. Rapper Hoodie Allen collaborated with huge singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran without being signed. Hoodie Allen relied on Soundcloud and YouTube to push his album up in the Top 10 of the Billboard music charts and collect his fame. Hundreds of artists are using these streaming services to put themselves on top without signing contracts to a money-hungry label.
Without the pressure of a label, artists can put out albums according to their creative ability. When they are stuck in a contract, artists are pushed by timelines and how many records they were promised to make in their contract. Music is treated as income and not art. With streaming services, artists can choose to release any music they create (in accordance with the site’s guidelines) whenever they please.
On Spotify, the holder of the song is paid an average of $0.007 every time a song is streamed. The holder, however, is not just the artist, it is everyone involved in the process. Posting music videos on YouTube has earned some artists billions of views, but if those videos do not meet the community guidelines, the video might not generate a penny. It is hard to make money just off the music now. Beyonce, for example, only generates 10% of her income from her music by itself. In today’s industry, artists must put out merchandise and go on tour to see a profit.
With the pros and cons put aside, streaming has increased the number of people listening to music, thus increasing the number of consumers in the music industry. The streaming listener listens to more hours of music than the average listener. Streaming is presented on a large variety of platforms that is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Streaming has significantly impacted the way we listen to music today and will continue to play a factor in the ever-changing landscape of digital culture.