Throughout my high school years, music has been on the forefront of my mind when I was studying, working, and even driving to school. It has been something that offered me peace in times of chaos, and made me joyful when I was upset. With all of this new technology, we are presented with opportunities like never before, especially with music.
I started using Spotify, a streaming service, my freshman year of high school. I had heard so much about it, and I started to get tired of having to purchase all of my music on iTunes. I downloaded it, started making playlists, and that’s where my love for music in general really began. I loved how it was so personal, and I could listen to anything I wanted. Yes, there were advertisements, but after much use of the app, I upgraded to premium. iTunes just didn’t work for me anymore. In fact, it felt largely impersonal.
I never fully realized just how much music had helped me through various points in my life until I reflected on my high school years while working on my senior portfolio. And not just purchasing the music itself, but streaming music in particular. According to the Guardian, in 2009 “annual [music] revenues fell from 14.6 billion in 1999 to 6.3 billion in 2009.” There was a large decline in CD sales during that period, causing losses of money to music artists and labels. But when Spotify emerged in 2008, a new wave of streaming began.
Years ago, artists would have to wait until they started to sell CD’s before they saw any kind of profit. Now, with each stream on services like Spotify or Apple Music, they can make money as soon as they release it. It has been reported on both the Guardian and Digital Music News that “Apple Music pays $0.00783 [a stream] and Spotify pays $0.00397 [a stream]” but artists with a greater reputation in the industry tend to cut deals with both the streaming services and their label.
However, this caused controversy for smaller artists signed to bigger labels. Many “complained that labels were raking in big profits from Spotify while artists were seeing scraps”, the Guardian claims. But even if that was the case, it makes no difference compared to what they would’ve been making on a simple CD sale. With just one listen of a song, they would be creating some sort of profit, instead of just buying a CD one time.
Now, albums are longer, (a 10 track album will now have 10 new songs even though the album came out two years ago) and intros to the beginnings of an album are shorter so the artist can keep your attention span before they can skip it.
Spotify and Apple Music expand the horizon for both music artists and listeners. With the creation of playlists such as “Fresh Finds” or “Vanguard Voices”, they give multiple artists opportunities to shine. The playlists are public, so anyone already following that playlist will hear it no matter what, and even when new listeners begin to follow it, the artist’s work will still be exposed.
Sam Wolfson of the Guardian explains it all too well. “Music used to be dominated by audiences with the most spending power- so middle class, middle-aged people… often decided what topped the charts. Now Afrobeat, Danish rap, hundreds of genres of niche electronic music, and particularly British urban music are flourishing commercially, without having to make any concessions to the mainstream.”
Streaming music has proven to be the new wave for listeners all over the world. With new opportunities and experiences for up and coming artists just by one simple playlist on a “Browse” page, you open the door for revenue and creative processes to flow more eloquently.
I know I’ll be thinking about this more and more when I’m creating my own personal “May 2018” playlist. The emphasis music has put on society’s happiness has been one that continues to prosper. I only hope that we will strive for more technological advancements in the music industry in order to support the emerging artists that you and I love and listen to every day.