Rise of the Streaming Era

Aryana Sofea
February 13, 2020
6 minutes
Via Twitter

I’m pretty sure the majority of people born between 1981 and 1996, a.k.a Millennials could relate to this tweet. For those who aren’t familiar with this tweet, this used to be the title format for digitally downloaded music on one’s mobile phone or mp3s. 

Music analysts in the past predicted that digital downloads through iTunes and other mp3 services to be the channel that would take over for the coming years but surprise, surprise, technology advanced in a way no one could have predicted and look where we are now.  Downloaded music is almost similar to the dinosaurs as they are nearly extinct at this point. 

With the increase in the need for a cheaper way of consuming music and instant gratification, we are now in the magnificent era of Streaming.

Here are some cool facts about Streaming:

  • You get instant access to more than 35 Million songs, at the palm of your hand.
  • It gives automation and insights into your real listening habits to cater to a better music listening experience for consumers.
  • Music streaming apps automatically curate playlists exclusively for you based on the artists and genre you listen to and save into your personal library.
  • Record labels and music companies can assess talents’ developments and decide who to sign.

  • Through music streaming apps insights and monitoring tools such as soundcharts.com, managers of these artists may get a better idea of the target audience and take necessary steps to have tour promotions of the artists. 
  • If a musician is touring a certain country, Spotify automatically places the respective artists’ songs on the top playlists of the country - to boost the number of listeners and concert-goers.

What’s not to love when you can listen to your favourite music wherever you want, whenever you want, 24/7 keeping you occupied and never lonely. You only pay a small amount if you’d like to remove ads, but if you’re indifferent about it, you get to enjoy the music you love for FREE. This is totally justified and way better than going through free mp3 sites, leaving no link unclicked to rip songs from our favourite artists and bands - I mean, we’re paying for the music we listen to now, right?

Before we get into the dirt, what does it mean when you “buy” music or pay for the subscription to these music streaming apps? When you “buy” music on iTunes, you don’t technically own it, in the same manner, that you might own a physical record or CD. What you’re purchasing is a non-transferable perpetual license to the underlying music content.

Now, how does this bring profit to the artists? Music streaming apps like Apple Music, Youtube, and Spotify pay fractions of a cent per stream to the artists. Once you calculate the math, the average these artists earn could be $5,000 to $10,000 per 1 million streams.

Here’s a breakdown of the amount the top 3 music apps pay to the artists in 2018.

Source: Gigmit

This may seem like a lot of moolah but the truth to the matter is the artists would probably get a small fraction of that amount and the rest dissipates to the record label, managers, songwriters, and producers. The royalties must be “shared equally” amongst everyone involved. The talent usually lives paycheck to paycheck while the execs enjoy the fruits of the talent’s labour as they’ve found a crack in the system of the streaming era. Seems a little backwards doesn’t it? 

However, although streaming unintentionally fixes the system up to be meddled with, it provides the platform for low budget, low effort music to have a chance for exposure, gain listeners, getting booked by a record label and popularity.  

There are other ways for artists and bands to earn and in this new age, you can self release your music, promote yourself via various social media platforms without being represented by a label, grow a fanbase and tour; make money by working hard in those departments. The problem with streaming again is if it’s possible for controversial people who are very much hated to rise to superstar rank, then it is possible for anyone to do it, whether they have talent or not.

Another negative impact of Streaming, record labels are debuting viral-powered singers and rappers, desperate to take advantage of them, so when offered multi-million deals these ‘musicians’ can’t deny, these greedy record labels get to cash in all their fame. This leads to an overflow of EDM, trap, rap music dominating the music scene as it is happening now. This does not imply that this music is inherently bad, the issue is that there is almost no diversity on the charts anymore. Rock, Country, Alternative and even Pop are being brushed off in favour of music style that is so much easier to produce. All you need is a laptop and a high-definition mic to create the next banging chart-topper. Also, the over-saturation of almost every genre is what’s poisoning the music industry at the moment. Music consumers demand more music faster and in order to stay afloat in the game, artists compete to release new music quickly, usually in the form of Singles, leaving behind the beloved album format that would have instead be padded with insane amounts of material.  

In a nutshell, this era has become an overpopulated survival of the fittest for both the talented and talentless artists who are all chasing the goal of success in this industry that is still formatting and learning how to earn via streaming. However, since the process is still a work in progress, contrarily, they’re hurting the fans' equality.

Have you noticed the soaring concert/festival prices? The merchandise prices that cost a fortune and almost seem like a luxury item? This is all thanks to streaming. The starving artist is a familiar image that was a joke in the past but now, it’s almost a sad reality that is faced by many bands and artists that have to somehow make money. 

The Starving Artist Dilemma’

The music industry is one of the hardest and meanest ones you can find yourself in. Albeit, it comes with fame and wealth, in this decade, the world of music comes with more scrutiny than ever before and many just simply can’t keep up or compete.

So, the question for the music lovers now is how you can support and show love to your favourite bands and artists. Streaming is good - it may not pay as well as downloads did but it’s still something. Physical merchandise is cool too, so you may purchase the albums on CD or even vinyl to show support. It’s fun to collect, and you can be that super hip person with the vinyl we often see in rom-com movies 😎. Go to their shows when they’re in town, buy a merch shirt, or a cool lanyard case, even tweeting them to thank them for their music and their hard work would mean a lot to them too.

There will be a continued push towards the musicians’ reliance on one's own powers and resources rather than those of others over the next decade and hopefully, the ability to connect directly with fans and music lovers will bring about a change in the fate of the streaming era.