Streaming as a Recipe for Disaster
There is a growing body of evidence that shows streaming is not only a corrosive force on incomes of lower and middle-class musicians’ , but a toxic repellent in promoting tomorrow’s hits.
The consequences of mainstream radio’s preoccupation with legends from the past has led to the stifling of new musical successes in the genres of classical and rock music, re-energizing a market for catalogue album titles that offers cheap returns for established record companies and threatens to undermine a long-standing tradition of having tomorrow’s music birthed by a brash breed of indie start-ups that in the past became major forces in today’s music. Labels with names such as Island, Def Jam, Capricorn, Atlantic, and Blue Note.
Satellite radio is fast becoming one of the top income sources for alternative labels trying to gain a foothold in a marketplace dominated by ageing superstar acts. The trend is reverberating across the music biz landscape, as an exponential rise in new signings wither on the vine, and new album releases and songs generate fewer and fewer streams on services such as Spotify or YouTube.
The impact on Canada’s once vibrant market for developing acts has yet to be quantified, but the impact on incomes new acts can generate from live performance is. A growing audience for DJ-curated nights in clubs that previously were homes to live music is accelerating, club closures are becoming the norm, and merch sales are in the decline.
Newsweek has just published an article dealing with the crisis in music, headlined Streaming is Killing Great Music in Favour of Familiar Formulas.
It starts off by nailing the struggle on the head.
Technology is making sure that from now on we get a boatload of Adeles but never again the likes of David Bowie.
Did you see Straight Outta Compton? Nothing like N.W.A is going to happen in any foreseeable future either. We’re looking at another decade of music that’s about as culturally significant as a new Ben & Jerry’s flavor.
This is the opposite of what was promised at the dawn of the Web. Digital media was supposed to blow open the music industry, making it possible for any intrepid fringe artist to assemble songs on a laptop for next to nothing and find an audience somewhere out on the bony end of the long tail. We were going to be awash in creativity.
Instead, the technology has altered layer upon layer of music’s economics in a way that wildly favors safe mainstream acts while kicking the daring outliers to the curb. Music in the streaming era is a winner-take-most affair—like almost all tech businesses now. So those with the widest appeal—Adele, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran—get rich and keep working, while those who challenge music’s boundaries find it almost impossible to sustain enough attention over enough time to pull listeners their way.
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