Music streaming has become a huge business in the past few years, and has changed the way we consume music. The types of music formats have changed over the years from vinyl, to CD, to mp3, now majority of the public is streaming. Music streaming has now become the main focus for artist and labels. Music releases are now geared toward music streaming services and not record stores anymore. The Flatbush Zombies said it best, “R.I.P to the CD, can’t even play my hits/Cause new computers ship without the means to play the s***.” It’s inevitable that the music industry will change and develop new ways to release music, but what are some of the consequences of music streaming? Who is dealing with those consequences? Streaming has its pros and cons but it seems like the companies who provide the services capitalize the most.
Currently the top streaming services are Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal. Most people have at least subscribed to one of these services. Streaming music makes it very convenient for users to listen to the music they want. To have a huge catalog of music available on your mobile device is better than carrying stacks of CDs that can get lost or scratched. Subscribing to a streaming service allows you to have millions of albums at your fingertips for a monthly fee, instead of paying $10-$13 per album.
Users also have to deal with some things that make their music streaming experience a little frustrating. Music streaming has become a competitive business. To retain and acquire new subscriptions, services provide exclusive releases only for their subscribers to enjoy. Artists can pick and choose where they would like their music to appear. Tidal, which is owned by Jay-Z, consistently releases exclusive music and live events only for their subscribers. Jay-Z has also taken away his The Blueprint and Reasonable Doubt albums from other streaming services. This is a ploy to become the top streaming service, but it also excludes a lot of fans who do not have or want to subscribe to that particular service and could possibly cripple an artist’s growth.
For artist, streaming can also be a good and bad situation. There have been many complaints from artists that streaming services do not pay enough for the right to play their music. Artists like Jennifer Hudson and Adam Levine (of Maroon 5) have worked together with the Grammy’s Creator Alliance to try to prevent streaming from becoming the new industry model which will make it difficult for artists to monetize their content. Taylor Swift refused to allow her 1989 album to be streamed and pushed, Apple Music specifically, to pay artists for the right to stream their music.
For artists who are not as established as Taylor Swift, streaming their music through these services can provide the exposure that they desperately look for. Making money off of their music is difficult for them anyway so increasing their fan base and marketability via streaming services is an ideal come up for independent and lesser known artists.
Whether you’re an artist or a user, it’s clear that the winners of music streaming are the major labels and the streaming services themselves. It was revealed that record labels make more money per year from streaming customers than from customers who buy downloads, and physical copies of music. This is the reason why many major record labels have no gripe with streaming their artists’ music. The streaming services themselves capitalize the most. With downloads and physical copies of music slowly becoming a thing of the past, streaming services and major record labels basically share ownership of majority of the music we listen to. It is a scary thing to think about that a few companies have control over the music we listen to. Music streaming can end up being the single worst thing to happen to the music industry, or it can be an easy alternative to listen to all the music you want. Only time can tell if streaming will ruin music as an art and business.