Does music and video streaming seem like second nature to you? Can you believe Spotify is nine years old? And Netflix has been streaming video for ten years. Today, streaming is the main platform for people buying music. People used to queue up for hours outside record stores to buy a newly released album, albums could even sell out.
Now you don’t even need to leave your house to access the latest music. What does this mean for musicians?
In the very early days of streaming, meaningful income for artists from streaming was a long way away. The average cost of less than a penny per on demand stream doesn’t sound like much but it adds ups for artists getting 1 billion hits. Likewise, comedians such as Adam Sandler and Chris Rock receive 8 figure cheques from Netflix. Streaming of audio increased 61% for the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2016.
One artist who has been making money from streaming is The Weeknd. His model was to create a product that people wanted to listen to and then turn it to making money when the time was right. The Weeknd started distributing his music in 2010 on YouTube, his fan base started there and instead of having to find a record label who would take him on as in the past, the record labels had to fight for him. Chance the Rapper is another artist who has distributed his music cheaply through streaming and is making money playing at festivals and in arenas. It is a business model that works across other industries, for example, Candy Crush: distribute freely to everyone, then take revenue from the real hard core fans.
Artificial Intelligence plays a large part in Spotify’s dominance of the market. Their feature, Discover Weekly, uses AI to find people with similar playlists to yourself by looking at 2 billion playlists. Spotify can then recommend songs to you that other users listen to, with comparable tastes to yours. They will also base your profile on music you skip, music you browse and can now recommend new releases based on the music you listen to.
Although, Spotify may be dominant in the market today, Amazon have just introduced Amazon Music Unlimited with various prices depending on whether you have Amazon Echo or Prime. So if you have Amazon Echo, with your voice, you’ll be able to request music similar to the music you’re listening to. Although, Amazon Music is relatively new to the market they will be forcing Spotify and smaller rivals such as Pandora to find new ways to attract customers.
Digital sales have overtaken physical sales so where does this leave the traditional labels such as Sony and Warner? The streaming companies have vast amounts of listeners’ data through AI and as Spotify has 100 million users they are not short of consumers, so perhaps the labels need to work with the streaming companies, indeed Spotify and Universal have just signed an agreement, although collaboration is not without its problems.
Apple Music and Spotify have both just announced that they are to start streaming video content, such as documentaries or short films on artists.
Just as in fashion, music and how we listen to it and perhaps watch it, is constantly changing, so watch this space!