How Music Streaming Services Changed The Music Industry Forever

And How It May Be A Great Fucking Thing, Or Not

The music industry has been around for more than a century. That’s a hundred years or more.

Clearly a survivor.

And that’s because the music business is adept at evolving and embracing new technology.

The music industry can trace its origins back to the late 19th century, when a number of new technologies converged to create a mass market for recorded music. Among the most important of these were the invention of the phonograph and the development of radio broadcasting. The first commercial radio stations began broadcasting in the 1920s, and by the end of the decade, they were playing a mix of music from different genres, including pop, jazz, and country. The introduction of the gramophone in the 1890s had made it possible to record and distribute music on a large scale, and radio provided a new way to reach a mass audience. These developments helped to create a thriving market for recorded music, which in turn spurred the growth of the music industry. In the years that followed, a number of other technological innovations would further shape the development of the industry, including the advent of stereo sound, cassette tapes, CDs, and the digital streaming of today. Now, the music industry is a global enterprise, with billions of dollars in annual revenues. It is also one of the most dynamic and ever-changing industries in the world, as musical trends come and go and new technologies emerge.

Streaming services have introduced radical transformation over a short period of time. It’s a change that artists and creators are struggling to make work financially.

For listeners, there’s no doubt that the record companies and artists are more accessible than ever before in history, and if the industry isn’t winning from streaming? The consumer certainly is.

Let’s take a look at how the music industry has changed as a result of streaming for good and for ill.


Songs Have Become Simpler

There are now a huge number of data analytics packages for musicians and their management.

We’ve taken an in-depth look at how music analytics has changed music too but one of the biggest impacts is on the structure of the music itself.

The music industry is a business first and foremost.

And that business wants the cheapest, easiest music to make that turns their artists into revenue streams.

Thus, songs have become simpler as the data says that simple music is catchy and efficient.

Artists can create these songs faster than ever before and that’s important in today’s ever-changing market.


Social Media Is A Breeding Ground For Confessional-Style Tunes

We weren’t huge fans of Donda but Kanya West’s Ye is full of tunes that sort of try to emulate the sort of free-form expression you find on Instagram.

There’s almost no structure to parts of I Thought About Killing You, for example, the music sounds like Kanye’s just spilling his thoughts onto the track.

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This style of music emerged when artists moved to the cloud.


Songs Are Shrinking Due To The Pay Per Stream Model

Streaming music sucks for an artist’s revenue. In fact, the only thing worse is file sharing where they don’t get paid at all.

Services like Spotify and Apple Music pay pathetic sums per stream and a massive artist like Lil Uzi Vert gets half a cent, each time somebody listens to a song like “XO Tour Llif3” on Spotify!

And as they get paid per song streamed there’s no incentive to write longer songs.

Lil Pump, for example, barely has any songs longer than 2 minutes and 30 seconds for this reason.


Albums Are Written For Playlists

When your music library consisted of LPs and CDs, then you listened to new music in the same way, each time, from start to finish.

But when you can create your own Spotify playlist of a new record? Then there’s no incentive to build albums for this structure anymore.

As such, it’s become common to stuff albums with remixes, instrumental versions, and even silence. The listener can create their own listening experience.

If you pay Spotify a few bucks a month, the artist won’t make a fortune on an album anyway, it just makes sense to give users what they want and shrug off the constraints of the traditional album, and focus on the number of users you can attract on each of the platforms your tunes appear on.


Artists Are Free To Experiment More

In the “bad old days,” an artist would be told by the record companies which genre they would serve and their fans would come from that genre.

On a digital service? That rule book is dead.

Internet music is far more experimental. An artist can combine as many genres as they like, particularly as they churn out so many songs that any misfires are quickly forgotten in the volume of their creations.

Labels are no longer as strict because record sales are nowhere near as important in an Internet world.

They want to sell merch, tour tickets, etc. instead.


Collaboration Has Become A Big Deal

When you need to be a volume producer of music to stay on top of a platform?

The easiest way to do it is to collaborate with other artists.

Collaborations used to be relative rarities but Invasion of Privacy by Cardi B has 104 co-writing credits!

The single Be Careful has 17 contributors by itself!


A Song With A Video Is A Soundtrack

This is nothing new, of course, many classic acts built amazing videos in the days of MTV but what is new is the volume of acts doing this today.

It’s all about YouTube, of course, where the streamer needs you to provide visuals to go with the sounds. And because of the huge number of hours spent on that platform bands have to make these soundtrack-style videos.


Final Notes

Not every service that offers streaming is a good deal for artists or labels but there’s no doubt that the industry has changed and for consumers, much of it is for the better, due to streaming.

While online sales may never reach the levels of physical media, access via streaming is still preferable to tunes stolen via Napster for the bands and companies that support them.

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