The CD is dead, long live the Stream

05/01/2016

The music streaming market is crowded. A statement that will come as no revelation I’m sure. But what does this mean for ‘us’ (the consumers of music); what does this mean for the music industry in general; and what does this mean from a media & advertising perspective.

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Throughout its short existence, music streaming has long been dominated by Spotify, but within the last year or so the industry has experienced an influx of competition. Alongside Spotify, music listeners now have Pandora, Apple Music, Line Music, Rhapsody, Rdio, MOG, Grooveshark, Slacker, SoundCloud, Google Play, Deezer, Blinbox Music, Beats Music, Tidal and Amazon Prime to choose from – and that’s just listing a few. For those of us looking to have our music as quickly, as hassle free, and as cheaply as possible, the time has never been better. Take your pick from one of the many streaming sites, subscribe, pay your monthly fee/track fee and there you have it - access to literally millions of tracks at the touch of a button. But what are the consequences of our Verruca Salt-like ‘I want it now!’ attitude to music?

Well, this isn’t an easy question to answer. From the everyday person’s perspective I would suggest that the fact our music is cheaper and more obtainable than ever before is a very good thing. But, by the same token, one could argue that streaming has contributed to a general demise of ‘music’. The pressure to produce an infinite number of ‘tunes’ and at a ridiculous rate seems to have assisted in bringing about the rapid digitisation of music – to the point where the majority of young people turn their nose up at anything other than the monotonous beat, which can be produced on any Apple Mac, found in any middle class teenager’s bedroom. Whether that is a positive will depend on your personal taste in music, but I fear that this could lead to live music becoming a thing of the past, and that the depreciation of what I deem ‘real music’ (actual instruments being played and the human voice being audible over computerised vibration) will continue.

From the media industry’s perspective, music streaming platforms offer a great medium to advertise with an engaged audience. A platform to target specific consumer’s, or en masse with access to millions of people from all over the world. The main drawback for an advertiser however, is when the user chooses to pay to avoid advertisements – a challenge that the advertising industry will seemingly be unable to overcome. Over 500m tracks are streamed per week in the UK alone, which assures us that music streaming is big business, and now that the Artists are getting involved with ownership of streaming sites it is probably set to grow. In July 2015, the Official Charts Company released figures which reflect the fall in traditional methods of music listening and the impressive growth of streaming. The figures speak for themselves.

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(Official Charts Company, 2015)   

  

In summary, music streaming has the potential to challenge even the most well-established media channels; allowing the musicians to get their music to the people, providing another consumer touch-point to advertisers, and allowing us, the music listeners, to have our music – everyone’s a winner. Unless you’re a CD manufacturer - then you might be in trouble.

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