These days, I can’t honestly keep up with the amount of online music streaming services that are being churned out. It’s definitely been a game changer in terms of making music more accessible. Rather than finding alternative sources to download music for free, more and more individuals are using these streaming services to listen to both new and old material from their favourite artists for free (more or less). This is all well and good, but who benefits the most from these services? The artist or the listener?
If you didn’t know, these streaming services actually do make money for the artist. Without getting into too much detail, agreements are negotiated with major record labels to determine a streaming fee, but this in itself is a big problem. The key here is major record labels; these guys are large stakeholders in most of the online streaming services that we see today. For example, Spotify does not pay the same per play to indie rights holders as it does to major labels. Their deals are done in confidentiality. This makes sense, right? For these indie rights holders, these services aid them greatly in increasing their exposure. In turn it’s great for listeners to discover new bands by viewing someone else’s playlist or just by chance. I don’t know about you, but If I find a new song or a band that I fall in love, I’ll make sure to support them by buying their material and not continually use a ‘free’ streaming service to listen to them. If you love something, you’ll do everything possible to keep it alive.
Who are the losers in the online streaming game? Well, I would say it’s the music heavyweights. People like Coldplay and The Black Keys ultimately chose to withhold their recent releases from Spotify. Let’s face it, a band or an artist would much prefer the money in one lump, not in very small chunks over many years. Bigger bands on major record labels no longer need the exposure as they’re a well established player in the music industry. Placing their music on an online streaming service will indeed reduce the amount of CD or vinyl sales, which make a whole lot more than the cut they get from their own labels for streaming of their songs online.
At this point I would like to separate SoundCloud as a separate online music streaming entity. It has a different role for me in that a lot of artists use it to promote new music before its official release. In this particular instance it benefits both the artist and listener as it creates a wall of excitement (if it’s good enough) for the release of the song because it’s unavailable to stream anywhere else (unless you decide to rip it off SoundCloud). Listeners want to get a copy in their hands (or computers) and artists have an avenue to promote their new music.
Either way, the introduction of online music streaming has changed the way we listen and share music with each other. I for one am glad to live in such an age where we have an opportunity to access an abundance of new and old music at the click of a mouse.