More and more people are using streaming platforms to get their music fix. Here are three ways the rise in streaming has changed how singers do business.
A decade ago the music industry’s business model was in tatters, with revenues nosediving and anxious record labels hitting the panic button.
But new figures reveal a much rosier picture, thanks largely to the growing popularity of music streaming.
In the US, revenues rose last year by 12% to $9.8 billion (figures: Recording Industry Association of America). Three quarters of this revenue came from music streaming, a rise of 30%.
In the UK, revenues rose by 38% in 2018 to £829 million, with paid-for subscriptions with sites such as Spotify and Deezer accounting for 62%.
Does all this affect what singers do? A good song is still a good song, right? Well, yes, great songwriting and brilliant vocals will always shine through, but streaming has influenced how artists present and market their work, and how they get paid.
Artists are more likely to be paid little but often
One almighty legal battle is currently being waged in the US over how much artists and music publishers are paid by streaming services. Regardless of the outcome of this dispute one fact remains: streaming means artists are more likely to get paid smaller amounts on a regular basis, rather than receiving a large, post-album boost.
A few decades ago, an artist would work for months or years on an album. The first few weeks after its release were crucial: if it was a huge hit, it was pay day, big time. This peak was often lucrative, but short-lived.
With streaming, an artist whose music finds a place in fans’ hearts or on a popular playlist, can enjoy small hits of revenue over a much longer period of time. To achieve this, regular, sustained audience engagement is crucial. This is why many artists are releasing singles and EPs, rather than holding it back for a big album release.
Tip: Get yourself on influential playlists – these days it’s akin to securing radio play on a national broadcaster.
If you haven’t already, sign up to Spotify Artists and get your profile verified.
Work to build the number of Spotify followers you have by sharing your music on social media and ask your fans to follow you on Spotify. This will make a good impression with playlist curators.
Artists are now releasing several versions of the one song to get playlisted
In days of old (we are showing our age here) a pop artist would at most release two versions of a song: the standard pop track and perhaps a dance version too.
These days it’s not uncommon for singers to release several different versions of the same song in order to make it on to popular playlists such as New Music Friday (pop centric), Evening Acoustic or Mellow Morning.
Ed Sheeran released at least eight different versions of Shape of You:a Latin version, four dance mixes, an acoustic version and one featuring Stormzy rapping. No wonder it was one of the most streamed songs on Spotify in 2017.
Tip: Release different versions of your track to target specific playlists. Do your research to identify popular playlists where you think your music could work.
Submit your music for playlist consideration prior to release. Do it at least seven days before your release date, but the earlier the better. You can’t submit released music for playlist submission, although it is possible for a song that has been released to feature on a playlist. This type of selection tends to rely on algorithms and listening data.
Borders are far less important in the streaming age
The era of conquering one specific marketplace seems to be coming to an end as music audiences are now truly global. Take Ariana Grande’s recent record-breaking chart success with Thank U Next. Her biggest streaming audiences weren’t in one country, but rather in London, Mexico City and Los Angeles.
Tip: If you make it on to a playlist, make sure you promote it on social media as your fans could come from all four corners of the globe.
But before you get too comfortable…
Industry insiders are already gearing up for the next trend: the demise of text-led searches. Typing the name of your favourite band into a streaming site may soon be old hat. In the near future (if you’re not doing it already) you’re likely to be using voice commands to get your smart speaker device to play the music you want to listen to.