Is Your Music Getting Lost In The Sauce Of Streaming Music?
One day I spent hours skimming through music on Spotify. A good song led to another one and soon enough I forgot all about the first good song, the first 5 good songs. At first it seemed as if I was “doing the research”, finding music to share, enjoying good music; all that good stuff. Then it hit me: I was completely lost in the sauce of streaming music, as a listener. Once I considered the nature of how broad a listener’s access to music is due to streaming services, I began to wonder the impact of it on those who share their music through these services. More specifically, the impact on the truly independent ones.
While a complete history lesson is needed to accurately explain the full impact of streaming music on the creators of music, we can take the short route today. The fact is truly independent, self-funding musicians often end up adding to multiple huge corporations’ bottom line for the idea of accessibility and illusion of exposure. Of course this does not apply in all cases without exception but, we will get to that as well. Consider what works best for you and your product, the streamlined process may not be benefitting you at all.
The Bottom Line
The course of action for nearly anyone who plans to release music includes scheduling the product to become available on an array of streaming services the moment it releases. In theory this is perfect because the music is instantly available to anyone who wants to listen, come all ye’ supporters! In reality the process for doing this involves a couple middle men and of course, a few payments. As a truly independent entity, there is no option to go directly to streaming services with a product. I won’t go into too much detail here because honestly this is not intended to put anyone on trial. To offer a bit of perspective, how many third-party companies are funded by truly independent musicians paying to have their product submitted to streaming services? That is one bottom line. Another is taking a good look at the way streaming services generate their ridiculous amount of revenue. Subscribers. The most efficient way to breakdown the impact of that is that now listeners are supporters of streaming services, not musicians. Streaming services are able to provide endless amounts of music to their supporters, collect their monthly payment and offer the creators of the music fractions of a penny. And hey, saying Chance the Rapper is signed to Apple Music is only funny if we completely disregard that anyone whose music is available through streaming services is effectively “signed” to them, without their face on the explore page or even being compensated fairly.
The Idea of Accessibility
As idealistic as I tend to be, streaming music felt like the activator for a good music world takeover! Anybody can access nearly any song they would like at any time thanks to streaming services. This level of accessibility sounds like the perfect solution for expanding visibility, especially for the independent creators looking to grow their career in music. So the course of action includes getting your music on streaming services then sending the link into the world for the masses to enjoy. Everyone loves you and your music so they open their preferred streaming service and listen to your latest offering. Sometimes those who appreciate what they hear may share that link with their associates. The music is widely accessible to anyone subscribed to a streaming outlet. Speaking directly to truly independent artists who aren’t capable of allocating thousands upon thousands of dollars to a “marketing” budget, the streaming service is not likely to ever recommend your music to any of those persons ever again. Even more than that, the streaming service is absolutely not going to recommend your music to those listening to Drake or Chris Brown. Now yes, your music is widely accessible and there is a possibility of increasing your listeners. In actuality, creators are becoming invisible through these huge streaming services rather than accessible. Remember I said I came across a ton of good music but soon forgot about the first good song I heard?
The Illusion of Exposure
Just like media outlets offer talented writers exposure in exchange for their work, streaming music is essentially offering the same for independent artist’s music. Bring your product here and we will make sure all of our supporters see it! This relates back to the idea of accessibility so just go re-read the previous paragraph. The tiny bit of exposure that streaming services offer may not be worth the amount of product you are giving away.
As I said before, a full history of music, record labels and ownership is necessary to take this discussion to where it should be. In the interest of time, I just hit a few sweet spots. If you are a truly independent artist who is positioned in a place with an active listener base, able to move physical copies of your product and/or sell tickets to shows then streaming music may indeed be a beneficial aspect of your promotion. If the only benefit streaming services offer you as a creator are fractions of a penny and easy access, maybe another approach is worth considering. There are alternative avenues for making your product accessible that don’t require all the middle men. Another thing to think about is what is being prioritized. If easy access is a priority, your product is limited to what is easily accessible. While listeners may have access to your product, they have no need to actually purchase, own or physically partake in anything you have created. A monthly payment to a streaming service effectively replaces anyone’s need to buy an album or even visit your website; supporters are supporting Apple Music, not so much the musicians or the music.
I am in no place to tell anyone what to do with their product but consider who is benefitting in the long run. Once we calculate the sheer amount of the time, passion and energy that goes into creation along with the financial burden of being truly independent, giving any product away for free to someone lining their pockets seems a bit counterproductive. Especially if they position your product alongside an ocean of other products to be forgotten. Don’t get lost in the sauce.