Why I believe in Music Streaming

man-headphones

Music streaming services like Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music have changed not only the way we listen to music, but also begun to alter the whole business model itself. The big question may be for the better or the worse? The answer on that question may depend – as usual – on who you ask. It goes without saying that there are still some shortcomings in the business, but I think the shift comes with winning advantages for everybody. Especially for artists and their audience.

Making my Change as Listener

First of all, I have to admit having had some difficulties in leaving the good old ways of buying and owning music in the beginning. I never bought a MP3-file at iTunes or any other music store of that kind. Too much nostalgia did I attach to owning a physical vinyl or CD. Not the mere possession of the music was important to me. But the haptic quality of a whole product delivered with artful and well manufactured covers, booklets and sound carriers. Sometimes, I decided to play an album just because I spotted a CD in my shelve. Only because it reminded me of some episode of my live as soon as I grabbed it. Immaterial memories and feelings connected with tunes. That is why I kept all of my CDs in spite of hardly using them at all anymore for playing the sounds of my life. That service is doing Spotify for me now. I chose the premium account for the same reason I do only rarely listen to public radio – If I want to have music around, I want to be in control of the songs played. And I do not want any bothering ads interrupting my session.

Even though I sticked to my CDs, I soon recognized the convenience of digital music in general. All my songs got converted to MP3-files and organized in a way my CD-rack would not allow me to. Tagging the songs with genre or mood classifications, ratings and additional information helped me to structure the mass. Finally, I created playlists to quickly have the right tunes for the right use cases at hand. All this was fun but also a lot of work, especially with each new album to be added to the collection or new playlist to be created. Every once in a while, I had to sit down updating this rather static system of limited scope. You probably see where this argument is leading to.

With Spotify, not only the new portability is something I really enjoy. It is the smart way music is recommended to me, which I did not know before. Just by analyzing my behavior when listending to my long beloved favorites. The algorithms may still be in its infancy today, but I feel where the train is pulling to. Beyond static playlists, the service will become an ever more better way to know what I want, what I like, what I need even before I do. Some day I will only say how I feel and get the music that fits my mood best. Or even the app knows itself what to play, when I leave office late in the evening after a much too long working day without real lunchbreak.

The Market View

The market for music streaming is highly competitive these days with more and more players emerging and trying to get a foothold. After the big malaise of music piracy especially in the 2000s and early 2010s, it provides the industry with an opportunity to get their feet on the ground again. It makes music much more affordable while being easy and moraly accessible for many people. However, a lot of critique is to be heard as well. The most common one I often hear is that actually nobody earns decent money on that business. Neither the service provider nor the artists. Many calculations are to be found that try to make plain how little especially artists earn on the pay per play basis. Much less than selling their albums on CD or at iTunes. Information is beautiful provides a great infographic on that. The heated and polarized debate on the profitability of music streaming for artists is totally understandable. It has become a big business with obious winners as top earnings show. And still, even though earning a living from streaming services as artist is hardly possible for the majority of them regarding the needed audience today, such claims miss some crucial points that outweigh all the cant in my eyes and open a solid perspective on the horizon.

Artists are payed for good work – not good marketing (alone). Everybody knows that – buying an album because of one or two great songs on the radio and then discovering the weakness of the remainder. Or you bought it only due to the thinking that after three good LPs the fourth one must be a winner as well. At least the record label told you so. A lot of stuff is sold just due to its billboard chart position or the promotion on the radio, tv shows and so on. Big labels have for sure their ways to exert influence on that system. But that is changing at the hands of the audience now. Longtime artist-development becomes the key for success and not the make-and-break decisions of the record labels. However, I agree that artists are brands that need to be promoted. But with music streaming, they will only succeed if the quality of their work holds up the promises made before. Otherwise, people won’t play their songs again and move on.

More effective distribution via recommendations. This argument is directly related to the former. If people like your music, they will either share it directly to their friends via the streaming app or social networks. Even to see what my friends are listening to, is raising my attention on artists I did not hear of before. Additionally, the services with their smart ways of recommending their customers new music they might like, have a huge impact on the spread of music to new audiences. All this does not need an effort by the artist or producer but raises their earnings. Even to get on the right playlist, can make a huge difference as proven with Perrin Lambs success on Spotify

Scalable earnings per play instead of single-sellings. The most calculations made on the profitability of music streaming for artists compare the selling of a CD or digital album at iTunes with the playing on a streaming service. What is left out of many arguments is the point, that you can sell the CD only once. It is a fixed price per customer. Streaming is like getting some money for every time somebody puts the disc in the player. Maybe it is true, that you need to play it a thousand times at Spotify to equal the price of the CD today. But I am convinced that will change when the market gets ever more settled and the number of paying listeners rises. The latter are not only personal subscribers as growing partner programs have to be taken into account as well. Finally, I think the general business model of streaming music is good. What needs to be adjusted is the fair sharing of the revenues between all involved parties. As long as record labels keep their hands on it strongly, many artists will not get a fair deal on the streaming revenues.

Easier market entry for artists. It may sound like a myth, but I am sure it holds some truth. Streaming services ease the way to market and to the audience for new talents in the same way as MySpace and YouTube have already prooven. Artists will still need the support of the music labels to get a really big share. But it gets easier without the need of the production and distribution of physical sound carriers or the dependancy on the promotion by the radio djs. Provided that the algorithms of the streaming services are fair and not biased towards or against particular artists.

Avoidance of physical waste. Last but not least, a huge pile of waste is prevented to come into existence in the first place. How much bad CDs are still to be found on stores that nobody wants to buy? Even the ones that got sold, have a ecological impact that is really questionable. Both the production as well as the dumping of them costs a lot of energy and resources.

 

In demand of a new hope

star-wars-the-force-awakens-battleship

Welcome 2016

There it is – another year. It will provide us with new experiences, unknown adventures and challenges to meet. But it also comes along with many old habits, sustaining hopes and fears. For years I have been trying to avoid to make any new year’s resolutions. Not because I raised a white flag to my own weaknesses, but because I think as soon as I discover things that need to be changed in my life, I shall tackle them on right away. I believe in sustainable progress in my life as long as I don’t lack the strenght, willpower and hope to do so. Never despair, never give up – life is what you make it. In the same way, I see the fate and destiny of mankind. We are neither heading for doom nor inevitable paradise. But my conviction has been shaken – by a movie.

A movie to end all hope?

My worldview is constituted by both my head and my heart. Shaped by experiences I made, people I met and stories I was told. Now the power of one of the latter was shaken. The other day over the christmas season, I went to the cinema to see the latest Star Wars movie “The Force Awakens”. Though I’ve been a huge fan of the Star Wars universe since I encountered it first as a little boy, it was my first time to experience it on the big screen. I had hardly any specific expectations towards the sequel and managed to step aside of any spoilers in advance. So I just tried to enjoy it, curious of how the great saga may continue. Generally, it was good entertainment with all its state-of-the-art visual fancywork and hence quite worth the while. However, the movie left me deeply saddened and my idealism devastated, which spurred a lot of thinking on my mind in the aftermath.

This is not meant to be a movie critic at all. Even though there are many strong points to make about this retro-copy thing of a movie, which for sure turns out as the weakest on in the series. At least as far as the plot is concerned. Moreover, what Disney and J.J. Abrams did was just to kill something really powerful. In a time, which proves day by day how horrible life and the human species can often be, the movie left my hope for overcoming hatred and evil in the world shattered. The struggle against the very empire had been long and painful. It was the ultimate fight of good vs. evil with the good beating the odds for more than one time.

All is lost

Only short after the “final” victory, nothing seems to be left of that. Evil is back and stronger than ever. The fight has to start – time and again. And the good ones are on the downside once again. Nothing’s changed, nothing’s improved. Heroes just got old – if not worse. Will they be victorious again after the ninth movie? Most probably, but for how long? All that reminded me of what has happened in our world. The first three Star Wars movies (IV-VI) had been produced towards the end of a century, which proved more than any era before that there is an abyss within the human soul. The horrors of the 20th century demanded a new hope. Until 9/11, many of us might have thought or at least wished that overcoming evil for good could become reality. After the ending of the Cold War, there was so much hope to finally establish a peaceful regime in this world that would reach every single spot and every man. An end to all wars, the overcoming of hunger and poverty and the liberation of thought. No matter how foolish that may seem today. The end of history seemed within reach. But the bubble burst.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame © 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ph: Film Frame
© 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.

 

Unfortunately, this thinking proved wrong as all the wars, terror and injustice of the past decades have made crystal clear. And now even the Star Wars saga, this very example of hope, deceased to be nothing more than just a movie anymore. The new episode creates a cynical feeling of despair. No matter how hard you fight, evil will return to you and next time, it gets even harder to fight. Ultimately, history repeats itself and progress is nothing more than an illusion. No lessons learned, no improvements made. Sooner or later, we are all just doomed.

Stubbornly hopeful

Maybe that is what Hollywood has made out of it. But after chewing it over for a while, I came to the conclusion not to care for this Disney dystopia. If I did, I would make the same mistakes and give way for despair. But even though Obama did not turn out to become the new messiah to save the world, wars and hatred rage across the globe, I believe that change is possible. But it demands on thing more than anything else in the first place. Hope and will in each one of us. The more of us keep the faith and the confidence, the more likely will it come true. I don’t willing to give in and no movie will change that.

Have a great 2016 everybody!

Rollout of just another blog!

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So here we go. Another blog, another source of subjective, personal and self-righteous opinion broadcasting on the web. But don’t panic! I don’t just intend to inflict my worldview on you. Maybe it’s more kind of self-therapy and autosuggestive self-reassurement. Either way, I welcome everybody who comes across this site and shares his thinking with me, frets at my ideas or just follows in addiction. All joking apart – if you like to get an idea of what I want to talk about, go on reading on the About and Mission pages.

Cheers,

DonQ