Internet is still changing many different aspects of our lives. Websites, blogs, interactive and responsive web archives, download services, cloud services, streaming services… All of these things have also a certain influence on the music industry. Music, as well as other different areas of art - fashion, design, painting etc. - has become more democratic. Everyone is able to publish their creation on the Internet and gain the audience. Streaming service providers are more open than radio stations and YouTube generates the biggest traffic since it was created. Let’s see how exactly it changes Music Industry if it’s has a good or bad impact and if someone can gain from it.
Singles vs. albums The truth is that in modern industry nobody cares about releasing albums as they take much time and cost lots of money, so only people signed to labels can afford it. Everyone is fighting and looking for a hit among singles.
Streaming services allow us to listen to songs without buying the album and most of them offer playlists containing just the most popular songs of the month. Less and fewer people decide to investigate who exactly is the person behind the track. Majority of people just listen to the playlists as they can be sure that this music will be of good quality and will bring them joy. Some people say that this creates opportunities for independent artists but the truth is that it rarely makes someone random very popular. Of course, there are exceptions… like “Despacito” for example.
The problem “to LP or not to LP” is serious enough to worry the biggest artists. Justin Timberlake and his team had a difficult time deciding if releasing 20/20 should be done by singles or by the whole album.
Money, money The other way to think about streaming services is to think about possible income for independent artists that release their music on YouTube or Spotify. Spotify has a very strict algorithm counting the plays and calculating the money. It sums up the exact number of plays for the whole network, then it checks the amount of money gained from Premium subscriptions and ads.
The second number is divided by the first number (money/plays) and then it gives an artist the percentage of his/her contribution to the plays number. It also depends on if you are a signed or unsigned artist.
Independent or Signed There is a strong movement present among unsigned artists to stay independent and do everything on their own. I do not think I support the whole movement generally but I think the modern music business is much more democratic and everyone can contribute.
One of my favourite independent artists (in terms of his attitude, not exactly music) is Manafest. He used to be signed up for a label but then he decided to quit and now he hires an agent and manages his career on his own.
On the other hand, for an inexperienced artist, it might seem overwhelming to manage all the aspects of the career. Both of the approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Conclusions Some people say that the times of big labels have ended. Some people say that the whole business has changed and it is ruled by democracy – it is the audience that chooses the winners. Many artists see their chance to gain listeners by releasing their albums on different platforms and being active in social media. That is true at some point. When we look at the statistics, it is still the biggest, signed artists that have their own biggest share in the income. Labels have found their own ways to maintain the biggest stream of money. I agree that the business is becoming more democratic but at the same time it is becoming slightly overcrowded and being “the one” is being less and less approachable. Everyone can release music nowadays.
The truth is that the world is changing very quickly. Either we are signed or independent, we have to adapt to those changes instantly to stay focused and on the top. It involves the newest techniques of recording, the newest platforms and new ways of promotion. It is scary and sometimes overwhelming but at the same time rather intriguing and exciting.