The term “revolutionized” is thrown around loosely these days: trends in every industry are triggering a marketing hype parade. However, there are times when revolutionary is truly the only adjective that works, because there is an undeniably profound line that separates the before and after. In the history of the music industry, we have seen this dichotomy with the invention of things like the phonograph, radio, television, tapes, CDs and web. And now, we are witnessing it again with the transformative — and indeed, legitimately revolutionary — impact of streaming services.
Technology & Streaming Services
“When streaming services first arrived on the scene, they were seen by many music industry players as a major threat,” commented internationally-acclaimed music industry executive Lindsay Guion, the Founder, CEO and Global Chairman of GUION PARTNERS, and who has worked Grammy® award-winning artists, songwriters and producers. “However, the biggest threat of all was and remains piracy, which costs the industry billions and snuffs out careers before they have a chance to ignite. According to a report [PDF] from the Digital Media Association, music piracy has plunged more than 50 percent since 2018 — and streaming services are a major reason why. At the same time, subscription revenues for record labels and revenues to publishers are also on the rise. In this sense, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that streaming services have revived the music industry, rather than send it to the morgue.”
Of course, it’s not just record labels and publishers who are riding the streaming services wave. Lesser known artists no longer have to pray that they get spotted by a 200-ton A&R whale or music industry mogul like GUION PARTNERS’ Lindsay Guion. Now, they can create music and make it available to millions — if not billions — of potential fans and followers.
“Artists like Drake and Justin Bieber may seem to have absolutely nothing in common. However, they were both discovered through streaming services; Drake was a MySpace star, and Bieber was discovered on YouTube,” commented GUION PARTNERS’ Lindsay Guion. “And they have something else in common, too: they are among the top 10 most streamed artists of all time on Spotify, joining the likes of Ed Sheeran, Eminem, Rhianna, Kanye West, Coldplay, The Weekend, Calvin Harris, and Ariana Grande. While many of these artists — like Coldplay and Eminem — had a huge following in the pre-streaming era, it’s unarguable that their continued popularity and exposure to a new generation of music lovers is rooted in the proliferation of streaming services. And let’s not forget Chance the Rapper, who became the first — but certainly won’t be the last — streaming-only artist to win a Grammy®.”
Challenges, Concerns, & Difficulties
With all this being said, there are some challenges and concerns, too. For example, streaming services like Spotify and Soundcloud have put brick-and-mortar music stores on the engendered species list (although vinyl shops are making a bit of a comeback). Furthermore, playlists are replacing albums, which generates more exposure to new and different artists, but means that transformative concept albums that shaped the music industry — Jay Z’s American Gangster album from 2007 and De La Soul’s seminal De La Soul is Dead from 1991 spring to mind — might be a thing of the past.
“Like all disruptive technologies, there are implications and consequences that are positive, negative, both, and to be determined,” commented GUION PARTNERS’ Lindsay Guion. “However, this much is abundantly clear: streaming services in one form or another are here to stay. And while there will likely always be an element of love-hate associated with them, my sense is that in the years and decades to come, there will be much more love, and far less hate.”