Spotify is changing electronic music and dance music in particular. Spotify doesn’t just eliminate the DJ as the conduit between artist and audience. Streaming music has cultivated a new breed of creators who seem to be totally in the dark about what a DJ does in the first place. As a result we have what’s almost a new format of music that broadly fits into the parameters of club music, but will almost certainly never be played in a club — or by any DJ at all.
I am not surprised that Spotify or TikTok are changing how music is made, why it is made, and how it is consumed. Streaming has shaped how we experience music, and as a result, it has lost some of that loving feeling. Medium is the message!
With just over 100,000 songs being uploaded every day, the totdaily, this number will soon balloonal number of songs on streaming services will continue to increase. The rise of generative AI will redefine music and creative an exponential boom in available musical content.
“The internet has the power to reach everybody, nearly instantly. But we’ve found out that there’s so much stuff that it’s hard to reach anybody.”
The elephant in the room is that with this many songs on tap, how much can we listen, how can we discover, and more importantly, do we even care about new music? Or do we retreat to what we know best?
October 21, 2022. San Francisco
It has been a few years since I was able to attend the Founder Camp, an annual celebration and gathering of founders backed by True Ventures. The global pandemic and travel restrictions made it impossible for us to host the event, but we found a way to gather outdoors and enjoy each other this year. While we call all work from remote corners of the world, there is no joy more than being in each other’s presence. IRL, rocks!
I didn’t do any work yesterday other than attending various conversations. The energy from the event kept me up late, and I spent a lot of time on my iPad, reading and catching up on my massive “read it later” list. In doing so, I found some interesting nuggets that caught my eye.
Spotify launched the Car Thing. It likely will try and hasten what insiders already know: radio listening is going down in the cars. New technologies, bigger screens, and transition to EVs mean that the “radio” won’t be at the center of the entertainment experience — our phones are.
Remember streaming was supposed to kill the music business? Quite the opposite is true, actually. In 2021, the global revenues were $25.9 billion, up by $4 billion over 2020, according to IFPI’s Global Music Report. Streaming accounted for 65.0% of recorded music revenues, up from a 61.9% share in 2020. Revenues from ad-funded streaming services (including video services) matched physical sales in 2021. There are 523 million paid subscribers.
Cord-cutting continues unabated. Pay-TV providers in the U.S. lost about 4.69 million net video subscribers in 2021 versus 4.87 million in 2020, and Comcast lost over 1.6 million in 2021.
AT&T has cut prices on its 5G and has launched a new value plan. Let me remind you that their 5G is pretty shit, and thus there isn’t much value in it. OpenSignal, a market research and analytics company points out that if you want 5G in the US, you have to go with T-Mobile USA.
Spotify continues its global dominance, adding 27 million net subscribers between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, more than any other single service. However, it lost two points of market share over the period because its percentage growth rate trailed that of its leading competitors.
Google was the fastest-growing music streaming service in 2020, growing by 60%, with Tencent second on 40%. Amazon continued its steady trajectory, up 27%, while Apple grew by just 12%.
Google’s YouTube Music has been the standout story of the music subscriber market for the last couple of years, resonating both in many emerging markets and with younger audiences across the globe. The early signs are that YouTube Music is becoming to Gen Z what Spotify was to Millennials half a decade ago.
Facebook might be the biggest social platform, but it is on the outs with Gen Z. I wonder if Spotify will find itself in the same place in a few years? Despite owning the iOS and Mac platforms, Apple Music is, at best, an average performer. It would be interesting to see how they eventually do in a few years. In case you are wondering, Others include Deezer, Pandora, Yandex, Netease, Tidal, Qobuz, and more.
What do Nils Frahm, Anne Mueller, Jeannie Schulz, Mary Lattimore and Atli Örvarsson have in common? They are among three dozen artists whose albums I bought last year from Bandcamp, an Oakland, CA-based music service. It was my way of supporting these artists. As I wrote earlier, “we need to figure out how much we value the music and the musicians,” so that “we can use our dollars to encourage them to keep creating.”
And I am not alone. 800,000 customers spent $48.3 million on what Bandcamp calls Bandcamp Fridays — every first Friday of the month, Bandcamp forgoes the 15 percent cut of the digital sales (and 10 percent cut of the physical sales.) All money goes to the artists. Bandcamp Fridays started as a one-off feature on March 20, 2020, it has become a regular feature. In a year since the company has sent $148 million to the artists.
Their success is finally getting the attention it deserves. It has taken almost a year for the media to notice Bandcamp’s progress. There is a fantastic article in Billboard, and of course, much better is an NPR conversation with the co-founder and CEO of the company, my dear friend, Ethan Diamond. Shawn Grunberger is the co-founder and chief technology officer.
Bandcamp is the antithesis of streaming. The company’s value metric is based on helping smaller and independent artists create a way forward for themselves. In comparison, someone like Spotify’s north star metric is time spent on the platform. I am not saying Spotify (or any other streaming platform) isn’t essential — their clever use of machine learning and algorithmic discovery, access to music across devices, and all platforms make them worth using.
The reality is that we are all addicted to convenience — and streaming platforms make it damn convenient for us to not think about the artists and how they manage to survive. As streaming becomes more pervasive, the sad reality is that every track, every artist, every album is reduced to just data, served up by the algorithm. It only continues to devalue our emotional relationship with the creators.
For now, the least we can do is fight the good fight and support what you value — by buying music. It is way better than sending tips to artists via PayPal, as Spotify suggests as a way of support. That, to me, feels like digital panhandling, but that’s just me. Even if you listen to it on other platforms, buying music is a better way of expressing your fandom.
Did you know that Nils Frahm has a new album, Graz? It is worth buying.
Disclosure: * Bandcamp is backed by True Ventures, where I am a partner.
Letter from Om
A (nearly) bi-weekly dispatch about tech & future.
You will get my reporting, analysis, conversations, and curation of the essential information you need to make sense of the present future.