How streaming changed music

A brief look at how the rise of streaming has impacted the way we listen to music.

May 29, 2019 Parris Walters

A recent Reuters article last month revealed that the leading streaming service, Spotify, has attained 100 million paid subscribers after a successful first quarter. It is noted that there is prioritisation of growth over competition according to Spotify Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ek and perhaps this, alongside their recent dedication to expanding and launching in developing countries, can be just a few of the reasons behind their continuous success.

News such as this acts as a reminder that we are now living in a digital age and that listening to music is just not what it once. Platforms like Spotify, Tidal, SoundCloud and Apple Music have revolutionised the process of music consumption, allowing for artists and record labels to directly reach consumers and tailor their marketing to the fans.

But in what was have these platforms changed the way that we listen to music? Are our listening habits impacted? And what does this mean for particular genres that were previously overlooked and underepresented?

Digitalisation came with the eventual obsoletion of hard copies in music and a gradual shift away from radio as the sole source for new and upcoming music. Paired with the rise of social media, artists are now able to create a personality outside the confines of their label and independent artists the means to build a following that truly connects with their work.

Streaming services allow for the accumulation of income and support whilst an artist finds their feet and has changed the rules about who has what it takes to be successful in the music industries. Artists and pioneers of genres that would have been deemed too controversial or too ‘out there’ have found success through digital platforms and paved a way for the future musicians of today.

It is worth noting that the re-shifting of the music industry and our consumption habits is being led with urban genres setting the precedent. Hip Hop and R&B are now considered one of the leading genres in the U.S music industry and made up for over thirty per cent of the market last year. If we examine the current music scene in the UK, we can also identify how digitalisation and streaming have contributed to the emergence of the new genres and the popularisation of urban music. Particularly, if we look at the rise of grime and drill music, a sound that has struggled to find a secure place in the industry after concerns that it does not appeal to a wide audience and that it glamorises violence and perpetuates negative stereotypes.

But with the work of creative platforms like SBTV and Channel U/Channel AKA that paved the way for the likes of Mixtape Madness and many others, urban music has found a place within the industry with a solid fan base and has continued to grow and become synonymous with UK culture. New artists can be discovered through carefully curated playlists and promote their own work faster than before, building a rapport with their audience and allowing them to consume their art as they please, when they please. Streaming makes for a convenient catalogue of music where the new can converge with the old and where perhaps success may be more attainable for the everyday aspiring artist.