I’ve read several articles lately about how downloads (album purchases) are fading. In fact, Digital Music News recently stated there’s over a 20% drop in downloads for 2016. This has been the trend for the past few years. It seems streaming music is, or has taken over the music industry. One thing is for sure, the only constant is change. I just haven’t figured out if this change is good or bad.
Cassettes to CD’s to Digital Albums to Streaming
I’m showing my age here (41 at the time), but I’m recalling the excitement of buying tapes. I guess we didn’t realize the pain points back then with getting the tape stuck in the cassette player from time to time. And if you’re around my age or older you recall having to reel the tape back in with a pencil. Vinyl was still fairly big back then but I never had any vinyl records.
Compact Discs (CDs) seemed revolutionary. The sound quality was just astounding and seemed light years away from cassettes. Not to mention you no longer had to fast forward or rewind. Your favorite track was only a click or so away. In fact, I was making demos on both cassettes and CDs back in the early and mid 90s.
CDs held on for a while when digital music was introduced to the music industry. Of course year after year they slowly faded away. I think many folks had a hard time parting with something that was tangible. Even today it doesn’t feel like I own the albums that I’ve bought through iTunes and Amazon. And there’s also the issue of less quality with MP3 files as opposed to CDs. But the accessibility factor eventually set in and won our hearts.
All of these evolutions of how we listen to and access music served as substantial changes. But I don’t think anything shocked the music industry like streaming audio. I recall my first streaming experience listening to Shoutcast radio (this is probably back in 2006-2007). I was amazed at all the bands I discovered. And now we have monthly subscriptions available for iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, etc. Today you can literally listen to any song, artist or album at any time.
Impact of Streaming Music for the Artist
I think we all know that recording artists and musicians are getting paid a small fraction when their music is streamed. From the numbers I see, and of course seeing my own earnings from my albums being nothing more than pennies, is a little heart-wrenching. On top of that, we see album sales drastically decreasing.
What does this mean for recording artists and musicians? Unless you’re already on top of the charts, it means you’re not getting paid a whole lot for your work. Yes, we create music out of passion and most of us will continue to do so whether we get a little, a lot, or nothing. But thats not the point. We musicians, songwriters and recording artists spend countless hours with our craft, not to mention the ability we have to create music.
Marketing Your Music in the Streaming World
I think us artists now have to be more strategic with how we market and present our music. It’s probably unrealistic to think one could make a full time income from streaming alone, at least with how things are today. It’s going to take more fan engagement and creative avenues for income.
Social media is a great tool for engaging with your fans. I personally use YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to engage with my fans. I’ve also recently been paying for Facebook advertising, which is one of the better bangs for your buck. It’s extremely effective and inexpensive. I release a YouTube video once a week and write content for each video on Jason’s Metal, a site I have setup for metal guitar players and musicians.
Having a website and building an email list are also important. This along with social media will allow you to keep your fans up to date with upcoming projects and new releases. You can also market any related merchandise to them.
Another avenue of income is getting your music into TV and film. There are several companies that you can submit your music to for placements, or you can network and make connections with people in the TV and film industry. And of course there’s always playing live.
I don’t know that the music industry will ever be what is was. Album sales, or rather downloads, aren’t quite a thing of the past, but it seems to be headed in that direction. What that means for artists and bands is we really have to stay on top of our game with fan engagement and coming up with creative ways to get our music out there.
Keep it Metal,
Breaking: Song Downloads Plunging More Than 20 Percent In 2016, Digital Music News, Paul Resnikoff – 06/08/2016
The 13 Most Insidious, Persuasive Lies About Streaming, Digital Music News, Paul Resnikoff – 06/8/2016: