The music industry in 2016 looks very different to the way it did just a decade ago. To cope with the huge shift which is largely due to the internet and easy access, the music industry has had to adapt and to change. In 2015, for example, the recording industry as a whole was worth $15 billion but in 2000 it was worth $36 billion globally, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). Whilst those differences might look pretty bleak, in 2006 the IFPI reported that the industry was only worth around $11 billion. So, as you can see, things are back on the up.
While the freedom of the internet caused sharp declines in sales, it seems that the industry itself is using the digital platforms which caused its downfall to its advantage. It seems like the experts hoped and predicted this would happen way back when, with CNN stating that the music industry's "greatest downfall could be its greatest opportunity", if only they could find a way to monetise this threat. It seems like this has now been achieved.
There are now lots of different music streaming services. Whilst the days of shopping at music retailers for physical copies of music aren't yet over (HMV reclaimed its position as the top seller in the UK, with a 1.5% rise in CD sales in 2015, for example), a lot of things are now done digitally. Apple was the first big name to start making money from downloads back in 2003, but obviously things have changed a lot in the last 13 years with such fast-moving technology. Now, everyone has access to data on the go and, thanks to smartphones, music can be consumed anywhere. As of 2015, the IFPI found that 46% of industry revenues are from digital channels. This means that the accessibility of these channels is of huge importance, which is probably why, according to Time, streaming accounts for 34% of the entire industry as of 2015.Playlists are easy to create and even accessible free of charge, because services such as Spotify also make money from the advertising that these playlists contain. You can have a playlist for anything and anyone these days. Your playlist can be designed for a road trip, a dance class or through to something to psych you up for a big event. Everyone has a playlist, or maybe multiple playlists, for all kinds of reasons. For example, Vanessa Selbst, the world's top female poker player, chooses indie rock sounds to help keep her in the right frame of mind during long tournaments. In such a high-pressure environment as professional poker, it is worth considering that advice. In fact, Spotify recently teamed up with online poker room PokerStars to publish top poker pro’s playlists to inspire and satisfy fans’ curiosity: what are they listening to while bluffing and betting their way to the top?
Perhaps Cold War Kids and Joni Mitchell could help you do the same, or at least keep on top of your poker face. If the NFL is more your thing, Billboard reports that footballer Geoff Schwartz of the New York Giants gets pumped pre-game with EDM. Perhaps the bouncy beats would work in psyching you up as well? It's all a matter of taste, with Schwartz saying that players prefer to put on their headphones rather than listening collectively to music on speakers.
Whatever you're into, Pitchfork reports that 31% of people typically listen to playlists, while only 27% said they regularly listen to traditional albums, from the first to the last track. This approach is evidently on the up, with Money Saving Expert reporting that we stream 25 billion tracks per year!
Which music streaming platforms are worth paying for?
There are plenty of online streaming platforms out there and their growth is exponential. From 2014 to the first half of 2015 alone, Nielsen Music found that people increased their use of these services by 92%. Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music and Tidal are some of the biggest names, but Pandora and others are also very popular. Each has its own merits and, in February 2016, the UK’s Guardian newspaper put them to the test. All on-demand streaming is unique, with features for a range of tastes and plenty of genres and artists available.
Apple Music received a lot of criticism, but it had 10 million subscribers within just six months of its launch for good reason. It's got a great back catalogue, and it's especially easy to use for existing iTunes users. Google Play Music has a great interface and looks clean, but it could do with being more social. If you want to give Deezer a go, it's got the world's widest reach and some brilliant podcasts. It also offers music recommendations but perhaps not using such a good algorithm as other platforms.
When it comes to a winner, Spotify remains on top and this is thanks to its assistance in helping users discover new music. The service recommends artists similar to those you already listen to and search for, meaning it's great for expanding your collection. There’s also a range of payment options to suit your needs, which makes it user friendly. Users worldwide are finding a range of ways to make the service work for them. However, other platforms are adding new features all the time, such as Apple Music recently announcing a deal to allow users to stream DJ mixes.
The only downfall with Spotify comes from an industry perspective. Time reports that there is some unease with the service on account of the fact that their undeniably appealing free services bring in about $400 million in advertising revenue, versus $1.2 billion when people pay for it. This is being combatted by implementing new rules which will allow artists to specify that their music be exclusive only to paying subscribers.
Overall, there's no denying that music streaming is the future. If you're not switched on now, then you should be. Spotify is the clear winner - for now - but things in this fast-paced industry can change in a heartbeat. Who knows who'll come out on top by next year, when things will no doubt be different again?!