Quantcast

HOW THE STREAMING SERVICES CAN LEVEL UP

A measurable chunk of the music-consuming demographic has now been successfully lured into the new context of unlimited access to a vast library of songs. As listeners pick their teams—be it Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, “Alexa, play me…” from Amazon or some other streamery—the minds behind these services are facing new challenges. They’re all trying to figure out how to beat churn rates with retention, brand themselves apart from their competitors and continue to be dynamic and exciting enough to attract new customers.

Recently, Apple Music chief Jimmy Iovine laid out his post-retirement mode of operation with the keen observation to BBC News that “The streaming services are all charging $9.99, and everyone has the same music”—which leads to the perception that a streaming service is more of a basic utility than a musical wonderland. By contrast, “Netflix [is] spending $6b a year on original content, they have a unique catalog and they charge you $10.99,” he pointed out.

Iovine isn’t the only one worried that the playlist-centric world of streaming lacks the emotional connection to effectively bond an audience to an artist. XIX Entertainment founder Simon Fuller laments the identities of artists potentially getting lost in an approaching price war. “I am not sure delivering great playlists alone will be enough to win that war,” he told MBW; “there needs to be a more genuine connection and understanding of music lovers and the people that create music than is currently being reflected.”

Can the true tribal nature of music culture be distilled into a playlist? Digital functionality has always been tough to square with distinct musical character. The need for it is absolute; the path to making it authentic is less clear.

The culture itself (whether it’s rock, pop, rap or dance) isn’t just the music—each of these movements typically has an embedded style, fashion, language and even specific activities that accompany it. Connecting fans to artists through clickable functions to get them to their shows, merch and social pages has been more an exercise of convenience than the impetus for any type of inspired conversion. There are nameless, faceless “curators” in the digital world, but very few real leaders. Part of that is because the true pied pipers used to be DJs who led from the radio airwaves, and later from video-music platforms—constructs that are currently on the verge of collapse in our new, on-demand ecosystem. To Jimmy’s point, in order for the streaming services to survive, they’ve got to provide that content experience internally somehow, because the entertainment value previously available elsewhere to showcase music is no longer there.

The pack nature we have about music derives from a distinct beat that multiple generations of people have been dancing to, from the big bands of the 1930s to the sock-hops of the ’50s, the British Invasion of the ’60s, the festival era of the ’70s, the MTV videos of the ’80s and hip-hop, grunge and the electronic dance-club life of the ’90s. And let’s not forget the whole world around country music that’s existed nonstop and uninterrupted for decades through its own traditions and lifestyle components.

Now that we’re more plugged in—and more filtered-out—than ever, we’re more disconnected than ever from discovering exciting things that may exist outside our own tribes.

There has always been a complete culture around music and the artists who create it, but the digital experience is merely expressing a slice rather than the whole pie. Iovine envisions a future in which original content provides the missing ingredient. It’s a path that has worked to great advantage for HBO, whose trailblazers saw their way forward with exclusive content back in the ’80s, when Cinemax and Showtime popped up and offered the same movies.

As an artist manager, Fuller is hoping that the streaming services work harder to create a real experience for the music consumer that might lead to a greater connection with artists and the communities and culture that surrounds them, however that comes about. “Commerce alone and the drive for paid subscription is a precarious path,” he warned. “The consumer needs to feel the love.”

SPOTIFY SINGS A SONG OF ONG
Meet the streamer's new editor in chief. (10/22a)
HITS LIST, FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Grammy-themed, just like our latest print magazine. (10/22a)
GRAMMY COUNTRY ALBUM CONTENDERS
With Kacey out, who's a likely nominee? (10/22a)
STREAMING SONGS MADE "EASY"
Who said she wouldn't get streamed? (10/22a)
U.K. CHARTS: ADELE'S NEW RECORD
Massive on both sides of the pond. (10/22a)
ADELE ADELE ADELE
Adele; Adele Adele?
ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE
A... dele?
ADELE ADELE
Adele Adele; Adele.
ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE
(Adele.)
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)