The advent of online streaming has definitely changed the music industry. Streaming sites like Spotify not only act as a substitute for unauthorized downloading, but also make up for lagging sales. Additionally, though fewer consumers are paying (in the traditional sense, at least) for music, digitization has led to an explosion of new music thanks to reduced barriers to entry for artists.
But what has happened to the music itself? Writing for Output, Martin Connor analyzes trends in music after streaming and the digitization. Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen summarizes the seven changes. Here are a few highlights:
- Streamings’ Data Collection Makes Songs Simpler
There’s actually a fascinating body of research related to what makes a song “good” or not, and while some might bemoan this trend, Connor finds “[m]ore and more artists are starting to follow the trend set by songs like Lil Uzi’s 2017 ‘The Way Life Goes.’” An excellent example of follow-on innovation in action.
- Streaming Sites’ Social Media Makes Songs Confessional
By making music more accessible to a large audience (even if only a small population listens) means artists can better tailor their works to their followers’ tastes.
- Streaming’s Customizability Makes Songs Built To Order
Streaming also allows consumers to change the way they listen to particular songs (changing the order they listen to in album, volume, etc.) This is a far cry from the old days where consumers had to manually skip around on a CD (or precisely place the needle on a record player) to listen to music in their own way.
- Content Digitization Makes Songs More Diverse [Tyler Cowen: does that contradict some of the other general claims?]
Cowen points out how this point is in tension with (1), but that’s not necessarily so. For example, while songs within a given genre may be become less diverse, greater variation in the number of genres out there will lead to a net gain in the music available to consumers as “this kind of variety will be taken for granted.”
- Free Content Makes Songs More Collaborative…
Increased competition is good news for consumers, but “bad” for creators because they “need to constantly release music.” To keep up, this has led to an increase in collaboration between artists–market forces are encouraging cross-pollination in art.
It’s an overreach to say that all progress is good, even in music (see: disco), but these are generally positive trends driven by innovation and greater access to content.