Music Distribution: Power Handover to Streaming & Social Media?

As broadcast entertainment gradually shifts from television to internet streaming, so has the music industry towards digitalization and digital revenue streams. How dependent is the music industry in using digital service providers to distribute music, and why we don’t think every platform is your cup of tea.

Technology, on one hand has obviously boost marketer’s technique and allow content to thrive and be distributed at a scale quite unimaginable even just a decade ago; and on the other hand gave individual and corporation the freedom to a vast supply and demand chain for content production. Social media and streaming are new found and powerful digital service providers for consumers and brands in the entertainment world where creativity knows no boundaries.

But what are we without social media and streaming? This article aims to question the power social media and streaming platforms have over content creators, publishers and rights owners; the habitual and addictive dependence towards what seem to be unlimited resources; and if social media serves as a medium to get us hooked in order to benefit advertisers and marketers. Let’s look at a few considerations we’ve come up below.

Global live-streaming and social media give you instant and worldwide recognition, but when will I reap its benefit?
Spotify, Joox, Apply Music, YouTube, and Facebook are no longer just hubs at the end of a creative process. These giant conglomerates (YouTube has over 1 billion monthly active users; Spotify has confirmed 83 million in paid subscribers) have gradually monopolized the digital entertainment and mobile industry as we take one step further towards the era of instant gratification: unlimited content.

Once the excitement of publishing a song or album on the largest digital music and video library of the modern world have worn off, you’d probably be left with a stream of questions. These questions don’t just come from you though. If you really want to know, other parties had posed the same question years before: “How many more ‘plays’ before I’ll be remunerated?”, “How are my tracks discovered on Spotify?”, “How do I get more views on YouTube?”, and “When will I get my first break?”
These are vital questions to start with and there’s a whole economy on these sites that would be willing to push you to fame for a small price. And what about pay per view? If you don’t already know, we are still counting in pennies.

Tunecore claims that its artists have earned over USD1 billion since 2006, spreading over 57 million streams, which means each stream cost less than 2 cents.

Tunecore claims that its artists have earned over USD1 billion since 2006, spreading over 57 million streams, which means each stream cost less than 2 cents.

What is the price to pay for unlimited songs and videos, and connectivity to ‘Everything’? Personal data?
Digital streaming is now our new virtual reality. It has made a huge impact and overturned the economics of the internet world in recent years. With more smartphone users growing by the millions, this trend is further popularized when demand for content rises creating the demand for big data mining.

Advertisement shown on your feed are results of your search just a few minutes ago. Though we do not know fully understand the extend of its damage or how it will affect us in the future, this led us to question the extend you would go to protect your privacy? If the purpose of these streaming and social media platforms are to provide personal data to advertisers, in other words use your data to earn advertising deals, would you still believe that it’s a bargain? Think again.

The shift of power from artistes, labels, rights owners to digital service providers
As the music industry continues its dependence on launching and marketing ‘international’ releases on these platforms, so are other industries. As more and more people join the virtual family, you are no longer competing on a national or regional level, but against the world.

Undeniably, from here on, every one has access to your music. But what about a chance of being discovered by a major label or achieving enough listeners to recoup production costs? That’s when Believe, CD Baby, AWAL, Reverbnation, TuneCore, Distrokid, Ditto, and many other digital distribution services out there are doing for you. Perhaps, you’ll be even more surprise how many albums and songs are on their clients’ lists.

When will these mass content eventually be striped of its total value due to mass market distribution? Well, it’s already happening. As artistes continue to accept low remuneration in return for their works to be digitally distributed, these digital service providers a.k.a ‘gatekeepers’ will only continue to race against each other to build subscribers and viewership in order to expand, attract larger investment, and stay in the game.

Music discovery hidden within complex AI and algorithm
In an opinion piece released by MIT Technology Review: “The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI” released by Will Knight, highlighted the issues that ‘no one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem”.

So, if there is a fix set of algorithm recommending playlists and songs are said to be curated by experts, DJs and music professionals, would the algorithm be generating the same set of song recommendations to you as well as to other users? If the answer is yes, would AI curate tighter selection when it comes to music discovery? It seems to lead to an even more hypocritical term for ‘music discovery’. So, back to our question: do digital streaming and social media actually hold power of influence?

It’s obvious that there isn’t a one-way resolution to fixing this overcrowded music market place. On a more positive note, over-crowding is not a new problem today. Independent businesses and collectives are beginning to grasp the idea of providing niche and targeted solutions for a fair and unromanticized reward.

As the business of digital distribution within the music industry continues to expand and lend its technical expertise, artistes and creative content makers are also being presented with more sophisticated options as tools to market and reach a wider audience. Popular sites that claim a ‘wider’ reach in number of subscribers and views may give you the illusion of larger exposure, but it certainly does not equal to fair productivity and reward.

Be inquisitive and find out how each service can directly assist in terms of achieving revenue, building specific network and audience, and exposure. Remember, they rely on your music to do just that. It’s your call.

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