Will Streaming Services Democratize Music?

We may see the end of music labels as we know them


Music is both brilliant and rotten at the same time.

It has allowed almost every single song that you have ever danced, cried, smiled or worked out to and has created some of the world’s most recognizable faces. However, it has also taken out frivolous law suits, been slow to react and often bled successful artists dry, making millions for record executives whilst leaving the artists themselves bankrupt by the end of their careers.

However, this may be changing and streaming services could well be the reason for this.

When you look at lists of the richest people in music, many are faces that you will have never seen unless you are in the music business yourself. Clive Calder? Simon Fuller? Jamie Palumbo? They are not people who have created music themselves, but are instead people who have benefitted from the success of others through their record labels.

It is currently the case that record labels are the gateway to success in the music industry, but we have noticeable exceptions such as Justin Bieber who was not discovered by a label, but was instead found through Youtube.

With the advent of streaming services, artists now have the opportunity to promote themselves and create their own success rather than needing to pay considerable amounts of money to record labels to promote them.

Technology has also meant that the services that a label previously brought, such as recording studios and editing facilities, can be found and used by anybody who knows how to use a computer and has an ear for a tune.

With Apple entering the market it also means that other streaming sites will find it increasingly difficult to match their ability with self publishing due to their pre-existing iTunes platform.

Although millions of people already have accounts with competing streaming services such as Spotify or Deezer, with Apple’s 3 month free trial they are going to have many of these testing out the service simply because they don’t need to pay for it and are curious about what the new service is like.

With Apple’s historical success in UX combined with this long period in which to hook people to the service, they are more than likely to make it successful. This combined with the incredibly open nature of how artists can upload and share their music means that in essence, record labels may become simply a thing of the past.

So will this happen? The chances are fairly high as the music industry is archaic and very resistant to change, which is why they are losing their money to companies like Spotify and Apple. Ian Morris wrote in Forbes that ‘The record industry wanted to blame Napster and Limewire and Kazza and Audiogalaxy. Now it wants to blame Torrents and Kim Dotcom and Dropbox. At no point has the industry looked inward and said ‘guys, we might need to do some changing here’.’

The only question now is whether the big record companies can come up with a way to at least partially combat this move.


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