Alex Heiche examines how music streaming is eliminating piracy and changing the overall culture and consumption of music globally as emerging markets continue to grow.
The transition of music distribution from physical to digital form was initially plagued with pirating and theft. It caused a decade of downturn for the industry, but has its destructive run finally come to an end? Recent trends indicate that this could be the case.
As many of us remember, illegal pirating or file sharing of digital music first took off in the late 1990s. MP3 downloading platforms like Napster and LimeWire made it easy and accessible for anyone with a computer and internet service to obtain music from their favorite artists for free.
By not paying for music through the proper channels, this illicit practice not only hurt the famed artists performing the songs, but the songwriters, artists, producers, and countless other music professionals along the way. It undoubtedly damaged and cut short careers and hamstrung the success of many talented creatives.
While the practice fell out of favor in the U.S. several years ago, its prevalence has continued in other countries across the world.
But now, thanks to the evolution and growth of streaming, countries which have pirated music for years are finally legitimizing their consumption by using lawful streaming services.
As players like Apple Music and Spotify have become the powerhouses of music consumption, they have significantly reduced the pirating of music. Even if consumers use the free versions of these services, ads are sold to compensate for the income deficit and money is ultimately still paid to the creative community.
And these streaming services have not only changed how consumers listen to music, but they are also influencing what consumers are listening to.
As streaming has established itself, urban music has become more prevalent and dominated many of the streaming charts. This can largely be credited to the growing young population of listeners, who have thus far been the majority of streaming users.
Now we are at a stage where the rest of the world is starting to stream, including the two most populated countries – India & China. This change is creating a shift in power that most Americans have yet to realize.
As more and more people of different ages and from different locations around the world adopt streaming, they will, of course, search for and listen to their favorite genres. Then, the curated playlists and charts will adjust accordingly.
While pop and rock have long dominated traditional charts and urban currently rules streaming, many are surprised to hear that the most popular genre worldwide is heavy metal.
According to Spotify, heavy metal has the highest global listener loyalty of any genre of music. This is particularly telling since streaming sites like Spotify are based on a fan-driven metrics model.
While streaming continues to grow in worldwide markets, the tracked consumption of these new user bases will help determine which music gets played and paid. And as genres beyond the ones most popular in the U.S. continue to grow and gain notoriety, it could change the entire landscape of the music industry.
It’s a very interesting time in music right now. As the overall culture and consumption of music shifts to the global public’s tastes, we may see the long-leading genres unseated from the top of the charts, and lesser known styles become more prevalent. Only time will tell.
About the Author: Alex Heiche is the CEO and founder of Sound Royalties, a company working to transform the way that music professionals fund their creativity.
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