The State of Online Music Promotion
The music industry has changed a lot over the past decade and a half. We’ve seen significant shifts in how music is distributed and consumed, as well as major impacts to online music promotion. It started with the explosive growth of internet access along with hardware and software innovations that meant finding and listening to music could happen almost anywhere. With innovation comes power. With power comes responsibilities.
Online Music Promotion
Connections between creators and their fans have become splintered because of ads, relevant content, and other distractions. Music has been commodified in ways. So artists—especially independent artists—have had to look for other methods to effectively grow their base and monetize their creations. Therefore, it is time for a new approach to online music promotion. It’s time for a platform that retains music’s value. We need a place where everyone benefits from a structure that’s fair, sustainable, and more transparent.
Let’s look a bit closer at our past and present. We can learn from history and build better methods for online music promotion that cut through all of the noise. We should look at ourselves as artists, producers, musicians, and music lovers. What happened to music? Where is it going?
The rise of free online music
Napster released their peer-to-peer sharing network back in 1999. Suddenly, there was free music for everyone all over the world. With just a few clicks, listeners started to download massive, free libraries of music. These were products of art, and in some cases, masterpieces that another person or people made. The way music lovers consumed music changed almost overnight. But the artists didn’t decide this music was free. This was stealing. Did music lovers think about how this would affect the creators? Were they showing the love? But can you blame the listeners?
Some artists were ok with this new world because they saw some potential in the shareability. They hoped this would help with promotion. Many, including the labels, started to fight back. They came with lawsuits, DRM (Digital Rights Management), and more. They blocked content, and they closed down unauthorized sharing networks, which paved the way for new shifts in the industry.
The genie was already out of the bottle
Free music forever is not sustainable. The artists, producers, and musicians that spawn these works need support from the people that enjoy them, so the creators can continue making content. It’s not that music purchasing disappeared completely. There were some sales happening in digital downloads via platforms like iTunes as well as some physical formats (including a resurgence in vinyl records), but there wasn’t enough going on to reign in free listening. People were still sharing with friends. Music was getting uploaded to YouTube by users that didn’t own the rights to do so. The industry was still scrambling. Hence, the paradigm would continue to evolve.
Traditional ways in new forms
Eventually, the industry companies found a new way to protect their business. It took a while, but they really started to understand how to use the power of the internet to their benefit. Labels and other content owners had to embrace online streaming models, and they started to publish authorized music to new platforms. Nowadays, consumers have access to a massive cloud full of free music libraries, playlists, and related content via searchable engines such as Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Apple Music, etc. While streaming models did create lucrative opportunities for some (usually major record labels), many others (including prominent artists) have been very outspoken about what they view as the mounting problems.
The “new” way
The growth of streaming services resulted in basically two major changes. First, the price most consumers are willing to pay for music decreased heavily. There’s no doubt. Most people growing up in the digital age either want their music for free, or close to free. How can spending a few dollars—or zero dollars—a month for access to millions of songs work out for the creators? How much money from ads really ends up with the artists? Do we want to keep going down a path where ads and content sponsored by some corporations that you may not be interested in are what fuels a musical platform? Shouldn’t experiencing an artist or band’s content lead to reasonable revenue for the artists making the content, which then fuels the artists’ ability to make more?
Music for free
Secondly, the amount of music created and consumed increased massively. Suddenly your music travels further in the world. Just about anyone can access the cloud these days. This of course offers great discovery potential, and you can hope it leads to other revenue-making opportunities like crowds at live shows, etc. We artists, producers, and musicians started to use our valuable creations solely as a marketing tool. But there are drawbacks to this. It is becoming more and more of an industry standard to offer music for free. That works for some artists, but how? Aren’t there plenty of great artists losing out? Does it feel like you need a big budget to make your original music visible in the numerous playlists on Spotify and YouTube?
Something’s not right…
The structure established by streaming platforms is for sure better than illegal downloads. But streaming services lower your margins, and they eat away at download sales. Power is shifted to the chosen few major companies in the business. The revenue can average as low as $0.0011-$0.0064 per stream! Take a good look at your online revenue. What do you earn per play, per stream, per creation? Why not get paid more directly for subscriptions that you price yourself? Shouldn’t you be able to decide the value of access to your creations?
The sustainable solution for online music promotion
We’ve created an illusion that being successful and visible online is only possible by offering the core of our business for free or close to free. This results in a breakdown of a sustainable business model for independent musicians, local heroes, and niche artists. The widely spread news that streaming services are saving the industry is mainly based on the turnover and profits of major multinationals in the music industry, some of which negotiated undisclosed deals with platforms for preferred rates. They certainly have the budget to invest in marketing, including online music promotion, making sure the tracks and artists are visible everywhere. What about you?
Artistco is part of the solution
Whether you’re an independent artist, local hero, or top-of-genre musician associated with a major label, you know there’s real value in your creations. Once all of your fans get used to receiving your music for free, there is almost no turning back. That can’t be the future. There needs to be other options. Stop giving away all your music. Stop accepting low streaming revenue and handing turnover to third parties’ pockets. Start building your own fair and sustainable business. Connect with your loyal fan base. Reasonable revenue out of online music promotion is possible. Stop…think…reclaim your music’s value! Artistco is part of the solution.
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