Playlists match the right song to the right listener
Personalized music discovery tools like Spotify’s Discover Weekly and Apple Music’s For You are connecting new music with listeners in a powerful way that helps artists releasing music at every level. Often without promotion, these customized playlists benefit artists by putting their music in front of listeners who’ll most likely want to hear it. This sort of tech saves artists time and money by making it easy to connect with the sort of audiences who are most likely to resonate with their music. So, what’s the catch? Playlists are great at entertaining listeners, but are they a suitable replacement for albums? When taking a look at how much musicians are now earning and their artistic impact, some might not think so.
Streaming revenue has yet to replace album sales
For over half a century, musicians made their living largely off of album sales. A Recording Industry Association of America graph tracking music industry sales shows that in 2000, CD sales hit their peak with earnings reaching $13.2 billion dollars. That figure accounted for 92.3% of music industry revenue that year. In 2017, that number dropped to $1.1 billion dollars. Subscription fees paid to major streaming platforms like Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon made up the vast majority of music industry profits last year, totaling at $3.5 billion dollars. Album downloads came in at a meager $632.7 million dollars.
One off singles on playlist give musicians less of a creative impact
Then there’s the diminishing artistic impact of singles to consider when it comes to the current playlist-driven listening culture. Where artists used to be largely defined by albums they’d often throw years of work into, playlists give musicians much less of a chance to make an impression on listeners. Yes, playlists are helping musicians find audiences, but can also lead to diminishing creative potency. Usually, singles don’t give musicians the amount of sonic or artistic freedom to stand on as albums do.