RAIN 6/8: Streaming's economic realities may incentivize music industry to "create works of lasting value"

Paul Maloney
June 8, 2012 - 11:45am

While artists advocates complain about low payouts from streaming services like Spotify, Evolver.fm's Eliot Van Buskirk makes that point that such services may in fact be doing something far more important: helping to improve our shared musical culture.

Here's his argument: The economics of the music business of the past rewarded labels and artists when a record was purchased. Getting the customer to lay down the cash at the record store or the iTunes store was all that mattered. Whether that record became a lifelong favorite of the purchaser -- or they listened to it once and never again -- didn't matter. This reality incentivized the creation of "one-hit-wonders capable of moving product quickly."

But music consumption is moving away from the "upfront payment" of purchasing product, and towards "pay as you use" streaming services (Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, MOG, iHeartRadio, Rdio, Rhapsody). In this world, copyright owners and artists will earn not by creating a product that convinces a listener to take a one-time action (make the purchase), but by creating art that the listener wants to enjoy again and again.

"It’s no longer enough to convince fans to buy a disc once," writes Van Buskirk. "Instead, artists and labels have to turn them into lifelong fans."

More from Van Buskirk: "This new phase of music consumption...is just what music fans who are sick of one-hit wonders and flashy pop hits need. By paying out only when people actually listen instead of suckering fans into buying something only to leave it on the shelf... on-demand unlimited music services build an incentive into the music business to create works of lasting value."

As we've argued the Internet may usher in a new golden age of radio, Van Buskirk wistfully hopes for a return to a time "when labels used to spend years or decades developing an artist instead of releasing whatever they think will sell that week."

Read Van Buskirk in Evolver.fm here.

Michael Schmitt
June 8, 2012 - 11:45am

LifehackerTech and advice web publication Lifehacker regularly asks readers what their favorite service, company, app or product is in various categories. Called "Hive Five for Contenders," this week's question centers on Internet radio.

"Lots of streaming music services will play your own music back to you or let you search for a song you want to hear," Lifehacker writes, "but when you need to work or study and you don't have time to manage a playlist or keep searching for songs, which service do you turn to if you just want to press play, go to work, and hear new music that you know you'll like?"

You can head here to tell Lifehacker your opinion. The publication should post their readers' top picks next week!

(In related news, Read Write Web published their thoughts on the "best subscription music service." You can find their picks here.)

Michael Schmitt
June 8, 2012 - 11:45am

iPhoneTwo prepaid cellular services have announced they will offer Apple's iPhone, potentially putting the iconic device -- and it's web radio-friendly App Store -- into the hands of even more consumers.

Cricket and Virgin Mobile will offer the iPhone on a prepaid basis with no contract involved. Cricket's iPhone plan costs $55 per month, while Virgin will offer plans starting at $35 per month. MacRumors has more coverage here and here.


Michael Schmitt
June 8, 2012 - 11:45am

Joe Kennedy"Social-discovery" tools are changing how Pandora recommends new music to users, the company's CEO Joe Kennedy explained during San Francisco's Glimpse: The Social Discovery Conference.

Pandora is utilizing data from users to better its customizable playlists. So, for example, "older Counting Crows fans in San Francisco will receive a playlist of the band's earlier songs, while a younger fan in New York will see more recent tunes," writes the San Francisco Chronicle.

"We're all now looking, as the Internet moves forward, for how do we use the Internet for experiences that are more about serendipity and discovery as opposed to 'I know what I want, how do I go find it,'" said Kennedy.

You can find more coverage from the Chronicle here.