Digital streamline: The future of the music industry

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Much of today’s music can be accessed for free, which is welcomed by the consumer but is upsetting to artists and producers. Sites like Spotify, Pandora and YouTube make an outrageous amount of music available for free, translating directly to the massive increase in daily music consumption. More music is being listened to and shared than ever before, but is today’s consumer losing respect for the art?

Rob Wells, the president of global digital business at Universal Music Group, said there is a blurring of the lines within consumer models. “Service definitions are getting more and more complicated, but this is to the benefit of the consumer, who is getting more and more choice,” Wells said in the 2014 Digital Music Report. “The greater the variety of consumer offerings there are in the marketplace, the more they will spend on music, and the more engaging their experience will be.”

While Wells is right about variety in the marketplace, consumers are taking advantage of the free options and are rarely, if ever, paying for their music consumption. However, there have been a few recent contradictions to the theory that people are completely unwilling to pay for music.

Taylor Swift created a news frenzy by deciding to pull her music collection from Spotify the week her “1989” album released.

“I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists and creators of this music,” Swift told Yahoo! “And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.”

While Spotify tried to convince Big Machine, Swift’s record label, to reconsider the pull, the new album sold more copies in its first week than any album since Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” in 2003. Detroit News reported that with the right star, the right marketing and the right timing people will still buy music in droves.

Another option artists have turned to is called windowing. This means an album is held back from streaming services in an attempt to maximize sales for a few months. The Guardian reported that artists such as Coldplay, Adele and even Swift have previously used the window approach and have enjoyed some success.

Chris Crabb, the front man of Provo band The Str!ke, told The Universe how the band plans to handle the changing music industry. He feels that artists need to adapt to the landscape of new availability.

“People need to be more creative because we are now producing on the terms of the consumer,” Crabb said. “We try to focus on what really makes a great artist and believe that is determined by the type of influence artists have on their audience and not necessarily on how much money they make.”

The Str!ke is excited about the digital music industry and finds inspiration within this new world of music. Crabb accepts the challenges streaming sites present and is determined to find ways to grow in the industry by being adaptable and listening to the consumer.

No matter what approach an artist may take, at some point consumers need to decide their approach as well and understand what they are putting back into the industry they expect so much from.

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