Hey guys, welcome back! Last week we talked about the rise of streaming and started to look at its impact on the music industry. There’s no better place to look at its impact than looking at how artists themselves have adapted to this change in the way their audiences listen to their music. Things have changed so much since streaming came into play, in a quite literal survival of the fittest some artists have fared better than others in the streaming age. Let’s have a look and see how today’s musicians are tackling this ever-growing obstacle.
With streaming now impacting the charts, its presence cannot just be ignored by artists when releasing their music and “According to the Recording Industry Association of America, digital downloads are now being outsold by CDs and vinyl for the first time since 2011.”
In reality, it was easier to secure a good chart position with sales than it was with streaming. Since it came into effect the charts have sort of errrr stuck, in fact, once a song reaches the top spot it likes to sit there for a few weeks at least, Drake’s ‘One Dance’ released back in 2016 sat for number one for fifteen weeks. Furthermore, if you cast your mind a couple years back, the week Ed Sheeran released his third album ‘Divide’, every single one of the tracks entered the top forty. I guess you might argue this means the charts are broken and you could read more about that here, but hey let’s not jump ahead just yet!
This means that being number one on iTunes ‘sales’ chart isn’t the automatic success it once was and might not even guarantee a top twenty position in that chart week with streaming now outselling digital downloads. Artists need to be pushing their music on streaming services if they are to see any sort of chart impact, this is easier said than done, especially for non-global stars, artists just starting out and those with an older fan base that may not be streaming friendly.
Global stars with millions of fans and a strong social media presence such as Ariana Grande have adapted to streaming almost instantly, achieving two top five singles and a number one album all in this year alone. Geez, she must of been busy pushing that right? Nope – in fact, Ariana did all this without one big UK performance or heavy promotion schedule, relying solely on her huge fan base and popularity to get her the airplay and exposure she needed.
This calls into question how hard it is for new artists to make it into the industry, while a performance slot on various shows such as ‘X Factor’ pretty much comfortably guaranteed a top ten chart position a few years ago, nowadays it just does not equal streaming success. Artists rely on being put onto playlists such as Apple Music’s ‘Future Hits’ or ‘Currently Charting’ which are updated weekly in order to be discovered. The streaming numbers go on to affect the amount of airplay a song gets, with radio bosses using them as a sort of template to see what people are listening to and what they wanna hear more of.
While some artists have adapted well others haven’t had the best time in their transition. Take Olly Murs for one, countless hits from 2009 up to 2015. However, since streaming hit he has sort of faded into irrelevance. In fact, the lead single from his most recent album titled ‘Moves’ failed to break the top forty, stalling at #46. Interestingly, these artists that haven’t adapted well in ‘single song’ streaming, still do when it comes to album sales where actual physical sales are more of a force when it comes to the charts. For example pop legend Kylie Minogue released new music earlier this year, while none of her singles managed to make a big impact; the album ‘Golden’ hit the top spot and was certified gold a few months later. While solo star Liam Payne with a fair to say much younger fanbase is yet to release an album, sticking to a string of singles which do well with streaming.
To conclude, it could be argued that those with an older fan base are more likely to do well in physical sales while having trouble impacting the streaming services, therefore they tend to stick to a more traditional release of releasing an album after a single. Whereas the ‘newer’ artists are holding off releasing an album, because their target audience is not as likely to go out and buy an album, preferring them to put out individual songs. This was recently addressed by ex-Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Tweedy who in 2018 said “no one is buying album’s any more” and is choosing to hold off on an album release to see what happens with streaming.
With music sales not what they used to be, artists can’t rely on their song sales to provide them with an income, with some being more happy about it than others. Tours, merchandise and other brand deals will be where performers are finding their most financially lucrative endeavors. Thing is, is this such a bad thing? Artists are performing more than ever, fans must be happy. Surely this is a win, win situation? Only time will tell….
Other sources which I used to help write this can be found here:
The Guardian: Taylor Swift new deal with Universal
Official Charts: Olly Murs Chart History
Official Charts: Kylie Minouge Chart History
Official Charts: Liam Payne Chart History