Guardians of Music: Discovering Music on Your Terms.
Whatever your preferred music streaming service is you likely don't put a lot of thought into how that medium affects the current music landscape for artists, music journalists, industry folks, and anyone who has anything to do with music in a professional sense, most people don't bother, but they should. Did you know that YouTube accounts for 47 percent of all music streaming as of last year? This number was 40 two years ago, and it is still rising. The music streaming conversation is an important one because these companies dictate where and how you find your music, now and in the future.
The War for Listeners
YouTube launched YouTube Music in 2015, fairly recent considering Spotify and SoundCloud have been around since the middle of the last decade and iTunes a few years before that. Since people are no longer lining up outside their local record stores to get the hottest album out, it all comes down to where they choose to stream their music. Music streaming giants peacock with fancy advertisements, sponsored events, and sponsored artists, measuring results in the number of streams they get a day. It seems like business as usual, right? It is, but it affects listeners and artists differently.
Guardians of Music
Surely you have been on Spotify and found out about a remarkable new band because they popped up on one of the streaming service's many playlists. Spotify's playlists cover every genre imaginable and artists of all levels, but have you ever wondered who curates them? Rolling Stone went deep in on this in 2017, as did TuneCore, warning casual listeners and musicians alike about the growing power of streaming services. A band can have their music on a particular service for years (with a fee attached to it) and never cycle through a single playlist.
Choosing Your Platform
Ideally, a band just coming up would have their music on as many streaming services as possible, but this is often not the case. Groups, not surprisingly choose to post their music on platforms they frequent and do not give much thought to those they do not. You may find your favorite local indie-rock quartet's latest record on Bandcamp but not on Spotify, or vice versa. It is recommended that bands post their music in as many of these streaming platforms as possible: one it balances the playing field, and second, it provides websites like this one a chance to stream your music for readers from a site that best works for their page.
Are Playlists the Future?
As it stands now, playlists are indeed the equivalent to the record shop owner's top 10 picks or your cool older sibling's secret record stash, and it does not seem like this will change soon. What musicians and listeners can do at the moment is be aware of who is pushing the music they listen to, what affiliations do they have, and why. You want to be able to discover music on your own, not so reliant on curators from major corporations. Do a bit of digging, and you will be surprised to find that some of the best music out there is not on a Spotify playlist and may never be.