Spotify has confirmed that it now has over 140 million global subscribers, and CMU reports 50 million of these use the paid version. In April this year global recording body IFPI announced there are now 112 million paid users of streaming services worldwide.
This is tremendous growth. This time last year triple j reported there were 68 million subscribers worldwide, up from 8 million in 2010. Streaming now dominates music, both in revenues and audiences, growing at a staggering rate. In Australia where revenues grew by 90% in 2016, it has now been brought into the official ARIA charts.
In the process, streaming has redefined how we consume music. As Nielsen’s David Bakula notes in Forbes: “You don’t really have to own anything anymore, because for (US) $10 a month you can do this: You can have everything.”
The ubiquity of streaming lies in its utility – ease of use, massive catalogues, instant on demand access, limitless choice, and genres for every taste. It serves up music it determines you’d like to hear, personalised by your own algorithm, or selected through multiple curated playlists. Streaming companies are also rolling out add on services such as Spotify branching into music education and offering an Australian music talks series.
And for users, streaming offers artist discovery platforms the like of which we’ve never previously seen. However, for this user it still pays to be adventurous and use your favourite DJ, podcast or music mag to serve up new artists to seek out. A human curator beats a bot every time for some!
Ought platforms do more? Undoubtedly. Offer better songwriter credits, enable listeners to peruse lyrics (dropped last year by Spotify), and promote more curated playlists to celebrate great local and independent music, just for starters.
Challenges? There are plenty. Streaming edges out the niche, in genre or nationality, ranking systems drive a top of the pops race, and converting growing revenues into viable income for creators has a long way to go. Closing the ubiquitous value gap (the difference between revenues derived by platforms who use creative content and the amount paid to the creative providers) remains the biggest challenge identified by IFPI. Read Music Canada’s passionate call to reset music’s value here.
The same applies for the businesses, with Spotify still yet to turn a profit, as CMU’s Chris Cooke reports, in 2016 “net losses more than doubled to nearly 557 million euros.” And expect more consolidation, as the Industry Observer report of the controversial collapse of Australian service Guvera suggests. This rundown by Gizmodo highlights many of the issues.
As a concept however, the platform has matured, and is likely to stand the (relative) test of time.
Not yet a streaming user? Read PC mag’s reviews here, and buyers guide from Choice. And, ensure you sign up for the paid service, remember great music and democracies thrive when we nourish our creative class!
Want to learn more? Get along to our Roundtable conference for a digital rights panel on Wed 2 August where we quiz the experts on optimising streaming service for music businesses.