Music streaming services are killing the creativity.

Hannah Jones

At its heart, music is a creative process. That is how it is able to appeal to so many people across the globe. It is something that unites us. It comes from the artist’s head and heart. The best artists are praised for their creativity, and that is what makes their music popular. Music streaming services are turning this process into a less creative and more commercial experience, which affects the artists themselves, as well as the industry as a whole.

Musical streaming services ended the decade at an all-time high in earnings and number of consumers. This figure is not surprising, as about 50 million songs on average are included with any subscription to the major streaming services, including Spotify and Apple Music. Many new and old artists are producing more music than ever before. All you need is a subscription and you can listen to anything online. With this multitude of songs available to anyone at any time, we have more avenues to hear whatever we want, whenever. 

Who actually buys albums anymore? When the majority of music consumers hear a song they enjoy somewhere, they download it or buy it. They might look up the artist’s name or song lyrics, but they don’t normally care about what album the song was on. An album’s order is critical to the success of the album and the creative flow, conveying a message or story. The order of the songs on an album can make or break the impact that it has on its listeners. Each soundtrack comes together and connects to a larger theme or issue that lets the listener know a little more about the artist. Musicians spend years writing songs for the album based on a theme, which most people are not able to hear and interpret as intended by the artist, due to the nature of streaming music today.

Typically, the first two singles of an album are marketed for radio play by the management of an artist. For a new artist, their first single creates an impression. Back in the days of records and CDs, a person needed to buy the entire album to get that one song that they had heard and loved. Buying an album resulted in exposure to the rest of the artist’s music catalogue, and allowed for the creativity of a whole album to be appreciated, as the artist intended.

Today we are all able to simply get that one song by nothing more than searching up the lyrics. We do not even need to look at the names of the other songs which accompany the single or explore other songs by the artist.

The fact that people are not buying an album is outright costing musicians money. They make significantly less off of their album sales, instead, relying on radio and streaming. According to a Spotify company filing, an artist makes between $0.006 to $0.0084 on average per downloaded song. Compared to the price of a vinyl record today, which is sold between $12 and $40, an artist has to have at least 2,000 downloads of their song to earn as much as they could off of one single record. Artists such as Taylor Swift and Beyonce have pulled albums and occasionally full catalogues off of these services due to how poorly they were being paid. 

Swift pulled her albums off of Spotify in 2015 due to her perceptions of their compensation for artists.

 “Spotify feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I do not feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. I do not agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free,” Swift Stated. 

Swift was able to make such a bold move because she had the security of a large number of fans already. She has since returned her albums to the streaming service. Artists who choose to take their music off of a service such as Spotify make a sacrifice as they are trading exposure and fans’ ability to listen to their music, to make a point about the unfairness of the business. 

To make money off their albums, songwriters have turned to extravagant performances with more tours and live shows. These tours provide a wonderful opportunity for fans to see them perform live. Unfortunately, due to the lack of album sales, artists have to charge more for tickets. In 1996, the average concert ticket cost $25.81. By 2016, the average price for a concert ticket rose to $117.10 according to Rolling Stone. By raising ticket prices, singers run the risk of not selling out their tour and not making enough money to pay off the album. The high prices can also hurt relationships with fans because, though there are more tours and opportunities to see an artist live, if a fan can not afford the prices of the tickets, they cannot attend and support the musician.   

Despite the positives of these streaming services for the consumers of music all over the world, they have negative effects on the heart and creativity of albums. By focusing on commercial hits that sell, streaming services are diminishing creativity in the music industry. Ironically, having access to individual songs reduces the discovery process and exposure to new music. Purchasing unique songs makes it hard for artists to create new music and experiment with new genres, for there is less funding available if that experiment does not turn into a hit; thus, killing the creativity of their music.