The way we consume music is changing more than ever.
Fewer people are choosing to own the music they listen to, in favour of paying a flat rate per-month for access to massive libraries of music.
Streaming services have ushered in this trend, making it the easiest time in history to have 30 million songs at your fingertips.
The general reception of music streaming has been good. But there is one thing very likely to happen in the future that consumers should be cautious about: artists who choose to stream exclusively with one platform.
It might not sound scary, but such a move could cause a lot of listeners to miss out. In some cases, even encourage illegal downloading.
So far, not many artists have chosen to stream their albums exclusively, but some big players have.
Taylor Swift chose to stream exclusively with Apple Music following several run-ins with Spotify, and after calling out Apple over artist royalties earlier this summer. Swift, however, does offer her album for sale on iTunes and elsewhere for those who don’t use Apple Music.
On Friday, pop icon Prince announced he would stream his upcoming album, “HitNRun,” exclusively on Tidal. It’s not yet known if, or when, a digital or physical copy will be released. Rapper Lil Wayne also chose Tidal to release his most recent mixtape.
Though it is not happening on a large scale yet, it appears that artists granting exclusive rights to their music will play a huge part in the future of streaming. Every service wants a leg-up on the competition, and probably isn’t concerned with subscribers of other services who may miss out on some content.
“If you can have exclusive artist engagement, that’s huge,” streaming expert, Dr. Todd Green told Business Insider. Green, who is a professor with the Goodman School of Business at Brock University, says such agreements “automatically give one service a huge advantage.”
It makes sense that some streaming services would want to land exclusive deals. If you can only stream wildly popular artists like Taylor Swift or Katy Perry on one platform, that potentially translates to revenue that’s all but guaranteed.
It should be noted, however, that exclusive artist relationships are not a magic bullet, as seen with Tidal. Jay Z’s latest music venture played the “exclusive content” card early on, but a rocky start and several corporate implosions caused Tidal to fumble.
On the other hand, Tidal has a ton of stars on its side already, which could help the company leverage that roster and, ideally, boost revenues if all of the artists released products with Tidal.
Of course, consumers have options — and though some might even pay for more than one streaming subscription, that’s not an ideal path for most.
The good news is, we still have time. Even if some artists are threatening to affiliate with only one service, a complete shift won’t happen overnight. Until then, enjoy the music.
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