Chart Of The Week: Music-nomics

Chart Of The Week: Music-nomics

over 4 years ago2 mins

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The rise of music streaming platforms like Spotify has changed music more than you might realize: it’s probably the reason songs now get to the chorus faster 🎶

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What does this mean?

The proportion of Billboard chart number ones with a chorus in the first 15 seconds has almost quadrupled since 2016. That was also the first year streaming music subscribers topped 100 million – a number which had grown to an estimated 278 million subscribers last year. And that dramatic change in the way fans listen has forced musicians to change their own product: songs.

Streaming services pay artists every time someone listens to one of their songs for more than 30 seconds – so songs have to hook you fast. And because they earn as little as $0.006 per listen, artists need millions of streams to make proper money. The best way to get there is to be featured on an algorithm-created playlist – an algorithm which, informed by users’ listening behavior, prioritizes short songs with snappy intros.

Why should I care?

Artists are already pushing streaming platforms to change the current model, which favors bigger artists. A more user-centric alternative is being trialed by French service Deezer, one which distributes a particular user’s subscription revenue exclusively to the artists they actually listen to. Realistically, however, even that won’t change the economics of the music industry too much. Concerts have been the main driver of artists’ income since the early 2000s 👩‍🎤

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The influence of data on media decisions isn’t a new phenomenon: Netflixwas doing it back when it used viewer data to (correctly) predict that House of Cards would be a hit. But when the creators of that content – the musicians, the film-makers, the writers – become too indebted to a platform’s algorithm, a small change to the way it works can undo all their hard work. When Facebook tweaked its news feed, for example, some website publishers were ruined. If Spotify suddenly decides to lean towards longer songs, expect songwriters to change their process in a desperate attempt to keep up.

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