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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Music Streaming Apps: The Future of Music Consumption and The Demise Of CDs?

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The days of walking long distances to a music store to get the latest piece of music are not exactly behind us just yet but the world has come far enough to look back and observe that things are not the same as they were decades ago.

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In retrospect, I grew up listening to defunct Afro-pop groups like Plantashaun boiz, The Remedies and foreign acts like Ashanti, Ja Rule, 50 Cent; Get Rich or Die Tryin’ in particular and the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. The difference is unlike now, majority only had access to them on Local TV, Radio or CDs which didn’t cost so much; largely due to the unappreciated work of pirates.

CDs are still very much around these days and are still very popular especially amongst collectors and ‘nostalgics’ but with sales dwindling in recent years and major CD retail stores closing, we might be staring at the end of the CD music format.

Maybe not this year, probably won’t be next year or the next 10 years but indications and statistics point to one thing; a shift to digital music formats to access music. Nothing is certain and we might just witness the CD stay around as long as vinyl recordings but the undeniable fact is physical music formats are most likely to remain in the shadows of digital formats and for a good reason; ease.

Every advancement in technology have always been about making life easier and although some have been rather complex to adjust to, the most part have achieved this purpose. Physical music formats have done well to survive this long since one-click downloads and music streaming debuted with Pandora in 2000 but fast forward 18 years music delivery has changed as much as the world around us.

The at-your-fingertips service that digital music formats offer is becoming more and more appealing to listeners than the space-demanding, high-maintenance physical formats. Of course, fanatics can always argue against the lack of sound quality in MP3 downloads and streaming when compared to the digital formats but in its advantage the digital formats provide more for less, all at the expense of your internet connection and sometimes a few bucks per month for subscriptions if you desire.

For the price of a strong internet connection and some spare cash, users can enjoy a vast array of tracks and albums from various artists, even those that were originally recorded on vinyl, tapes and CDs, one word cost-effective. CDs or tapes can’t offer the same or you had have a house stacked with CDs, DVDs, vinyl records accruing scratches and dust; more shelves are being shelved for online music libraries.

The war for attention still rages on and the CDs could make a very unlikely resurgence to topple digital music streaming in years to come but for now the latter is winning the war. While the possibility of that eludes me, it is worth mentioning that vinyl recordings have witnessed a remarkable turnaround in recent years to post stronger sales, some nostalgia-induced purchase in my opinion but it somehow makes the resurgence of CD sales likely. It is not victory songs for streaming services just yet then.

Streaming services have increased in their numbers since Pandora and Spotify came on board in the 2000s. From Amazon Music to Apple Music to Deezer, Soundcloud, iHeart Radio, Google Play and a host of others, music streaming platforms have created a convenient means of accessing music for free or on paid subscriptions but even with the ease of access to music they have created, there are still certain loopholes unique and akin to the various streaming platforms.

The major issue with streaming services could be a struggle against itself. The digital music platforms have barely turned in profits and that could affect their scope of operation in years to come. Although created for the convenience of their users, streaming platforms are not intended to be charity foundations and the cost of expenditure is always as much if not more than its revenue and this could in the long run lead to shutting down or merging with other platforms as some have done; Groove music, WiMP, iTunes Radio.

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Unlike movie streaming services that pay a one-time-fee, music streaming services have to pay royalties per stream; so, it is clear where most of the money goes. In trying to stay afloat, streaming platforms have to find a common playing field that suits itself, record labels, publishing companies, artistes and most especially the users. Would it be to cut royalties, pay a one-time-fee like their counterparts in the movie streaming industry or to increase subscription fees?

So then, the future of music consumption is uncertain, the growth of music streaming companies remains unclear if they continue to post losses and the demise of vinyl recordings and CDs don’t seem to be upon us yet. Just enjoy what works for you as long as it lasts.

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