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Why Musicians Must Embrace Spotify And Pandora

Jan 17 2014, 6:21pm CST | by

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Why Musicians Must Embrace Spotify And Pandora
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Why Musicians Must Embrace Spotify And Pandora

Musicians need Spotify, Pandora and other streaming services more than ever.

Yes, I know both independent artists and superstars alike have criticized the services about the royalties they pay to artists. Spotify hands out “$0.006 and $0.0084″ each time a song is played (that money goes to the rights holders, who takes a cut before the artist is paid). Spotify says it paid $500 million to labels last year.

While most artists can’t depend on music streaming for cash flow. these days they must rely on Spotify and others for something even more vital–exposure.

That’s because traditional radio is becoming both more monotonous and conservative. A story by Hannah Karp in the Wall Street Journal , shows that traditional radio stations are playing “less variety than ever.” Radio programmers believe people will stay tuned to the station if it’s playing a song they recognize. Karp provided the numbers to show just how repetitive the stations have grown.

Using data from Mediabase, Karp says the top 10 songs of 2013 were played twice as much as their counterparts in 2003–with Robin Thicket’s Blurred Lines topping every other song with 749,633 radio plays–Hey, Hey, Hey. (It was played 126,231,051 times by Spotify users.)

Radio is creating its own self-fulfilled prophecy–the more popular the song, the more play it receives. Like blockbuster movies, the top 40 songs are hogging all the space–blocking new artists, not to mention new songs by established artists, from ever reaching listeners’ ears.

That’s where Spotify and Pandora others come-in. The early Internet blew the gates off established media outlets (blogs, social media, YouTube etc) and let an entirely new set of voices be heard. Now music streaming sites are doing the same for the music industry. No longer do you need a powerful record label, a glitzy marketing campaign or prime place on the music store shelves (remember Tower and Sam Goody?) to have an international hit. Just ask pop-star Lorde:

Last April, billionaire Spotify backer Sean Parker  added the New Zealand musician’s song “Royals” to his influential Spotify playlist. The song went viral, soon jumping from Spotify to the top of the radio charts. Jason Flom, the head of Lava Records, who signed Lorde last spring credits Spotify for exposing her to the U.S. market. Flom told me in an email:

“The moment Lorde’s “Royals” was added to Sean Parker’s popular Hipster International playlist on Spotify, we saw an immediate reaction around the world…Six days later, “Royals” debuted on the Spotify Viral Chart. The plays just kept growing as word of the track spread across their network…It was the first spark that lit the blaze of attention and activity that culminated in Lorde’s incredible album debut.”

Music Streamers like Spotify and Pandora are key tools for artists to gain exposure and attract new fans–this is especially true as traditional radio grows more redundant. Yes, Lorde is the extreme case. And while having your song played on Spotify 1 million times might put less than $6,000 in your pocket (Pandora pays only $1,370 ) –it does provide vital exposure–exposure that could lead to album sales, ticket sales and of course more Internet streams (play begets more play).

The WSJ story New York radio programmer Ebro Darden says: “Taking risks is not rewarded, so we have to be more careful than ever before.”

In art, careful kills. With radio out of the discovery game, musicians must embrace companies like Spotify. Currently it’s there only hope.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stevenbertoni

Daniel Ek

Source: Forbes


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