How streaming is changing the music industry
The purchasing model of music has c hanged. St r ea ming, t hrough platforms such as Deezer and Spotify, makes music more accessible to consumers, but it’s a controversial issue for musicians.
Streaming provides great value to the consumer, musician Danny K said at a recent forum at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs). “From the musician’s side, the royalties and the streaming money don’t really bleed through enough to make it exciting for us,” he explained. Streaming is a product of scale and the returns are only significant if more people pay for streaming services, he said. “Artists would rather sell one album than have 100 000 streams.” CD sales are dwindling and Danny K describes physical sales for the next 10 years as a race to zero.
Streaming adds another challenge to the already impenetrable music industry. “I think we just try to make the most of what we have and try and plug into what we believe is most valuable,” said J’Something, lead singer of house band Mi Casa. According to J’Something, Mi Casa has relied on getting shows to promote their music over the past four and a half years. “You hopefully get bookings, which is where any decent money is right now in South Africa,” he said. The live performances are valuable for musicians to differentiate themselves. “No other artist or ‘wannabe’ artist can copy what you lay down on the stage.”
Zakes Bant wini, musician a nd executive head of A& R (artists & repertoire) at Sony Music Africa, said musicians who aren’t “plugged into” the urban space are further disadvantaged by streaming as consumers of their music often don’t have smart devices. If physical music sales disappear, some genres will only be freely available on the radio, without other means to consume it. David Alexander, managing director of Sheer Publishing, agrees with Bantwini in that there are a large number of people in South Africa who don’t have access to streaming services. This is keeping the demand for in-store sales alive, slowing the downward trend of physical sales. Streaming has also had a negative impact on composers and publishers, Alexander said. The major share (60%-70%) of royalties goes to the record label, leaving a smaller share for songwriters and even less for the musicians, he explained.
Streaming is more important than radio in some markets, said Sean Watson, MD at Sony Music Entertainment Africa. To get airplay on radio, musicians have to build a reputation, and how often an artist’s music is streamed is a good indication of how popular it is. The viral impact of music is also important. “Social media is so plugged into these streaming services, so the ability for you to engage audiences through playlists, communications and social media is key.”
Despite these odds, these disruptive digital innovations can stil l benef it musicians. They don’t need to be signed with record labels to break into the industry, said J’Something. Mi Casa recently left their label Soul Candi and are now managed independently. “We have the greatest tool in the world that any artist ever had and it’s the internet.
“I believe the internet is allowing a lot of freedom out there,” said J’Something. Musicians can promote their songs online, and produce music using software on laptops. “You can do it anywhere in the country or continent. We don’t need the record label’s money to invest in studio time anymore.”