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Streaming’s Microwave Era: Music’s Shelf Life is Shorter Than Ever

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Sarah Tew/CNET

by Dan Runcie

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The shelf life of new music feels shorter than ever. Music streaming is a lot like video streaming. Shows like The Queen’s Gambit and Mare of Easttown capture our attention for the length of a news cycle, then we moved on. Similarly, three weeks ago everyone talked about J. Cole’s The Off-Season, but the moment has now passed even though the album and rollout were praised. The people who still have The Off-Season in regular rotation are Cole’s day-ones and diehard fans.

Some believe that this is a quality issue, but it’s less about quality, and more about control.

The shift in control. It wasn’t like this in the 2000s. Albums like Get Rich or Die Tryin’ or Tha Carter III stayed in car CD players for over a year. They got played at parties and clubs all the time. And six months after those albums dropped, artists still release new music videos and remixes from those albums.

When fans owned music, more value was placed on each CD. Also, more mainstream listening was controlled by gatekeepers like radio, TV, and nightclub DJs. They extended the life of certain records.

If you’re someone who still buys albums today, listens to the radio often, still goes out to clubs, and doesn’t do much streaming, then this may not seem like much of a shift. But if you haven’t left your house all year and listen to most of your music on streaming, then you can relate.

Just content marketing? The business model for streaming is also a factor. Most artists need tons of streams to earn meaningful revenue. New music is an opportunity for artists to earn more money through tours, festivals, and merch. And for digital streaming providers, new music attracts subscribers who become users of more lucrative revenue streams. This is the music industry’s version of content marketing.

That said, I don’t think artists like Kendrick Lamar or Rapsody look at view their albums as content marketing. But they release their music on platforms run by companies that do look at their music as a customer acquisition opportunity.

Read more on this topic here: What Does Longevity Look Like in Today’s Hip-Hop Era?

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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