How Platforms are changing how we listen to music
We caught up with our expert music industry advisor Randy Nichols, artist manager at Force Music Management, music start-up investor and entrepreneur. Randy believes streaming services are reshaping everything from song structure, to the format music is released in (album vs. single), to what kind of music is made and how we listen to it.
Streaming services have opened us up to a world of unlimited listening. Whilst it’s now easier to find new music, our attention spans are shorter than ever and this is overwhelmingly due to the music industry’s platform revolution.
Shorter attention spans mean short intros and more chorus
Ease of access is making our attention spans shorter. A song with a slow intro is more likely to be skipped in favour of whatever’s next in our queue.
Hence, the music industry is starting to observe shorter intros or songs starting with their chorus.
“It's absolutely affected the artistry because when you're creating music, you have to think about how it's consumed. Years ago on the radio, presenters wanted long intros on songs. They would either edit them if they wanted to or talk over them whilst introducing a song.“
However, today streaming services’ algorithms for measuring a listen have started to make long intros a no-go. Randy comments:
“Now on Spotify, you need to hook that listener and keep them in for the first 30 seconds, because you get paid if they stick around for 30 seconds or more. So you find more songs now that instead of starting with an intro, start with the chorus.”
Playlists make singles more important than albums
Equally, fans are now listening to playlists over albums or EPs, artists are beginning to focus on single releases rather than crafting longer records, as well as upping the frequency of their releases.
Some would argue that this represents a shift toward music becoming more disposable and more commodified.
“I have very strong feelings on what's contributed to the death of the album and it's one person and one person only and it's Daniel Ek (Spotify co-founder), who decided that an album isn't interesting or valuable and his entire platform is based on singles”
“Spotify’s new release page is kind of like the record store. But when you go into the record store and you pick up a CD and you don't know if it's a single or a full album, that's a problem, and he (Daniel Ek) doesn't care.
“I had a Twitter fight with him three years ago now about it. I was shocked. He replied to me and his response was even more shocking ‘cause he pretty much said it's too hard to do that. And I wrote back, I said it's real easy on your new release page. He stopped replying after that.”
The power dynamic is changing but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing
Clearly, the platform revolution in the music industry is changing more than just how we listen to music, musical artists are now somewhat at the mercy of platforms, whose algorithms decide what’s popular.
However, Randy also argues that platforms can be a force for good in the industry, for example, pooled audiences mean that there’s more room for niche genres as even the most obscure acts can find an audience in streaming services’ libraries.
“Well, I definitely think that this wide-open distribution of music has opened more niche, but it's not even a music thing. It doesn't matter how you consume entertainment on any platform. Now you know, you could have a streaming site just for horror films. You have Disney releasing a new platform next month that's mostly based around children's content. So like anywhere you look, when you have so many outlets to consume, you can have more and more niche products.”
Randy has himself invested in platforms which he believes are positively impacting the music industry. Bandsintown provides a hub for all the live shows you’ve previously been missing out on.
From Green Day to Nine Inch Nails, to the Jonas Brothers, everyone from Grammy award-winning artists to your son’s garage band are using platforms to change the way they market themselves.
If you would like to get in contact with Randy, click here.