One thing most people have in common is music. Whether you listen to music going to work or class, or pretending to be in a music video whenever you are in a car, music is everywhere in our lives. If 15 years ago we felt cool having a walkman or portable CD players, nowadays it is much easier to bring music everywhere. This is how streaming is shaping the music industry.
Apple created the first iPod in 2001 (yes, that long ago). It was the beginning of a new era for music. We all started to have those mp3 players, but it took a long time and some work to add music, and it wasn’t always legal. I remember being a young teenager, going to my friend’s and having them add their music on my music player so that I would have more.
Then came Spotify, and many other streaming websites everywhere in the world. At the time, it didn’t feel like a revolution. However, we could now listen to music we didn’t own without having to be on Youtube looking for the music video. Soon, we all had smartphones with internet data and room for music. If most of us still added music track by track, for others it was the beginning of music streaming.
What is music streaming? It is being able to listen to music without having downloaded it before. It is convenient, efficient, and definitely a new approach to music consumption.
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Whether it is on an app, or a dedicated device, we all have music at the tip of our fingers. Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube premium, Amazon Music… it can be hard to decide which one to use, and if you should pay for it. Some people don’t mind listening to ads in between songs.
No need to introduce Spotify, as this giant of the industry made a name out of streaming. For 9,99€ per month (4,99€ for students) you can access the entire library plus the playlists without ads. The power of Spotify comes from its algorithm, picking songs you might like. I have tried both Spotify and Apple Music, and I have to say Spotify really got me. It is that, or it was a few lucky guesses.
Of course, there is Apple Music. Big competitor for one essential reason : it is so easy to use it when you own an Apple product. Is it as good? Probably not. But here, convenience wins. With so many people using iPhones, there are as many clients for Apple Music. The app makes iTunes irrelevant, and I can tell I am not missing it. The main difference between Apple Music and Spotify would be that there is no free Apple Music. Unlike Spotify, you cannot use it with ads. So, another point for Spotify.
There are other options. For example, Youtube Music, for 9,99€ per month too. Or Amazon Prime Music, for 49€ per year, as it is included with the rest of Prime. It sounds like a good investment, with Prime Video. I tried it: it looks like a succession of playlists at first, but there is a search space to look for artists and songs. I decided to look for the song that has been stuck in my head for a week now (Thank you Hamilton), when I realized that even with Amazon Prime, one needed to subscribe to Amazon Music Unlimited for 9,99€ per month to have access to the entire library. Most titles are available, but a few are unlimited only. However, I have been quite enjoying the music even without Unlimited.
For the longest time, an artist was working if he was selling lots of albums. Now, it is about how many times his songs have been streamed. The good thing is that it is easier to know which songs are actually being listened to. The bad thing is that if the songs are not streamed right from when they get out, it feels like a failure, even if they end up with millions of streams.
Today’s most streamed song in Ireland is “Positions” by Arianna Grande. She is Spotify’s most streamed female artist of all time with more than 16 billion streams. As a reminder, there are currently 7.8 billion of us on the planet. There are only two women with more than 10 billion streams on Spotify, Arianna Grande and Rihanna, while there are 15 men, the top five being Drake, Ed Sheeran, Post Malone, Eminem and Justin Bieber.
On Youtube, the most watched music video is “Baby Shark”, followed by “Despacito”. No surprise here. However, I wouldn’t have guessed that Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” would be third. The top five is completed by “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa, “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, and Psy’s “Gangnam Style”.
Turns out, “Shape of You” is the most streamed Spotify song, making Ed Sheeran the best all around. I may have been one of the billion streams, but I find it interesting that an artist that is not active on social media and doesn’t drop a new song or album every year is still at the top. Indeed, “Shape of You” was first released in 2017, and his latest album was last year. It is to be noted that Ed Sheeran songs are also the most used for weddings.
More often than not, Ireland is counted with its neighbor the United Kingdom and does not get as much attention as it deserves. Over the years, Irish artists have produced many songs listened to everywhere in the world. When I think of Irish artists, I first think about U2, The Script or The Cranberries, but there are so many more.
Ireland’s top streamed song is “Beautiful Day” by U2, followed by The Script’s “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved”. You can find the most streamed tracks by Irish Artists ever here. For the Ireland Hits, and the playlist of the most streamed songs in Ireland on Spotify, it is here.
What marks the difference between Spotify and Apple Music is their algorithms target. If Apple Music is the best at finding “for you” songs and have mixes made for you, Spotify is stronger when it comes down to playlists. From mood playlists (chill, feeling acoustic, it’s a great day), to seasons (Fall playlists are awesome), to events (Christmas, St Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day) to about anything (there is one for cleaning inside the house), you can let it play and not have to think about what comes next.
The other strong suit of Spotify is the marketing. When you have to compete with big names like Apple, you have to come strong. And they came with the perfect idea. It is now tradition for people to share their most played songs at the end of the year. Spotify went even further when they launched their ads using users data. Here are a few of my favorite ones: “Dear person who played “Sorry” 42 times on Valentine’s Day, what did you do ”, and “Dear 3,749 persons who streamed “It’s The End of The World As We Know It” the day of the Brexit vote, hang in there”.
The “Dear Person” campaign and other end of the year summary campaigns (Thanks 2016, it’s been weird, or 2018 goals) made the brand visible. They sound like a friend, making nice fun of the users and making us all feel in on the joke.
It seems obvious that streaming is the present and future of the music industry. In our society of instant consumption, streaming makes sense. We want music, we want it everywhere, at everytime, without having to commit. We want diversity, we want to be the one who discovers a new sound, and yet we want to keep on listening to the same ten songs over and over for the rest of our lives.
For an artist to be relevant, it is not only about making good music anymore, there is a need to promote further. Some artists create playlists for fans to listen to. Another way is TikTok. As the platform is rising, and the dances are all over the world, so is the music to which people are dancing. Artists create challenges and dances to their songs for fans to recreate and for the music to go global.
One thing is for sure, with music streaming, we all get to listen to epic songs everywhere, feel empowered, and pretend to be in a movie, about to fly a dragon or fight 300 soldiers when, really, we are on our way to work.