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How Spotify’s Continued Expansion Is Killing Niche Music Genres

4While the rise of streaming is, in many ways, responsible for the music industry's salvation, the vast majority of content streamed on platforms like Spotify generally tends to lean towards the pop/hip hop spectrum. As Thomas Steffens here explains could be bad news for more niche music genres like classical and jazz.

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Guest post by Thomas Steffens, CEO, Primephonic

The rapid growth of streaming giants like Spotify, Apple and Pandora has without a doubt saved the music industry in the age of falling record sales and internet piracy. Just last year total on-demand music streams shot up 34 percent from the previous year while song sales fell 28.8 percent. Streaming now accounts for 75 percent of music industry revenue, according to the RIAA.

Spotify is leading the charge, having posted its first ever quarter with a positive operating profit in Q4 of 2018. The company boasts more than 207 million monthly users and is working to protect its market share against Apple and Amazon by expanding into emerging markets, most recently India.

While streaming is allowing the music industry to grow and bringing more music to households worldwide, the model doesn’t benefit everyone. While companies are hyper-focused on expansion, they overlook areas where they can improve the user experience, especially when it comes to niche genres.

Pop and hip-hop genres generate the most streams and in turn, the most revenue with hip-hop accounting for more than a quarter of all songs streamed in 2018. So while giants like Spotify and Apple fight to protect their market shares by bringing pop music to new countries with cheaper models, classical and jazz fall by the wayside.

The classical problem

7Classical music only accounts for 1.1 percent of all music streamed. While it’s available on all the major streaming platforms, fans find issues including a lack of advanced search options, poorly made recommendations, minimal artist information and low-quality audio. Classical fans are willing to stream but they’re largely unsatisfied with the hand they’ve been dealt.

Mainstream services are tailored for pop music with every feature from the audio quality, to the ad-driven subscriptions and pay-per-stream payout models. Spotify’s free ad-driven subscription model may work when an ad or two is played between bursts of short pop songs, but when it interrupts an hour-long concerto, it disrupts the entire listening experience for classical enthusiasts.

The pay-per-stream model hurts most artists, but it hits classical musicians the hardest because their works are characteristically longer, even up to an hour, and can involve up to one hundred musicians. The model also poses a big threat to the artistic integrity of classical music by forcing artists to truncate their works, tailoring them to the formula profitable in the pop music industry in order maximize streaming royalties. 

The rise of niche streaming services

With classical music fans avoiding streaming platforms and musicians compromising their artistic integrity to maximize royalties, the genre faces a dooming fate. With the industry earning fewer dollars every day, excitement for the genre will continue to fall, decreasing funding and investment in new talent and forcing classical into extinction.

Giants like Spotify are unlikely to invest in fixing their classical experience because it cannot generate revenue as fast as pop music in emerging markets, so the genre and those who support it need to adapt in order to survive. We’ll see niche streaming options continue to pop up that offer the improvements fans want – advanced search, high-quality audio, intelligent recommendations and detailed information. Combined with a fair, pay-per-second payout model, this unique blend is the only way classical will survive the streaming revolution and protect its artistic integrity.

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