Rolling Stone Analysis on Streaming


What is Happening to Streaming’s Superstars?


My conclusions:

1. The major labels are screwed.

2. Rock isn’t as dead as we think it is.

3. When other genres adopt streaming, hip-hop’s hegemony will decline.

Tim Ingham brings to attention the fact that the top five acts on streaming platforms have lost market share.
In other words, the rich aren’t getting richer.

“Overall on-demand audio streams in the United States in 2018 grew by a very healthy 42 percent year-on-year, to 534.6 billion. Yet in the same year, the top 50 streaming tracks claimed just 0.7 percent of these plays, down from 3.9 percent in 2017.”

Now if you go to BuzzAngle’s 2018 report of consumption: you’ll find that Rock is the #1 in album sales. Rock has 26.5% of that market. Pop has 26.3% and Hip-Hop/Rap only has 5.2%.

Rock also dominates digital album sales, with 25.7% to Pop’s 24.9% and Hip-Hop/Rap’s 7.6%. Pop wins the Physical album sales and CD sales, but by a tenth of a percentage over Rock in physical, and 3% in CD sales. Hip-Hop/Rap has over 20% less market share than Pop and Rock in these two categories.

Rock wins vinyl. Begging the question of whether Rock fans are old farts. They’ve got the disposable income and remember when. 41.7% of vinyl sales is Rock, 25.6% of vinyl is Pop, and Hip-Hop/Rap only has 6.6%.

However, Rock doesn’t do too well in Song Sales, with 15.1% of the market, whereas Pop dominates with 25.6% and Hip-Hop/Rap has 14.7%. It seems that Rock fans want to buy whole albums, Pop and Hip-Hop/Rap fans just want the hit. Then again, are Rock fans just old farts stuck in their old ways?

Because when it comes to total streams…

Hip-Hop/Rap dominates, with 25.4%, Pop has 18.5% and Rock only has 11.4%.

So, Hip-Hop/Rap dominates streaming. Will it continue to do so?

One thing’s for sure, the superstars aren’t that super. This is not like the old days, where there was a limited amount of product and if you couldn’t get on the radio, good luck. Everybody can play now, and it causes chaos. We want order, but we’re not getting it. People want more than the hits.

But the major labels are only signing the hits. They’re not exploring new genres, they’re just going for a larger share of an ever shrinking pie.

Furthermore, it doesn’t appear the major labels have any idea how to sell what is not pop or hip-hop, i.e. sounds you can get on the radio and get instant traction with online. Of course there are exceptions, don’t e-mail me about Billie Eilish. But Billie just illustrates the audience is more powerful than the industry. Just like “Old Town Road” on TikTok. The industry keeps chasing trends instead of getting in front of them. The same way they were behind with Napster and streaming too.

More stuff sells, you’ve got to sell more stuff, or otherwise customers will go somewhere else.

All the levers in the major label world mean less. Radio is declining in power and the big stations, as stated above, are just Hip-Hop and Pop.

TV is nearly irrelevant.

And as far as a deep pocket… The majors won’t cough up dough until you prove yourself, then why do you need them? You’ve put years into developing your base, and now you’re going to cash out for one check?

I don’t think so.

As for rock, Jason Flom could be the smartest guy in the business. Ignoring the naysayers, he’s pushed Greta Van Fleet to stardom, eclipsing not only many Pop and Hip-Hop acts, but everyone in the Adult Alternative/Non-Comm/Americana world. It seems that people want something more familiar, less edgy, less far from what they know. At least in the Rock world. And, once again, Led Zeppelin’s debut was fifty years ago. At what point is it okay to be inspired by them?

And, once again, Rock kills on the road. It’s dominated by oldies acts, for sure. But if you go to one of these shows, it’s not only oldsters in attendance, there are always youngsters there, wanting to draw from the well.

Then again, we could be seeing the last gasps of Rock. When it moves to streaming, maybe it won’t make a big dent. But something is gaining ground, i.e. market share/percentage in the streaming world, other than the superstars.

In other words, everybody may have a smartphone, but that does not mean they’ve adopted streaming. Rock fans say they want to own. They’re ignorant and don’t know tracks can live on the smartphone and are playable outside of cell range as long as the device has power. In other words, they’re late to the party, as they were to social networks.

Or maybe there’s a subculture of young Rock fans who aren’t that into streaming. Maybe because there aren’t acts as good as the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, never mind Zeppelin and Ozzy, and if someone tried to follow in their footsteps, the kids would be eager to stream them.

So Hip-Hop fans are early adopters. Hip-Hop seized the opportunities online. Rock and the rest of the genres saw the internet and streaming as the devil, to their detriment. It’s like those bitching about electric cars, self-driving cars… The truth is electric cars are gonna dominate and it won’t be long before you don’t even own one. Then again, you’ll be in the know sooner when the transition happens, because it’ll appear on the streets. When it’s online…many miss the message.

So it turns out the limited choices of the pre-internet era did not reflect the public’s true desires, they wanted more.

And generally speaking, this more is not aligned with the majors, they don’t think it will scale.

But in the aggregate, it’s bigger than the hits, way bigger than the hits.

Once again, if you want to know what’s going on, you’re probably best off looking at concert grosses. Because that’s where people pony up their bucks.

Turns out there’s tons of opportunity out there for non-hit acts. It’s cheaper than ever to make, distribute and promote and if you’re longing for the twentieth century, before the internet, when it was all different, the truth is you probably couldn’t have gotten signed by a major anyway, you’d ‘a been dead in the water. And if you made money on record sales back then, you’re now upside down, but in terms of ticket sales, you’re making more money than you ever did from record sales, check the grosses. And if you’re bitching about traveling from city to city, doing the work, you’re no different from the coal miner or auto worker whose job disappeared. You’ve got to adapt.

Hip-Hop has.

But everybody else has not.

We might ultimately find out that when it all settles Hip-Hop still dominates, that’s possible, but one thing’s for sure, a plethora of acts will have traction.


Streaming Killed The Gatekeepers (April 19, 2019)



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