Say what you will about how the age of streaming has decluttered the life of music fans by doing away with the need for physical releases, but ask someone to use those same services to learn the lyrics of their new favorite song and your question will be met with silence. Between Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Rdio, and Tidal there is not a single platform that allows users to follow along with a song by reading the track’s lyrics. Those wishing to do that music first open an internet browser, Google a few keywords, and then-9 times out of 10-they will find a non-artist owned site to read from. Any ad money generated from this activity goes to the owner of the site that posted the lyrics and not the artists who wrote the lyrics in the first place.
This was rarely the case when CDs were popular. People talk about holding the album in their hands and how the presence of a physical product gave more value to the fact money was being spent, but for me the best part of owning any record was pouring over the lyrics contained within the meticulously crafted booklet included with each album. When I bought a record and no words were within, I was upset. With enough spins you can learn the words to pretty much any song, but there is something far more meaningful about being able to read and understand them from the first or second listen. It frees the mind to focus more on the music as a whole, allowing listening the chance to properly experience each rise and fall as the artist intended, which in turn gives more meaning to the lyrics.
Regardless of how famous or unknown they may be, every artist should make it a point to post their lyrics online through a site or page they control. If not for the sake of controlling the conversation around your content online, then for the sake of fans new and old. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve discovered a promising new band online, only to become instantly discouraged when there was no place for me to read and decipher the content of their music. Fans want to be able to sing along with the songs they love, regardless of whether or not the words are easy to learn (I’m looking at you, Korean Migos), and when artists do not take the responsibility to educate fans about their art it either gets posted by a third party who then profits for no good reason, or it goes uncovered, as is the case for many smaller bands.
Platforms like Purevolume and Bandcamp offer the ability to add lyrics to streams. They understand that part of the music discovery experience is learning to sing along. They know that once someone finds an artist they feel a connection to they will immediately want to know everything they can about that talent, starting with the words behind the music. They want to see what it is about the words that connect with their life, or what it is about the hook that makes them feel inspired. When no lyrics are immediately available, there is a high risk of quick burnout from new new listeners. An artist’s music may be strong, but in an age as flooded with quality artist as today’s music market it requires a lot more than sheer talent to hold the attention the average music consumer. There needs to be a real emotional connection, and while that may begin with the music, it’s often sealed with the words themselves.
Start today. Don’t wait another minute. Chances are high if you’re an artist reading this now you already have some, if not all of your lyrics stored somewhere on your computer or mobile device. Log onto you numerous streaming accounts, as well as your personal website, and post those lyrics as soon as you are able. Afterwards, promote the presence of these lyrics and invite fans to learn the words before your next show. You can also use this approach for regional marketing, challenging various cities to sing along to singles louder than other cities, or simply encouraging a quick refresher of what’s in store before your big show. Whatever you do, get those lyrics online. Please.