The future of music lies in access, not ownership

Music has been around since the dawn of mankind, but the music industry as we know it is still very much in its infancy. People did not begin purchasing recorded music until the last century, and even then it took a several years for what we think of as the modern music business to start taking shape.

The point is, people had access to music long before they could own it, and – according to sales data – people still prefer to ownership in 2017.

You probably already recognized this as true, even if you did not know how to define it. Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, and all other premium streaming platforms fall under the umbrella of ‘access.’ It’s companies like those that last year lead the industry to its first signs of meaningful growth in half a decade. Over 100 million people worldwide will be paying for a subscription music service by the end of 2017, and that number is likely to rise further in the years to come.

Forbes ran a great piece on access versus ownership earlier this week. Here’s one of the many great takeaways:

the recorded music industry will make more money from access than from “ownership” sometime this year–or already does, if you count any form of radio towards that revenue. Music publishing industry figures are consistent with these trends even if they aren’t broken out as precisely as they are for recorded music.

So what does this mean for artists trying to make it right now? A few thoughts:

– Monetizing access is going to be key when it comes to your bottom line. You should be seeking ways to profit from plays of songs and videos alike across all platforms. 

– Discovery in the age of on-demand access will be a tricky thing. Playlists will likely play an increasingly important role in helping musicians on the rise reach large scale exposure, with brands and popular influencers serving as gatekeepers to potential new listeners.

– Singles matters more than ever. A well-marketed single that gains a reasonable large following online could potentially pay for future recordings, tours, and more if monetized properly. 

– Touring is going to change. The thing about streaming is, you don’t have to pay on a per artist basis. Users can now listen to artists they enjoy nonstop with no intention of ever supporting them through financial means. The number of monthly listeners will no doubt be a statistic used in booking, but talent buyers will have to find a way to convert that number into how many people are likely to actually pay to see that artist/group in person.

Talk to us: What do you think this trend will mean for the future of the music business? 

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.