The music industry is always evolving, and as a result, it looks very different than it did 10 or 15 years ago. Think about what you relied upon earlier this century when you wanted to hear your favorite songs. You might have turned on your car radio or popped a CD into a boom box or portable CD player. You may have played music off of your computer on any of a number of old downloading services, from Napster to Kazaa. You may have even turned on MTV in the afternoon to watch TRL—a program that so defined the era it was featured on a list of things that perfectly capture the 2000s.
Outside of radio play, these are all relics at this point. And that hasn’t just changed things for consumers, but for artists as well. In 2017 musicians, from up-and-comers to established stars, can no longer rely on these methods for exposure or sales. This is probably a good thing with regard to the likes of Napster and Kazaa, as free and sometimes illegal downloads undoubtedly hurt a lot of artists. But a new artist today probably can’t hope to make much through album sales or even paid album downloads. An established artist isn’t going to be on a major channel every afternoon with a headlining music video making a well-liked single even more popular.
Fortunately, there are some interesting alternatives that have come about largely through new technology and creative marketing efforts. Taking the place of paid and illegal downloads, as well as most physical media, is streaming. Earlier this spring, Variety reported that streaming services generated more than 50 percent of all U.S. music revenue in 2016. That means that for a lot of artists, it will have become the primary source of income. This will naturally affect different musicians in different ways. A famous artist who’s a major draw to fans will get more money, given that streaming services tend to pay by the number of listens. But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope for lesser-known artists. One report detailing how earnings can be fairly paltry detailed how a singer/songwriter made decent earnings after landing on coffee house playlists. As with any other chapter in music history, the key is to get noticed and get played.
While streaming has become a primary source of revenue for a lot of artists there are also other ways in which tech is influencing the modern music business. Specifically, some established bands have begun to realize how effectively they can market themselves through licensing. That no longer means just selling merchandise and band-specific accessories. Instead, it means lending material to everything from films and TV shows to games on the internet.
Slot arcades, in particular, have done well to promote themselves through the use of licensed material, with everything from popular sports themes to superhero characters being used to attract attention to game variety. Included in this effort have been several classic music groups, including Guns N’ Roses and Motörhead to name a few. The games use likenesses of the relevant musicians, as well as official musical material that plays in the background.
Again, this isn’t something an up-and-coming artist can necessarily take advantage of right away. But it’s another indication of how modern technology and marketing trends are changing the ways in which musicians operate. Those looking to make it in the industry today would do well to explore any and all means possible to expand their presence through streaming, licensing, and other tech-based resources.