Streaming is here, it arrived “yesterday” … and it is here to stay. There are many differing opinions about streaming from those within the music industry, but love it or hate it, like it or leave it, it is what it is. After several decades of working in the music industry, this is a common phrase for me, “it is what it is”. It doesn’t mean I don’t prefer a different system or better options … it simply means it is the best option I have to work with at the moment in my efforts to move the needle (to see growth). I can either ignore it or do my best to understand how I can take advantage of it for those I work with.
For most music consumers, they tend to only hear the arguments about the current state of the music business (and streaming) from those at the very top. They hear the opinions from popular artists or very few major record labels.
Then there is the rest of us that work in the music industry. We’re independent. We don’t have millions of dollars to invest in marketing. We don’t have access to large platforms of exposure or great pop culture influence. We’re not even on most radars in entertainment. We’re simply trying to find a niche following for the music we create on the multiple platforms that are available. To grow what we do little by little and still be here tomorrow creating more content.
That brings me to the purpose of this post. Do I believe in streaming? Do I think it’s a great opportunity? It doesn’t matter what I believe about it … what matters is … IT IS AN OPPORTUNITY. I can’t afford to ignore where the majority of music listeners are consuming music. (Spotify alone is close to 400 million active monthly listeners at the time of this post.)
In a recent article from Spotify in November 2020, they provided this stat,
“Spotify drives 16 billion artist discoveries every month, meaning 16 billion times a month, fans listen to an artist they have never heard before on Spotify.” Yes, that is “billion” and that is “monthly”.
I have worked for over two decades in what is a microcosm of Christian Music, Southern Gospel Music. The areas I work in cover Southern Gospel, Christian Country, Bluegrass Gospel and other styles or Christian Music that make up less than 5% of total Christian Music market consumption as a whole.
And we need growth. Obvious statement I know. We need a fan base that is constantly expanding. We need more people to DISCOVER the music. Streaming is one of the biggest opportunities we have because of its very nature of “discovery”.
However, that power of discovery and growth is not really in my hands or the hands of the artist or producers or publishers or songwriters. It is not in the hands of our small music industry, Southern Gospel Music. That power rests in the hands of the current fan base that we have.
Why? Because every music consumer that currently likes this music and its artists has the power to help an artist be discovered each day because we live in a world based on algorithms.
Every content platform, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Spotify, etc has elaborate computer programs that classify all of its content by metadata (specific details of information about each piece of content) … that also takes into consideration each choice a consumer makes in regard to that content; every view, every click, every listen. Even down to how long you watched a video, how long you listened to a song. It’s how they can recommend movies you may like, or suggest videos on YouTube that may interest you, or provide a new artist you may want to discover. It is a profile … of YOU. Your likes, your dislikes, you interests. And your profile has influence on the system! Platforms WANT you to consume content … they will give you what you have shown an interest in based off of your past actions (your algorithm).
Even further, if you like something, then all the consumers who have similar algorithm profiles in movies, videos or music might like it as well. So that factors into the algorithm equation as well.
So if you listen to Christian Music, every song you stream is going into an algorithm that is constantly developing a profile of what you may like to consume and what others with similar algorithms may like. The more Christian Music you consume, the more you support it, the more you help in discovery and growth.
Then if you take a step further with your favorite music and share it on your social media or text a song to a friend who may like it, that music is factored into their algorithm as well. They will potentially be given suggestions for similar Christian Music artists by that platform.
The ultimate bottom line for those who create the content is that everything you consume, every video on YouTube, every song on streaming platforms … any algorithmic benefit and revenue goes back to support those who created the content. It helps them to continue to create and make new music. It sustains them, it helps them grow what they do.
There are a lot of back end details I won’t get into that also assist artists and everyone who works with them, but on the label side we can see if an artists has more listeners in Atlanta or Dallas or Charlotte, etc. This can help managers and booking agents know where to target concerts and appearances that could possibly be better attended. Let’s just say there are far reaching impacts to supporting (consuming) the artists and music you like that go beyond the platforms.
So if you love Christian Music, and in particular Southern Gospel, you can help support and grow its fan base so others can discover and enjoy the music as well. You can also help those making the music to keep creating music tomorrow. You don’t have to understand metadata or algorithms or any of that stuff, just consume the music, your consumer choices have influence … and power.
It is in your hands! Here are some ways you can help!:
- Listen to the music often that you want to support. Listen on your favorite streaming platform.
- Create playlists of your favorite songs.
- Share the songs move your or inspire you, it will inspire a friend too. Share it on your social media or text a link to a friend.
- Check out those, “you might like” suggestions, and give some new music a try.
Thank you for supporting and growing the music!
John Mathis Jr.