On “100k songs a day: how did we get here?,” we looked at how the business and culture around music changed to enable a point where circa 100k tracks are uploaded to DSPs every day.
On one side, this milestone says a lot about how music has become a more inclusive party. But it also says a lot about how the value of music has decreased for the fans and consumers. Additionally, it’s worth noting that not all of these 100k tracks being uploaded day to day are music. “Non-music music” has set a precedent for which music and audio coexist indistinguishably, and that makes for many debates.
But where do we go from here?
If you’re a songwriter, producer or recording artist, you might wonder if the solution to stand out among 100k songs a day is to just make more music or better music; to focus on trying to get viral or succumbing to marketing strategies that may not align with your style (or morals.)
As a music fan, you might also wonder if your increasing access to music will make you more or less interested in it.
Can the oversupply of music actually spark a shift?
We have a few hints.
Photo credit: mikoto.raw Photographer, via Pexels.
100k songs a day: the side effects
It’s hard to measure to what extent the oversupply of music (and audio), and the unlimited, unfiltered access to it have made us numb.
Putting out one song that is going to compete with 99,999 releases in its first day alone can be scary. “Due to the sheer number of things coming out, songs that were shoo-ins for being hits five to 10 years ago now have to fight to see daylight,” Grammy-nominated songwriter and record producer Warren “Oak” Felder said to Billboard.
For music executives and A&Rs, it’s not just the amount of music put out every second that makes it harder to break artists or establish solid careers. It’s also how media channels have gotten so fragmented that there’s no way to predict what will work anymore.
In a piece titled “Too Many Songs, Not Enough Hits: Pop Music Is Struggling to Create New Stars”, published Oct 11, 2022, Billboard interviewed major label executives who all shared the same sentiment: they no longer have the same control over who makes it or not. “It used to be that you released an album, got Rolling Stone to review it, got on tour, got on late-night TV, and that was how you broke,” said one of them. “It was four or five things [needed to break an artist]. Now you need four or five things a week, or at least a month, or else your streams don’t go up.”
TikTok seems to be a no-brainer when it comes to music marketing strategies nowadays , as it has dictated so much of what becomes a hit in the last years. Everyone wants to go viral on TikTok, but the truth is, no one knows what it takes to do so. “There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what breaks there,” manager Justin Lehmann said to Billboard. The unpredictability of the TikTok algorithm and its audience’s response is as fun as it is fleeting, leading music creators to just eager for creating more and more music in hopes that one song will finally take off on the platform.
There is no longer an indefectible formula to create pop stars or hit songs; and that might be healthy, as it makes room for more diversity and creativity, and the music consumer seems more empowered than ever. But what does such power mean if the consumer is overwhelmed?
It may be a reaction to the abundance of new music that people are turning to “old” music instead. A study by Luminate showed that in 2021, music less than 18 months old declined in popularity and market share in the United States, as reported by Music Business Worldwide.
Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill is one among many “old” songs becoming fan favorites among the younger generations in 2022.
Overcoming numbness: what does the future look like for music lovers?
Not all is a reason to lose hope. Like many shifts the music industry has been through, this might just be another one that will require us to rethink our relationship with music, as music creators and also as consumers.
Some believe that curation will be key to navigating the increasingly vast sea of music. “Now more than ever, we know that investment in human curation will be key in making us the very best at connecting artists and audiences,” says Rachel Newman in Apple Music’s 100 million songs milestone editorial.
One could argue that the same was said back when streaming began, “curator” became a buzzword, and curated streaming playlists like Spotify’s RapCaviar and Viva Latino reached enough influence to break out songs and artists just by featuring them on it. But there’s enough evidence showing that people’s choices are still severely impacted by… other people’s choices. And that applies to music as well.
Curation nowadays may happen in the form of influence or connection, like when a BTS member hums to a song or posts about it on social media, and fans rapidly come to check it and fall in love with it too. It’s no wonder playlists curated by celebrities became such an employed marketing tactic. But it is also true that fans connect deeper with the music when it is shared from a place of intimacy and honesty, and these are feelings that may shape the future of music consumption deeply.
For some music fans, rethinking their relationship with music means building, or rather rediscovering healthier music consumption habits. It may take shape in radical ways, such as completely abolishing streaming services from their lives to build more “dedicated and focused” musical experiences, or even resorting to the good old local record shops, as shared by individuals interviewed for The Guardian.
While that may work for many music aficionados, it’s hard to think of everyone going back to the days of scarcity and diminished access to music. But maybe it’s just where the big hits will come from that will change. Could it be that the focus will switch back to “older” mediums? Something along these lines is happening with advertising, as reported by Harvard Business Review. According to the article published on April 29th 2022, traditional advertising (such as TV and radio) is slowly becoming a way to break through the digital clutter, as consumers spend so much time online that they’re becoming “increasingly numb to conventional digital advertising and engagement.”
Similarly, A&R executive Kayode Badmus-Wellington believes listeners may turn to, or be increasingly influenced by, other options to mold their music taste. “What if the consumer has arrived at such a distrust of the music business to deliver on their standards of quality, to the point where they’ve allowed music to fall into the background — simply giving up on music as their primary method of entertainment?,” Badmus-Wellington wrote for Billboard. “Perhaps this could also explain why sync (including short-form content like Tik Tok) has assumed a greater importance in breaking songs, old or new.”
While there are enough channels for 100k songs to blast off every day, a world with fewer options for music placement and distribution seems unthinkable at this point. The future is actually shaping to multiply the opportunities, with new developments such as the metaverse, and lots of uncharted potential in industries like video gaming.
We can only hope that a world with more music means a world where we will put greater value in music that truly speaks to us, making and engaging with it in more responsive and genuine ways.
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This content is published for informational and entertainment purposes and does not constitute legal or financial advice, nor promotion of any of the companies or artists here mentioned.