There is no doubt that digital music downloads are still on the way down. As of last summer, music downloads had fallen by almost a quarter (23.9%), totaling 404.9 million, according to Nielsen Soundscan’s H1 2016 data. That’s due in no small part to the continued popularity of music streaming platforms which asks users to pay a monthly fee to get access to music or even get access to their favorite tunes for free, providing they can accept advertising in between songs.
In fact, for the cost of a single digital album download, you can get access to literally tens of millions of songs from artists in all four corners of the world. It’s little wonder why more than 100 million people worldwide are now subscribed to such services. 2017 has been a huge year for the music streaming industry. Let’s take a look at some of the successes and tech developments and what 2018 holds for the industry going forward.
Live streaming turns heads
Live streaming has not only changed the way we listen to our music online, it has transformed so many other social and entertainment industries too. Although YouTube is still the number one source used to watch live streaming video, Facebook Live is coming up fast, amounting to almost a quarter (24%) of all streams, according to Magid Media Futures.
In addition, live video streams are now more popular to watch via social media than longform video content. Businesses and organizations can use Facebook Live as a marketing or insights channel to video industry seminars and conferences as well as new product releases. Previously, live video content was considered a luxury, but over the last 12 months, consumers have become more connected to live streams than any other form of video. High-definition live streaming is even redefining the online casino experience, streaming classic casino table games such as blackjack and roulette. Online iGaming provider Betway Casino now operates nine different table games with live streaming of the betting action and the ability to interact with human dealers and fellow players. Global consumption of live sport has also been transformed by live streaming platforms such as SkyGo, with the ability to watch all Sky Sports channels on the go on smartphone and tablet devices, as well as desktop and laptop computers. The NOW TV box also enables pay-as-you-watch live streams of the biggest football, cricket, tennis, boxing and motorsport from around the world.
So how does this innovation apply to the music streaming world?
Thirty million songs at the touch of a button
Since its release as an unknown Swedish start-up, Spotify has gone from being a free music streaming portal to a company that’s now worth a reported $10bn. The portal has successfully utilized the freemium business model and now boasts a reported 50 million users, 12.5 million of which are currently paying for the subscription streaming service. Spotify’s music library in 2017 is unstoppable, with over 30 million songs now in its library, from the late David Bowie to Dr Dre.
Ad-supported music streaming still booming
There’s no doubt that free, ad-supported music streaming still has a place in the industry, with both Spotify and Deezer leading the way. The former gives users full access to their library of 30+ million tracks on desktop, smartphone and tablet devices, but adverts will regularly be heard between tracks and songs are streamed at a reduced audio quality. Meanwhile, Deezer only offers a limited version of its streaming library on mobile and tablets.
Apple Music reaches out to Android
Apple Music is also doing its best to try and compete and not simply cater to the Apple diehards. Its music streaming platform is not only available on iOS and MacOS, it’s now available via Android too. However, there’s still very little reason why you’d choose Apple Music over Spotify, unless you enjoy hand-picked live radio streams. Meanwhile, Amazon’s Music Unlimited online music streaming service has been upgraded to integrate seamlessly this year with the latest Echo and Echo Dot speakers, allowing users to request tracks through voice functionality.
New ways of discovering music you’ll like
In terms of discovering new and interesting music and artists users may not have normally considered listening to, Deezer has impressed with its Hear This functionality, creating a personalized music feed including new releases from the artists you listen to as well as selected tracks based on your long-term listening habits. Spotify is also doing its bit to better connect fans with music artists with their new On Tour feature. Users can set up alerts to notify them when their favorite artists and bands are gigging in their local area.
Sticking with the live concert theme, Musical.ly, which already has a user base of 80 million worldwide, has launched Live.ly – an app for live streaming and broadcasting which will be viewable on Musical.ly. Initially it enabled fans to dub their own voices over tracks from pop stars such as Meghan Trainor and Rihanna, but Live.ly has become a live streaming platform for users to document their life as it happens and connect to group video chats with friends and family.
What does 2018 hold for the music streaming industry? So far, there have been few indications of any significant developments, but it’s certainly telling that American chart giants Billboard will be giving popular songs played on paid streaming services greater weight in 2018. It’s surprising that Billboard will prioritize these over ad-supported audio streams, but it may suggest that the US chart is keen to encourage streaming platforms to do away with an ad-supported tier and focus solely on subscriptions – something to look out for in the coming months perhaps?
The evolution of live streaming means that music lovers, businesses, consumers, gamers and sports fans alike can interact like never before. The ability to live stream content is now such a staple part of our everyday lives that it’s virtually impossible to remember a point in time without it. Nevertheless, we’re sure that during the next 12 months we will continue to see live and on-demand streaming infiltrating into more industries in new and exciting ways.