To understand what this blog is about, please click here. Last week’s article asking how the music industry would look if black women weren’t side-linded and forced to compete is here as part of my Black History Month series.
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The streaming era
Can you imagine a world without streaming?
Not enjoying today’s music? That’s fine, go back in time and access classics in seconds
Need music while on the road? Just make a playlist, download and listen without wifi
Feeling bored with your music? Then browse the pre-made playlists and listen to someone new.
All for £9.99 a month. The streaming era is ground-breaking, even changing how music is measured and becoming “important in official [chart] figures” (Oke, 2018). This change helped Dave and Fredo’s ‘Funky Friday’ land a #1 spot. The song was performing well on Spotify and has over 3 million YouTube views (Reed, 2018).
But everything has a catch. Beyond the other issues I have with streaming, there are heavy business consequences:
How does the music industry make money?
Can streaming be financially worthwhile?
Will the music industry make money in the future or will it collapse?
A physical album used to be about £9.99. The fact that I can access infinite albums for that same price each month doesn’t add up. As Gerber said (2017) – “after all, the consumer is winning, since…accessing music content is cheaper than ever before”. But while we save money, someone else is paying.
Ironically, the streaming services themselves are paying; Pandora and Spotify have struggled to make profits (Gerber, 2017). This might be shocking, but giving away music so cheaply was always going to incur a loss (Gerber, 2017.
While ads can be implemented to free users, is this enough to stay in business?
Streaming’s impact was harsh for independent record shops. It’s rare to find a HMV (a once-popular UK store), although the one in my old uni town was still open. I was surprised, because it’s common knowledge that CD sales have declined as streaming has grown.
Streaming, a result of technology’s rapid and recent development, means CD retailers can’t compete with technology-aided businesses, their reduced costs and efficiency – look at Blockbuster vs Netflix and taxis vs Uber.
Artists once relied upon traditional stores (Bray, 2009) which “line[d] the pockets” of musicians, managers, promoters and record labels (Gerber, 2017). But these people are now suffering from streaming because of the inability to monetise content.
As consumers, our expectations have changed. We won’t pay for music anymore, which means it has become devalued (Gerber, 2017).
Streaming equals about less than a penny per stream (Gerber, 2017), although this varies per service. And in a world where money (whether you want to admit it or not) is a necessity in life, this means musicians have to consider if they can feasibly pursue their passions. I
f they stay in the business, their creativity is negatively impacted (Gerber, 2017) by the knowledge of streaming’s inability to pay.
Should musicians become entrepreneurs instead?
Alternatively, Gerber (2017) believes musicians should take a more creative route (Bray, 2009), like starting a business or getting involved with someone else’s.
I don’t want to just think about releasing your merch, although this is a popular route given how highly you can price such items. With merch, you confine yourself to your fanbase, unless your merch has universal appeal like Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour clothing.
The following musicians created their own side-hustles, and because this article is part of my Black History Month series, I will be focusing on black musicpreneurs:
To start, here is an image showing a variety of brands which stemmed from the founders of Roc-A-Fella.
This is a popular choice for musicians. It makes sense as music is about self-expression and creativity and so is fashion, making the cross-over natural and effective. Ventures from the UK include Tinie Tempah’s Disturbing London, which is street mixed with high fashion (Saunders, 2017) and Skepta’s Mains line (Harris, 2017).
Pharrell has streetwear brand Billionaire Boys Club (fusing “rock, hip-hop and skateboarding culture” (Zeleznock, 2008), shoewear brand Ice Cream and a textile company which turns plastic into denim.
Kanye West has many fashion businesses, like his Yeezy’s shoes and clothing line, as does Rihanna. One of the singer’s various ventures includes being the creative director of Puma (Saunders, 2017), designing for River Island and having her Savage line of lingerie.
Beyonce has a vegan home-delivery company and 50 Cent owns shares of the Vitamin Water brand (Kreps, 2014) in terms of US-artists. From the UK, there’s Krept and Konan’s Crepes and Cones, a “pancake and ice-cream emporium” that also sells cocktails, chicken wings and healthy portions of ribs (if you know, you know) (Foster, 2018).
Dr Dre’s Beats are one of the best examples for tech businesses made by musicians. The brand offers “boutique headphones that look good and are bass-resilient”, has had from support from celebrity clients and tech giant Apple spent $3.2 billion on it (Kreps, 2014).
Rihanna has shaken things up with her Fenty Beauty line. She is also rumoured to be launching much more under the House of Fenty brand, like wine.
Charities and non-profit organisations are an option too. Pharrell has an educational foundation to help young people in troubled communities (Yakowicz, 2014).
Akon wanted to bring solar energy to those living in rural Africa through Akon Lighting Africa (Nianias, 2015), which has given 600 million people electricity. The scheme wants the local intellect to use their expertise and pushes them to “devise new, innovative, technical solutions” (Nianias, 2015).
And finally, something still within the musical field is setting up your own record label, which has been done by JME and Skepta (Kent-Smith, 2017), Diddy and Jay-Z . But given that record labels are arguably less powerful now than before, is this really the best move or would another venture be better?
SOURCES: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/akon-is-bringing-electricity-to-600-million-people-in-africa-10291826.html, https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/funky-friday-dave-and-fredo-number-1, https://www.complex.com/music/2018/10/the-success-of-dave-fredo-funky-friday-signals-a-new-dawn-for-british-rap, https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisoncoleman/2018/01/19/in-the-21st-century-to-be-a-musician-is-to-be-an-entrepreneur/#7feaca4c4470, https://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2017/05/03/how-the-music-industry-is-putting-itself-out-of-business/#71d570c9e57a, https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/the-new-link-between-music-and-fashion-1774994.html, https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/music/rappers-krept-and-konan-open-croyden-pancake-and-icecream-emporium-a3836386.html, https://hypebeast.com/2017/6/skepta-mains-clothing-line, https://mixmag.net/feature/15-of-the-most-influential-grime-and-dubstep-labels-of-the-last-decade/23, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-40339911, https://www.growthink.com/content/25-most-successful-musician-entrepreneurs, https://www.inc.com/will-yakowicz/draft/13-hip-hop-artists-who-became-entrepreneur.html, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/15-musicians-who-run-business-empires-22552/jay-z-31-220549/