How beneficial is music streaming?

Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music. Music streaming has taken off in recent years, with another huge name recently added to the bill. But with icons like Adele and Taylor Swift rejecting their invites to the streaming party, seeds of doubt have been sown: just how beneficial are streaming services to the music industry?

As all of us old-souls out there, still wearing faded band t-shirts with pride would agree, one detrimental effect of online music streaming is the steady decline of vinyl and CD sales. After all, legends like The Rolling Stones and David Bowie were not made on the internet. What is now seen as the old-fashioned way of listening to music is in danger of extinction, a fact staunchly highlighted by HMV’s demise in 2014. It is no wonder that musical royalty such as Adele actively refuse to feed the streaming machine.

When asked why her new album 25 would not be made available on Spotify, the singer replied, “There are kids I know who are, like, nine who don’t even know what a fucking CD is!” I salute you, Adele, especially since you obviously don’t need Spotify’s assistance; the album sold 800,000 copies in the UK in its first week of release. Many of us will add it to our vinyl displays in a show of solidarity.

Before taking her catalogue off Spotify and refusing rights to Apple Music, Taylor Swift raised another question about the growing popularity of online streaming in a piece she wrote for the Wall Street Journal. Swift wants to “keep art valuable,” declaring that “music should not be free.” This is an admirable ideology, but with more artists making their music free and available (the entire Beatles discography is now on Spotify) the ‘Tidal’ wave created by digital music is becoming impossible to withstand for both consumer and industry.

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I should point out that huge names like Adele and Swift can easily afford (in every sense of the word) to reject Spotify and Apple. But what about the yet unheard-of artists trying to find their feet in this cut-throat industry? Even Hozier – an internationally-acclaimed artist with two Billboard Music Awards under his belt – started off on the BBC ‘Introducing’ Stage at Glastonbury in 2014. If, therefore, streaming is a way for independent musicians to make a name for themselves, then surely it is the way forward, the very future of the music industry? As much as I grit my teeth in saying it, it’s time to face the future. Or rather the music. Just like virtually every other entertainment industry, music is becoming part of the online world and this is not an entirely bad thing. The future of music is in the hands of the artists. How can they attempt to change the world if they’re still stuck in a basement making their own cover art?