All posts by audreyshattuck

Taylor Swift and Streaming Music

I’m just going to put it out there, but I can’t stand Taylor Swift. (Was it just me who cringed at Beats 1 Radio’s latest ad featuring T Swizzle herself?) I remember one day when I was going through my daily Buzzfeed read and saw  “Taylor Swift Just Removed Her Albums From Spotify.” Being the curious cat that I am, I read the article. There were mixed emotions from people praising her decision to others being utterly heartbroken. It was later noted that she decided to not stream her latest album 1989 on Apple Music (not to worry you loyal Swifties, the beef has been cleared). This got me thinking: how much do artists actually get paid over streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music?

I came across a rather interesting article from Dredge (2015) about how much musicians actually make on streaming services like Spotify, iTunes, and Tidal. All of the statistics apply only to performing musicians, but don’t cover publishing royalties. Another factor that plays into these statistics is how much an “artist signed to a label earns.” Finally, the per-play figures depend on many users the service has. Here are some facts and figures I found interesting. There’s a lot of information, so bare with me:

  • iTunes purchase
    • signed artist album download
      • average retail price: $9.99
      • for a solo artist to earn the U.S. monthly minimum wage ($1,260) he/she must sell 547 units
      • % cut
        • distributor: 30
        • label: 47
        • artist: 23
      • artist revenue: $2.30
  • Spotify stream
    • Signed artist
      • # of plays needed to reach U.S. monthly min. wage: 1,117,021
      • % of users to hit min. wage: 2%
      • artist revenue: $0.0011

For an unsigned artist, the numbers are pretty different in all categories. Here’s the link to the article and wonderful infograph that precedes it if you’re curious to see the figures. So was Taylor right on pulling her music from Spotify? Some say that she was, others say that it was a pointless decision.

I’m hoping to address this topic and others like it in my research report. My idea is to break down my report by categories. Like my previous blog posts, I will talk about the album, CD, and mixtape/playlist. But I will also touch on topics such as the significance of the vinyl record, how the iPod changed the game for music listeners, and digital downloads/streaming. Within each topic, I will bring up questions and points about how new technology and the Internet has shaped/changed it.

 

References:

Dredge, S 2015, How much do musicians really make from Spotify, iTunes, and Youtube?, The Guardian, viewed 17 April 2016,<https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/apr/03/how-much-musicians-make-spotify-itunes-youtube&gt;

I Still Make Mixtapes (CDs), Does That Mean I’m Outdated?

This past Christmas I gave my college roommate a mix CD with all of the songs that we jammed out to in the past semester. It was a beautiful mix of catchy pop tunes, rap songs (the ones that I would blast and she would awkwardly try to dance to), and a couple of Nickelback songs. Don’t ask me why, as I’m still trying to understand why she likes Nickelback as well. Point being, I like making mixtapes. There has never been a time in my life where sent someone a playlist via Spotify or 8tracks. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I like having to take the disc out of its case and pop it into my laptop/car CD drive/CD player. But the world doesn’t revolve around me and it’s becoming more popular to ditch the mixtape* and to create digital playlists.

I think the transition from making your own mixtapes/CDs happened when we were introduced to the mp3 player and its shuffle function. This new technology let us listen to our music without feeling like we were overplaying or over-listening to it (Brown & Knox 2014). Now services like Spotify are on the rise. It’s much easier and faster to gain a wide range of genres of music than it was in the past. Spotify is not just a place to listen to music, but it is a social network. You create playlists and you can share them with your friends, or people can follow your playlists. But what gets me is that with Spotify you can create a playlist, throw in a bunch of songs that you like, and then hit shuffle. You can even put multiple playlists in a folder to create a combined-genre/mood playlist. With the mixtape, you have to listen to the possible songs that go on the tape or CD; once you have your set songs, you then have carefully compile them in the order or play (Skågeby 2011 pg. 14). To me, that seems more intimate and personal than getting a notification that someone sent you a playlist.

Which brings me to my next point, according to Brown and Knox (2016) “A quarter of all songs listened to on Spotify are also skipped in the first five seconds (Guardian Music, 2014), which highlights that consumers are not simply listening to anything.” Let me repeat that. Consumers are not simply listening to anything. That leads me to wonder, if our modern day technology is supposed to make our lives easier/enhance our thinking/listening/seeing experiences, then how come we’re “not listening to anything”? We’re listening to fives seconds of this and five seconds of that until we reach a song that we can sit through its entirety. I admit I’m one of those people who will skip to the next song within the first one to two seconds of a song if I’m not feelin’ the vibe. It may seem like I’m bashing Spotify and the playlist, but I’m not. I use Spotify all of the time! But after reading that quote, it made me really think. Compared to the mixtape, the playlist seems like some cold-stone product of our “creativity.” Now I may be digging my own grave here, but anyone can throw some songs in a playlist and hit shuffle. There’s no craft to that! With the mixtape, you have to carefully plan out the songs, the tracklist, the mood/vibe of the mix. There’s more thought/feeling/time that goes into a mixtape than a playlist.

Our society is so go, go, go. We don’t really take the time anymore to actually take in our surroundings and fully appreciate them. This can be said the same thing with music and the playlist. We moved from carefully choosing the right music to go on a cassette or CD to hitting the shuffle button. So maybe we should try to retract from our fast-paced, plugged in culture at least once and dig out our blank CDs/cassette tapes and make a mixtape…

*Let me just clear this up now: there are two different uses of a “mixtape”. There’s the home-compilation of songs that are put onto a cassette tape or CD. Then there’s the “mixtape” that many hip-hop artists use as a “promotional tool packed with exclusive freestyles to an actual album-before-the-album…without labels at the helm” (Horowitz 2011). Just the other night I downloaded Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap and on April 1st, Hamburger Helper (an American packaged food product of General Mills) dropped their five-track mixtape on Soundcloud. For this post, I will be focusing on the first use of the mixtape.

 

 

References:

Brown, S.C. and Knox, D., 2016. Why buy an album? The motivations behind recorded music purchases. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain26(1), p.79-86.

Horowitz, S 2011, The Economy of Mixtapes: How Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Big K.R.I.T Figured It Out (Listen), Billboard, viewed 5 April 2016 http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/1168371/the-economy-of-mixtapes-how-drake-wiz-khalifa-big-krit-figured-it-out

Skågeby, J 2011, Slow and fast music media: comparing values of cassettes and playlists, Transformations Journal of Media and Culture, p.14, viewed 5 April 2016

Albums Still Matter

I just read an article from a 2013 issue of Variety that practically said that the album is rapidly dying. Want to make a concept album? Go ahead, but know that it’s not going to reach a large amount of people. Like the dinosaurs, the album is becoming extinct, yet artists still stick to the format. Contrary to the article that Variety published, “physical formats still account for over half of all global revenues (IFPI, 2014)” (Brown and Knox, 2016). But what exactly is an album? Most of us would think of a physical copy of music, whether it be a CD or vinyl record. But it’s much bigger than that.

In tutorial the other week, we were bouncing around ideas about the term ‘album’ and I really liked concept of it as a cultural unifier. Clichéd as it sounds it brings people together. For example, I have Childish Gambino’s 2013 album Because the Internet (which you should all take a listen to). That album alone has a multitude of websites, forums, and entire Tumblr accounts dedicated to it. By having that album, I am now submerged into the culture of the Boy and roscoe’s wetsuit. I have invested countless hours surfing the web reading about the theories and meticulous analyses of each track from BTI. By reading these articles, there’s this invisible bond between all of us avid Gambino listeners.

But if people really think that the album is dying, why do people like me get so excited when they buy a physical copy of their favorite artist(s) work? There’s something about sitting down and listening to an album straight through and digesting the lyrics, instrumentals, and concepts/ideas that the artist raises. According to a study done by North and Oishi (2006)—which focused on why young adults from Japan and the U.K. purchase CDs—found that there were five factors into buying an album:

  1. Friendship- those who “borrowed [an album] from a friend”, “listen[ed] at a friend’s house”, or “liked listening [to it] with a friend” (pg. 3054)
  1. Need to control and be involved with music- those who “liked singing along to the music” or “listening to the music whenever [they] wanted” (pg. 3055)
  1. Music industry- those who “heard it in the record shop”, “favorite artist(s) recommended it”, or they liked “the picture/design of the CD cover/booklet” (pg. 3055)
  1. Need to re-experience the music- “reminder of good times”, “heard it in a film”, or “like listening to different types of music in different situations” (pg. 3055)
  1. Interaction with (particularly visual) media-“the picture/design of the CD cover/booklet” (Pg. 3055)

I can attest to these factors. I’ve definitely mixed and mingled those factors when purchasing an album. But it may be the generation that which you grew up in, the answer to if the album is dying, may differ. Baby boomers might not see the physical album dying, as that’s what they’ve grown up with. “The idea of downloaded ‘product’…was seen to be a more detached, modernist item, having less symbolically ‘magical’ and shared elements than vinyl artifacts…”(McIntyre, 2011 pg.145). Millennias and those of Gen Z might argue that it is and that they only digitally download/stream/pirate their music.

So for my research report, I think that I am going to focus on how cyberculture has affected the way in which music is being distributed. I’m still working out the details, but I’m thinking of breaking my report into sections. Maybe first looking at the vinyl/CD and the importance of the tracklist, the mixtape/playlist relationship, and then possibly end with digital distribution and how some artists will no longer be selling physical copies of their work  *cough, cough…Kanye*

 

Kanye tweets-stop selling phsyical CDs  copy
Via Twitter

 

 

Resources:

Brown, S.C. and Knox, D., 2016. Why buy an album? The motivations behind recorded music purchases. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain26(1), p.79-86.

McIntyre, C., 2011. News from somewhere: The poetics of Baby Boomer and Generation Y music consumers in tracking a retail revolution. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services18(2), pp.141-151.

North, A.C. and Oishi, A., 2006. Music CD purchase decisions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology36(12), pp.3043-3084.

 

 

Let’s Talk About the CD

November 13, 2015. That was the last time I bought a physical copy of an album. I know it’s not that long ago, but considering the world that we live in today, buying a physical copy is something of the past. But when did it become the norm to stop buying CDs and to start digitally download or stream music? And why do artists still stick with the format of the album?

On August 17, 1982, the first compact disc was manufactured in a Philips factory in Germany. Philips soon joined forces with Sony to develop and perfect the compact disc. Later in the year, the first CDs and CD players were introduced to the masses in Japan with great interest. Two years later, the disc took Europe by storm, with roughly 25 million CDs being produced (“History of the CD” n.d.). With this new musical technology now open to the public, the vinyl was replaced placed on the back burner.

We all know what the CD looks like (or I hope we all do).It’s a polycarbonate plastic disc with a transparent layer only 1.2mm thick. And on that disc there is 80 minutes of playing time (Crawford n.d.). Think about it: with 80 minutes on a CD, that’s about an average of 12 songs per album. And it’s not like artists are releasing albums every six months. It takes time to write, create, and produce. So once an album does get released, loyal fans and consumers want to listen to it right away. The thought of having to go to the store to buy the album barely crosses our minds, especially those of Millennia and Generation Z. Why waste the energy of buying a physical copy when you could be digitally downloading the album and have it in seconds?

My focus is to research how our culture has shaped and re-shaped the way that the consumer has access to music. I will look into the affect the “album” has on not only the listener, but the artist as well. More specifically, I will dig into the digital distribution of music, the importance (or insignificance) of the track list, and the mixtape/playlist relationship. Who knows, maybe the CD will find a way to climb back up the charts with artists like Tyler the Creator and Kendrick Lamar perfecting the album-dependent listening experience.

Resources:

Crawford, Awyn. “The Rise of the Compact Disc.” Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences. Web. 13 Mar. 2016<http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/the80sareback/2011/02/the-rise-of-the-compact-disc/&gt;.

“History of the CD.” Philips Research. Web. 13 Mar. 2016<http://www.research.philips.com/technologies/projects/cd/&gt;.