How can that be? In a new study published in Marketing Science, researchers observed listener behavior over a two and a half year period. There were two main conclusions:
- Free or low cost streaming programs like Spotify reduce the use of paid programming like iTunes.
- Free or low cost streaming programs “increase exposure for and access to lesser known or indie artists that fall outside the top 100 or even top 500 listings.”
How music streaming services help indie artists
The study used two and a half years of personal taste data from music streaming from over 5,000 members and observed its impact on traditional consumption (purchase per item).
The study observed several different time periods during which a user had opened a brand new Spotify account: short-term, mid-term, and long-term.
During the short-term, a user’s listening behavior during the first two weeks altered significantly. Listeners upped the number of unique artists they listened to by 62%, the number of unique songs went up by 49%, and unique genres went up by 43%.
Why does this matter? Previously, purchasing music was a commitment. You eventually hit a limit of songs you can own and listen to in a rational period, so you weighed each song against one another. With streaming, a listener has the opportunity to test the waters on new genres, artists, and songs without making a permanent commitment. You can try new things without feeling like you wasted money if you don’t end up enjoying the foray into the unknown.
The amount of music that consumed from the top 500 artists also decreased significantly: by almost 16%. That means more time was spent listening to newer, smaller artists that might not necessarily have the backing of huge labels with a ton of resources.
Leveling the playing field for independent artists and smaller labels helps people find the music they genuinely enjoy, and not just have mere exposure to. If you allocate listening time to different artists, it reinforces artists’ hard work on creating a unique sound, and not simply listening to the same top 100 songs as everyone. Music streaming services help indie artists break the monopoly charts used to have dictating popularity and where the money goes.
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