by Margot Castillo
October 30th, 2017

Music-sharing through streaming sites means you never have to worry about getting your favourite CD back from that friend who totally promised they’d return it. Now, with the idea of connecting communities through playlists, clients and brands can use streaming services to whisper into the ear of the earbud generation.

Earlier in the year, a Berlin-based DIY music streaming platform was on the brink of bankruptcy until a Singapore state-owned investment firm and a US merchant bank swooped in with a ‘Hail Mary’ deal of close to US$170 million.

The platform, home to independent artists and a springboard for breakout rap stars, was struggling to stay afloat in an already-crowded market of paid subscription streaming services, due to its relatively old-school model of housing a majority of free content from unsigned musicians. But with traditional modes of music consumption being relegated to the bargain basement bins, even this well-established site was worth saving in the long term.

In 2016, on-demand streaming services alone raked in US$8.8 million, which accounted for more than half of the music sales in Singapore. Physical sales, however, took a 71.8% dip from the last two years to a mere US$0.9 million – their worst performance in half a decade.

Plug and play

Today, the average consumer’s appetite for music is more ravenous than ever. With an array of platforms available on our daily devices, access to music has become so effortlessly simple it’s easier than ever.

It used to be a lot more laborious than it is now to listen to music, especially on the go. From portable record players in the 60s to the eight-tracks of the 70s and the hallowed era of 80s boomboxes and personal cassette players, the ability to practically carry around hundreds of songs with you had to wait until the advent of CDs and then MP3 players in the 90s. Even now, the process of uploading files onto compact digital listening devices from a PC seems a distant memory.

Age of Discovery

With more musicians releasing music now than in any time in history – from indie to hardcore metal to country and EDM and the newest releases – there’s a genre for everyone and mainstream radio and TV channels can’t hope to please all the people all the time.

And here’s where the science gets interesting. Using the power of granular data, algorithms can track millions of recent histories, curated playlists and repeatedly played songs across users. Music analytics dissect your music preferences, even into the most niche of subgenres to suggest future tracks more accurately.

The result for the consumer? Hundreds of new tunes, often never heard before, customised to your own tastes. All tried-and-tested by other like-minded users. Never forget, there are tribes of listeners out there.

Company-curated playlists

So how can brands and clients leverage this latest music revolution? We all remember mix-tapes of songs designed to woo the object of our affections. If the songs you chose –  a mixture of personal favourites and ones you thought they might like – resonated with them, you might get that longed-for kiss. If not, there were plenty of other suitors out there with tapes to catch their fancy. It’s roughly the same idea with brands and streaming.

Brands can tap into the emotional, entertaining and subjective role music plays in the lives of consumers and create the soundtrack to those lives. By curating playlists of the right songs they can mirror the social identities people construct, align themselves with that identity, build brand awareness and strengthen their relationships with consumers. Think of the sportswear company which creates a branded list of workout songs – with algorithms suggesting the same songs to people interested in getting fit, it’s easy for that list to pop into the ears of target markets.

Playlists which suit a brand’s style and image – especially consumer lifestyle brands – can communicate their identities in creative ways. On one extremely popular music-streaming sight clients can even sponsor ‘moods’ for a week, soundtracking the ups and downs of your life with ads inserted. Choosing the right platform can also help – subscription-free models will play paid-for ads every few songs in their playlists.

The spread of influencers

Streaming services also allow individual users to embed playlists directly onto their websites for direct online streaming. Social influencers of today have been utilising this function well. By publicly sharing their favourite playlists onto their web pages, they are able reach out to their followers on an even more personal level. And with the explosion of easily-accessed music-related content, new influencers with specific niches are popping up all the time – giving new ways to access different tribes. Users can sync their social media accounts to discover what their friends are currently listening to and share playlists with one another. Leveraging the reach of brand-specific influencers is now more important than ever in the music streaming world.

With the increase in audiences, access and influencers, even defiantly non-musical brands would do well to harness the brave new world of audio – from setting up and sponsoring their own streams to producing podcasts with demographic-specific content. After all, brands had to start thinking more visually with the advent of TV – and social media asked them how to reach consumers in more personable ways.

It is hard to deny that streaming has majorly disrupted the revenue flows and distribution models of the record industry as we know it. What’s settled is that today’s digital age is an exciting time for music-lovers and makers alike – and that’ll alway give us the chance to whisper into the hearts and minds of people we want to reach.

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