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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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3 Reasons Streaming Habits Mimic the Radio … and How to Fix It
Friday, November 22, 2019

A few weeks ago music industry veteran Eric Alper tweeted a list of the artists with the most monthly listeners on Spotify, and I found it to be a bit disheartening.

I get it, certain artists are wildly popular, and I’m fine with that, but the question I found myself asking was – with thousands of artists to listen to, why are people streaming the exact same artists that are on the radio? Especially when so many people claim to listen to streaming because they don’t like the radio.

I’ve come up with a few conclusions.

1. The Diner Menu Effect

Opening your preferred streaming music app is kind of like opening the menu at a diner – you have page after page of options.

What do we traditionally do when we see all those options on a menu? We order we the same thing we always do, because despite not having sampled 95% of what’s on the menu, we have a dish, or two, we know we like, and we stick with it. This is exactly what happens with streaming music.

Choice is always good, but what can be perceived as too many choices sends us to what is most familiar. Choosing to stream Ed Sheerhan, and Post Malone, is the musical equivalent of saying, “I’ll just have an omelette.”

2. The Dwindling Number of Specialty Publications & Websites

Sticking with the restaurant metaphor, if you like a specific type of food you traditionally seek out restaurants that serve that type of food, i.e. if you like Turkish food, you go to a Turkish restaurant.

Similarly, in the world of music publications we used to have a plethora of specialized outlets for specific sub-genres of music. Over the years, however, with the majority of print magazines folding, the blogosphere shrinking in favor of social media, and some of the biggest indie music websites being bought by large media conglomerates, the specialized outlets where you could discover new music in your favorite genre have become few and far between.

Because of this, it’s become far more convenient for listeners to simply stick to what they know, and that happens to be whatever is most popular.

3. C.R.E.A.M. – Clicks Rule Everything Around Me

Here’s an unfortunate fact about the internet – clicks rule everything around me, CREAM get the money, dollar dollar bill y’all.

If a website relies on advertising for income, they need to get as many clicks as possible, so their content ends up being whatever topics they feel the most people will be interested in. This means there is not only no advantage to breaking new new artists, or writing about a niche genre, there’s actually a disadvantage in doing so.

On par with the sites that will only write about well known acts are the sites that used to be about specific sub-genres of music that have become dumping grounds for write ups on just about anything that’s released. Their mantra has essentially become – if it can generate a click, it’s a fit. Finding something good on these types of sites is a true needle in a haystack situation.

Bringing this back to streaming – how is anyone going to stream new artists if the sites they used to go to in order to discover new artists now only write about big name acts, or have the new artists buried in a sea of random features hoping each one gets a few clicks?

How Do We Fix This?

I’m not going to pretend to have the answer for this, but I do have a few suggestions.

* If you stream music, fight the urge to listen to what you always listen to, and find some indie music, or genre specific, playlists. Take note of the artists you like, and follow them.

FYI, if a Shawn Mendes song comes on, you’re listening to the wrong playlist … at least if you’re trying to discover something new.

* One of the best ways to discover new music will always be going to indie music shows. Some may think paying $5 to $10 to see a bunch of artists/bands you’ve never heard of is a risk, but if you consider it spending a few bucks on a night out with friends, that cover charge is really nothing.

Find a local venue, look up a few of the bands they have on their calendar, and when you come across something interesting make a plan to head out for what should be a fun night. If one of the bands is especially good, you’ve found someone new to listen to.

* There are still a number of us running music blogs who love supporting indie artists, and like the idea of being the first to tell the world about an artist or a band (you probably know that, being that you’re here). When you see one of these sites – support it, and the artists they write about!

A couple hundred clicks on a feature on an unknown indie band means a heck of a lot more to us (and the band) than however many clicks we could get by writing about Kanye West.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM  
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