The Radio-ification Of Streaming: Implications And Opportunities
In recent years, streaming services have taken the music industry by storm, offering listeners access to a broad choice of songs and tailored playlists. Yet, with the emergence of tailored playlists and automated suggestions, streaming services are beginning to resemble conventional radio.
When this trend continues, it raises serious concerns about the future of music consumption and the role of streaming services in the music industry. In this article, we’ll examine the effects of streaming becoming more like radio and what it means for music fans and artists alike.
Both YouTube Music and Spotify debuted new radio-like capabilities this month. Spotify created an AI-powered voice DJ who will explain why tracks are featured in personalized mixes to consumers. Meanwhile, YouTube Music is expanding its options for customizing streaming radio stations, allowing users to select up to 30 artists and define the genre, artist frequency, and the balance of chosen artists vs new recommendations.
What’s Next For Music Fans And Industry?
Streaming transformed music listening by providing people with on-demand access to everything — the polar opposite of radio. But, over time, streaming has become to resemble its predecessor. Streaming providers are increasingly delivering algorithmically created playlists and ready-made mixes to accompany activities such as working out and cooking.
Listening to Spotify’s AI-powered voice DJ is similar to hearing a radio DJ providing context on their handpicked tracks. There are even streaming “stations”! What is the direction in which this is heading? The bulk of listeners will always remain passive, as a general rule. The issue isn’t so much that music streaming services cater to — and, at this point, encourage — inactive listening habits, because the majority is a lucrative group. Yet, it is not the sole section.
The Changing Landscape Of Music Consumption
Spotify and YouTube are both enormous, prominent platforms, so catering to the masses makes sense. Background listening is, of course, a big money generator for streaming services and rightsholders.
Radio, on the other hand, was successful because it had a parallel — retail, as in tangible music purchases — to service the more engaged music enthusiasts. Streaming, on the other hand, combines all customers into a single, largely passive streaming experience.
There are two alternatives here. One, the Spotify of the world could soon become the mainstay of passive listening, transforming into the next generation’s radio. Meanwhile, fandom and culture would take place on other platforms, whether social ones like TikTok or another streaming service that distinguishes itself by going the opposite way like SoundCloud and Tidal.
Another theory is that streaming providers try to better serve both active and passive fans. This would benefit everyone: streaming services would gain additional income sources like fandom badges which is a “plus” tier with social features. Thus, fans would have a better experience, and artists would be able to cultivate a fanbase.
Finding A Common Ground
Surprisingly, both Spotify and YouTube’s new capabilities provide listeners with more control over algorithms. So possibly there are three profiles here, between which the same listener can fluctuate based on their interests at the time. The listeners are content to yield to algorithms and active music enthusiasts who are unhappy with the streaming experience. And for the listeners in the middle — who eventually want algorithms to perform the job, but want to have some input initially
Music streaming services frequently onboard listeners by asking them to create playlists they like. But, this should undoubtedly be an ongoing element of how streaming providers develop a knowledge of their consumers’ demands. We have totally on-demand listening and algorithm-based listening, but not much in between. Users should ideally be able to tailor their algorithmic experiences and send active messages (both positive and negative) at all times.
Consider the playlist and area icons on the Spotify home screen to be more like widgets on an iPhone, that you’re able to add, delete, and rearrange based on your preferences. Artificial intelligence (AI) might also play a role in this, as demonstrated by PlaylistAI, a program that generates playlists based on hyper-specific requests and even pictures.
Allowing listeners to pick just a little bit more allows them to contribute a broader variety of active signals, which algorithms can utilize to improve the experience, rather than giving the best type of one experience — passive or active — streaming services might possibly provide a wide range of backgrounds, better representing the whole range of wants and behaviors out there.
As the music industry continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see how streaming services and radio further merge and what new innovations emerge from this convergence. Ultimately, the key to success will be striking the right balance between curated content and personalization, meeting listeners in the middle, and delivering a unique and engaging listening experience.
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