Welcome to the Association of Music Podcasting’s blog for our listeners. Our members routinely contribute to the blog to share, educate, and inform the music podcasting community.
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Digital technologies have opened up our ability to access more and cheaper music than ever before. They have also made it feasible for almost every musician to have their output available to everyone on the planet who has an internet connection. On the face of it, such democratisation and ease of access is “a good thing”. How many genuinely talented artists have flogged away for their entire careers unable to reach the audience that would have truly appreciated their art. Aside from those acts that were manufactured for the purpose of churning out the same popular styles that had already made money, how many gave up, defeated by the ultra-safe formulaic system that closed its doors in the face of almost every original, exciting talent that had the temerity to beg for a deal? Improvement? Yes, things have certainly changed, but are they a lot better? In the early days of on-line music it looked as though every artist would have their own virtual record store, selling their music and merch direct to their fans. In some cases this has happened and artists have build successful careers. For most, though, it remains a distant dream as they struggle to get their music heard among the cacophony of other independent artists in exactly the same position. Until relatively recently, music was physically distributed on CDs which had a production cost. OK maybe only 75p or around dollar per unit (including a card wallet) but when you’re buying 1000 copies to get the unit cost down to something reasonable, that’s quite an investment for a penniless musician. Now, with downloads from Soundcloud and the like, the cost of distribution effectively close to zero. OK iTunes and Amazon will be taking their cut but it’s still pretty cheap to get into the market – for everyone. So yes, there’s lots of competition, in fact, so much competition that many artists are giving their music away as free downloads, in the hope that they’ll sell more merch or get more bookings to compensate with a different income stream. That’s the theory. The trouble is that people have to find the music in order to want to buy the merch and to go out to live shows. Broadcasters Once upon a time, the broadcasters were key to discovering new music from the record labels, including the more interesting indie labels. Some would take a chance and play music that diverged from the top 40 style of the day and occasionally such airplay led to acts breaking through into the mainstream. With just a few exceptions, at least here in the UK, radio has become as driven by metrics and the mass of data about who is listening to what and when. The result: formulaic radio where everyone is going after the same audience at the same time with pretty much the same content. Streaming services This is where the streaming services Spotify and Pandora step in. There is such a lot of music available through those services, although just like iTunes, they capture your listening history. By analysing what you already listen to, they are able to match styles and make new recommendations based on what you already like. That’s fine as long as you don’t want to listen to anything else.