John Seabrook"s book “The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory” delved into the 21st-century pop that resulted from concentrating on single tracks: We got songs that were fabricated as masterpieces of instant gratification, full of technological sizzle and concocted by a surprisingly small clique of professionals for a highly competitive A-list of pop stars, who added some small personal garnish to the committee efforts. The same people write for (and with) Taylor Swift, the Weeknd and Adele; they knew the secrets of radio play, which is still seen as the best guarantee of mass success despite the occasional online breakout.
Streaming, instead, encourages curiosity. With streaming rather than downloads, access replaces ownership and the commitment is of time, not money. That"s still significant, but it doesn"t feel so irrevocable. Where downloads and playlists favored the lone song, streaming gives the artist and the album a fighting chance again. Anyone interested in a particular artist, from die-hard fans to novelty seekers, can listen to a whole album repeatedly - not just song samples, not just YouTube choices - and let subtler material sink in. Musicians don"t need to think so exclusively about what sounds, beats and structures the radio gatekeepers will allow; they can get poetic, political, sonically weird or all of the above. While big and glossy still works, it"s just possible that odd and heartfelt will, too.
Couldn't agree more with the argument that 'streaming encourages curiosity.' After years, probably decades of stagnating taste, I've got dozens of new artists and groups in my playlists now. And sure, they tend to be alternative rock acts, or hip hop, which I've always listened to. But I would never have found them in the download era. Because after a while you just stop trying. But with streaming you don't have to try. The platform serves it all up for you, no matter which service you use.
One interesting factoid from the article. It takes 1500 plays of an album to match the income from one paid download. That looks bad, but then I was never going to download any of the albums I've been listening to since getting Apple Music, and Rdio before that. And with some albums I would come close to 1500 plays after a couple of years.