Subscription music streaming apps have been making huge gains in the past few years and for a good reason. Last year, streaming services brought in over 50 percent of all revenue earned in the music industry. For around 10 dollars, you get access to a plethora of music at your disposal all the time.
Because so much music is available to listen to for so cheap, does it still make sense to buy individual albums?
Among Santa Rosa Junior College students streaming services are the new norm. Students use apps like Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple music to get the bulk of their songs. Some of these apps even give discounts to student subscribers, further increasing their accessibility and popularity.
“I prefer streaming services because it’s everywhere now,” said SRJC student Johnathan.
While streaming services may be dominating the mainstream, physical copies of albums remain relevant to many people. All of the students interviewed who said that they mainly used streaming services, also said that they would buy an album if it is from an artist they support.
While MP3’s are the most common way of physically storing music, there is still an undercurrent of support for vinyl records. One student, Aiden, said that she usually uses streaming services, but purchases records when she buys a physical copy of an album.
Since streaming services are the easiest, cheapest way to enjoy massive amounts of music some feel the methodology is hurting artists more than helping them.
Artists are paid fractions of a penny for each play. A lot of them, including Taylor Swift and Tool, have spoken out against the miniscule royalties. Hlyt Whitman, one of the managers at the Last Record Store, described streaming services as “terrible.” Whitman asserts that the support of artists relies on the purchase of albums.
“It used to be you’d go on tour to sell records, but now you don’t make any money selling records. Only a few of the really big superstars like Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, are making any money. The rest, they’re struggling. It’s really bad for them,” Whitman said.
However, Whitman was optimistic about the future.
“I think [physical copies] are gonna come back…they’re way better than a digital download, they sound so much better. Right now, we’re living through the cult of the telephone. People wanna do everything with their phones. But sooner or later, they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh. I actually want to hear that record.’ And you can’t do that with your phone,” Whitman said.
Steaming services outperform individual album purchases in almost every category, but there is one important exception: artist support.
The revenue generated from an album sale gives artists a much bigger boost than the number of plays on streaming services, where artists are typically paid minuscule amounts.
While Spotify, Apple Music and other apps will continue to dominate the industry, there will always be a market for fans willing to spend money on their favorite artist’s music.