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Mainstreaming

"Streaming is forcing a creative but undisciplined industry to pay more attention to data," reports The Economist (3/22/14). Spotify recently purchased "Echo Nest, which analyzes data for music services and helps shape playlist algorithms. Beats soon followed by purchasing TopSpin Media, which collects data to help artists connect with their fans. Warner Music Group recently launched a new label in partnership with Shazam, a music recognition app," and plan to "trawl listener data to identify rising artists to sign up."

Given the inherently derivative nature of data-driven creative development, it should come as no surprise that streaming "also helps ‘monetize the nostalgia market’ … In the physical world more than two-thirds of sales are for new releases." However, on Deezer, a streaming service, "only a third of songs streamed are new." In any case, the concept looks like a moneymaker: "Streaming subscribers pay around $120 a year, which is more than double what the average American music consumer spends."

Some artists, like Thom Yorke of Radiohead, don’t much care for the streaming model, calling it "the last desperate fart of a dying corpse." With streaming, record labels are paid "about three-tenths of a cent each time one of its songs is played," which certainly wouldn’t seem to leave much for the artist. However, some in the industry think streaming is a new "golden age," and possibly the final format change, that "once the physical CD has eventually gone the way of the wax cylinder they will still have a profitable way to exploit their catalogs."