Music in this day of age is social media at our fingertips. We live in a world where music can be downloaded without paying a cent and can be streamed from wherever you are and whatever you want to hear.
The outburst of free is being felt all over the economy, but music is an industry that has produced the soundtrack of our lives.
Music has been free for decades through ad – supported radio, but streaming services feel different because you can listen to what you want, whenever you want. The implied promise of radio has been that consumers will hear a song they love and buy it. But when you love something on Spotify, your response is to listen to it continuously.
With shortage now gone, songs are in the air, a mist we move through. We are no longer collecting music; it is collecting us on various platforms.
Spotify has doubled its number of subscribers, paid and unpaid, in the last 18 months and reached a milestone of 10 million paid subscribers worldwide last month. In May, Pandora served up 1.73 billion hours of music, up 28 percent over the previous year. The two services have important differences, but they both have premium pay options as well as ad-supported free models. And Amazon, Apple and YouTube are all moving swiftly into the streaming space.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that it would review the 73 – year – old agreements that govern Ascap and BMI, which oversee licensing for radio stations, public spaces and websites. The agencies collect close to $2 billion a year in royalties.
Many labels and the musicians and songwriters they work with say streaming music risks wiping them out by paying tiny royalties, but the people who make all the music are actually being loved to death by fans who expect it to be free.