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Former journalist and current music publicist Jay Holz discusses the effects of digital music streaming

Digital streaming is the youngest child of the music industry sales, marketing and, distribution operations. Its immediate older siblings are traditional sales (distribution through physical compact discs (CDs), terrestrial radio spins for songwriters, complimentary merchandise, etc.). Today you are more likely to "stream" your favorite artist's music through iTunes, Tidal, Apple Music, or Spotify rather than listen through that artist's physical medium or by way of your city's major radio station. 

But how has it come to be so? To many, it may seem as if digital streaming popped up overnight and encompassed the entire industry, but the truth is, it's been steadily evolving for over a decade.

Napster infiltrated the music industry in 1999, with its creators having successfully cultivated a platform for users to freely share their MP3 files with one another and on-demand. The Guardian credits the platform's creation as the "day the music was set free."

Shortly thereafter, the Napster era was followed by Limewire, BitTorrent, Kazaa, and The Pirate Bay launch. All gathering an astronomical number of users in minimal time, simultaneously creating the music industry's next biggest feature and biggest problem: on-demand content, and piracy.

All at the click of a button were MP3s able to be transferred and downloaded from user to user at convenient speeds; so, everyone was happy, right? Wrong. Only the consumers could be. With content being stripped from creators, artists and songwriters were robbed of their royalties and decided to fight back.

Just as 1999 marked the creation of file-sharing programs, 2010 marked its end. However, one company that took notice and repaired what file sharing programs flawed was Spotify. Launched in Europe in 2008, Spotify made its way over to the United States in 2011, partially funded by Napster's creator Sean Parker and µTorrent’s Ludvig Strigeus. The pioneer of the streaming platforms seemed to promise what the file-sharing programs did not, striving to compensate creators for their content. Following was Apple Music in 2015, and Tidal in 2016.

To this day, the music industry is still grappling with the effectiveness of digital streaming platforms. We still see artists struggle with the decision of exclusivity and where and when to make their music available, while others believe they are inaccurately compensated, and the industry continues to watch traditional sales plummet. (See: Taylor Swift pulling her music from Spotify, Spotify slammed with a 1.6 billion dollar lawsuit, Music streaming revenues surpass CD sales).

Now, we see how digital streaming has altered the industry, the landscape of the internet, and the artists that participate, but how has digital music streaming altered the roles of those behind the artist? From management to publicity, marketing to distribution, those who have sustained through the rise and shift to digital platforms as the go-to source for music consumption. How have their roles evolved and what practices have been lost and found?

If you're familiar with Karen Civil and her power site KarenCivil.com, then you are undoubtedly familiar with Jay Holz. Jay has been witness to probably one of the biggest shifts in the music industry: the rise of the internet and its influence, as well as the rise of digital streaming platforms. His role as a long-time journalist, to now public relations specialist and artist manager pried (pushed) me to ask him for his take.

What is your role in the music/media industry? How did you obtain your position?

Jay: My role in the entertainment industry is a combination of management, public relations, marketing and consulting. I also help curate events from time to time. My goal is to be able to help any and all creators launch their careers. I got my official start in the industry through blogging. My friend Sermon (@SermonsDomain) gave me a chance of a lifetime in 2012 to start writing for his site and I ran with it from there. That led to HipHop-N-More (shout out to Navjosh), and then working as Karen Civil's number 2 for about 4 years. Throughout that period of time, I was building my network, finishing college, and fine-tuning my management and PR skills. In 2016, I launched my company Positive Vibe Entertainment (word to my brother Malik Ferraud) and then earlier this year, I stepped down from my role with Karen to pursue it full time.

How has digital streaming platforms, and the prominence of social media and the internet (as a sphere for music consumption and marketing) altered your role? Try to use examples of earlier practices that you may have used to assist with the execution of your duties, and how they may no longer be relevant in today's climate or the biggest changes that you have noticed to date.

By the time I was "in the industry", the presence of social media and this new digital age that we're in was already in full swing. Back then, the blogs were the main source for fans to find new music, and now it's the playlists on these streaming services that are carrying the torch. When I first started, it was still common practice to hand out CDs at events and whatnot, whereas today that's sort of rare. However, the "street team" marketing approach is still necessary. There's no better promo than word of mouth. So yes, certain things have changed in terms of how we market and ingest music, but the "road to success" is still the same: make great and undeniable content; cultivate a fan base and leverage your popularity into business opportunities.

How do you feel about playlists on these digital streaming platforms being the go-to source to locate new music? Do you view it as a disadvantage or advantage for upcoming artists?

I like playlists on digital streaming platforms, more or less. They're easy to use and there's so many to choose from. I still appreciate the blogs that write detailed, informative posts, but when it comes to discovering new music, the playlists are much better. For upcoming artists, I wouldn't say it’s an advantage or disadvantage it’s just the new platform that they need to target their marketing and PR efforts towards. It's a huge benefit if you can get placed on a major playlist from one of the top streaming platforms, just like a major blog in the early 2010's, just like getting spun on the radio in the 90's and early 2000's. Artists and their teams need to know that the industry trends are always changing, but the one thing that always remains the same is good content, and consistent hard work is the key to success.

Are there any tips that you would give to young professionals striving to gain a position in your specific field?

Always stay hungry and humble, and always remember why you got started in the first place. There's going to be some bad days mixed in with the good ones, so make sure to keep a 'positive vibe' at all times. As far as tactical advice to actually get into the industry: go to as many networking events as possible; constantly utilize ALL social media platforms as a way to connect and engage with folks in your industry and apply to as many jobs/internships as possible (ones that will benefit you); always stay up to speed with industry trends so that you're always in the loop.

Jay's Instagram: @jayholz410

 

- Jadriena "Jade" Solomon

@24Jaded

How digital music streaming has helped and hurt new album releases

Digital Album Streaming: a beautiful boost or plummeting pitfall? Well it depends on how you use it

The first half of 2018 has seen album releases from the likes of J. Cole, Nipsey Hussle, Tory Lanez, Nas, Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z; all with various rollout plans to the lack thereof. Nicki Minaj announced her album, Queen, in May for a June release. Beyoncé and Jay-Z released Everything is Love seemingly out of nowhere, and then there were albums that dropped under an executive producer who didn't seem to give much notification to the artists themselves, cough. (I'm talking about... yes, you guessed it! Kanye West.)

Digital streaming of music has given both the artist and consumer a one-stop shop. Artists no longer need to advertise on billboards, bus signs or conjure up elaborate marketing plans. Music executives no longer have to announce albums and songs months in advanced and retail stores are not stocked to capacity with copies of physical CDs needed to match shopper consumption. Depending on the caliber of artist that you are, you don't even need to bait your audience into wanting your album with pre-released singles. All you have to do is make sure it's available on all streaming platforms on the day that you say it will be. Or, you don't even need to say a day.

I'm guilty of crediting Queen Bey for bringing the art of the hasty release into the genre of R&B and Hip Hop. Many people, like me, forget that it was actually her husband, Sean Carter, who started the trend. Released on July 4, 2013, Magna Carta Holy Grail took to listeners ears after only being announced two weeks prior in a subtle commercial for Samsung that premiered during the NBA Finals.

VIDEO featuring Jay-Z promoting Magna Carta Holy Grail

"All these other things have been introduced to the world -- the internet and all this technology, and all these things. How do we operate within all that? We don't have any rules; everyone's trying to figure it out... that's why the internet's like the wild, Wild West. We need to write the new rules for what's going on right now... The one thing I wanted to do was have that fireplace or radio moment... I wanted everyone to hear the album at one time."

Unfortunately, Samsung lost out on the ordeal when the app they paid for to stream Jay's album crashed and the project was almost instantaneously available on other digital streaming platforms. Nonetheless, the attempt was seen.

What we'd call an L, Beyoncé followed suit with and turned into a W, a surprise release of her self-titled visual album that took the world by complete force. Beyoncé was exclusively available on iTunes for its first week, was accompanied by visuals for each track, earning Yonce' over 80,000 copies sold in the first three hours and ultimately a number one album debut. (Queen Bey also saw similar success with her release of Lemonade, accompanied by a full-length film where Hov's, iced tea, 4:44, debuted at number one with various short films to accompany each track. The most successful of which, "The Story of O.J.", reached over 70 million views.

But the ability of Beyonce and Jay-Z to make us look is due largely to the equity and caliber of artistry they've come to be known for, not just in the exclusivity of their work alone. As listeners and consumers, we have a solid expectation of the quality of work they'll deliver and therefore have no problem rushing to whatever medium they decide to release from.

However, many artists are not so privileged. Even prior to Beyonce's self-titled visual album release, Kanye West tested the waters with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's 34-minute film, Runaway, amassing over 22 million views to this date, and decided to take that same triumphant energy and innovation into his February 14, 2016, release of The Life of Pablo. The result was not so great. The rollout of the album was plagued by constant title changes, routine Kanye twitter rants, and revised track lists. The only thing that seemed to be happening right was that West had a Yeezy Season 3 fashion show planned at Madison Square Garden where he would premiere the project for all those in attendance, right? Wrong. The album premiered three days later on Tidal, with alterations unheard of by the crowd in attendance at Madison Square Garden. Even months after the release, the album was still undergoing changes with its finalized version coming on April 1, 2016.

And now here we are. The Carters’ surprise release, Everything is Love, and Kanye West announcing and embarking on his executive delivery of five albums in five weeks. The results have been everywhere from successful to... not so much. Pusha T's Daytona soared in the midst of rap beef between himself and Drake. Ye was welcomed by a lukewarm reception, but still managing to debut at number one, while Kids See Ghosts featuring Ye and Kid Cudi was quietly released and debuted at number two while NASIR featuring Nas peaked at number five.

However, the rockiest rollout yet was Teyana Taylor's K.T.S.E. The singer took to Big Boy's Neighborhood on Power 106 to explain that the album will be re-released due to label miscommunication and samples not being cleared in time. Acknowledging that songs on the album were literally cut short, as well as the label's mistake in setting a release date and listening experience all before the album samples were even cleared.

VIDEO: Teyana Taylor on Big Boy’s Neighborhood

Teyana has taken the public misstep like a champ, acknowledging the helpful critiques she's received from those who have listened thus far. A similar attitude is now generally required of artists in the digital age of album streaming, its boundless limits should remind artists to propel themselves into a new realm of creativity and innovation. Ultimately instilling in them the ability to embrace the body of work that they have while remembering, it’s not fully what you do but how you do it.

 

- Jadriena "Jade" Solomon

@24Jaded

  • Published in Music

Deezer Taking Over the U.S. Music Streaming Landscape?

Digital music streaming service in the U.S. is on the verge of a shake-up.

Deezer, the premier global digital music streaming service, today announced it is acquiring Stitcher, the leading provider of personalized Internet talk radio and award winning mobile products.

The acquisition allows Deezer to become a truly global on-demand audio provider, offering consumers over 35 million music tracks and 35,000 radio shows and podcasts. Stitcher currently carries eight out of the top ten terrestrial radio shows and features content from over 12,000 content providers, including NPR, BBC, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, This American Life, Marc Maron, CBS Radio News and others.

So, why does this matter?

Streaming talk content continues to grow in the US, with approximately 39 million Americans having listened to an audio podcast in the past month and 30 percent of Americans having listened to a podcast according to Edison Research.

"Almost every music listener listens to some form of talk radio, whether it is news, entertainment or sports," said Daniel Marhely, Founder of Deezer. "We see the ability to deliver better talk streaming solutions in the same way that we are doing in music to super serve the needs of our global audience of 16 million users and growing. The acquisition of Stitcher helps us realize this opportunity."

Deezer will further expand its distribution into the automotive entertainment market where Stitcher is already enabled in more than 50 models, including BMW, Ford, General Motors, Jaguar and Mazda vehicles and was an Apple CarPlay and Android Auto launch partner.

"Deezer has become a market leader by meeting the different and unmet needs of music consumers around the world," said Noah Shanok, Chief Executive Officer of Stitcher. "We look forward to continue to evolve our leading offerings and deliver the most complete and best digital audio experience for listeners everywhere."

Deezer will continue to support Stitcher's award winning mobile products, where Stitcher has the number one rated podcast app on Android and the second most popular app on iOS behind iTunes.

So, where does this leave Soundcloud?

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