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
- Published in Music Interviews