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How Streaming Is Changing the Sound of Music


Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have revolutionized the way people listen to music, but they have also influenced the way music is made. According to a recent study by researchers from New York University and Columbia University, streaming has affected various aspects of music production, such as song length, tempo, loudness and genre diversity.


- Based on an article by Howie Singer and Bill Rosenblatt, in The Wall Street Journal, on Sept. 15, 2023


The study, which was published in the Journal of Cultural Economics, analyzed over 1.4 million songs released in the U.S. between 2000 and 2018, using data from Billboard charts, Spotify and The Echo Nest. The researchers found that streaming has led to shorter songs, faster tempos, louder volumes and more genre blending over time.


One of the reasons for these changes is the shift from album sales to individual song streams as the main source of revenue for artists and labels. Streaming platforms also use algorithms and playlists to recommend songs to listeners, which creates incentives for artists to optimize their songs for these features. For example, shorter songs can increase the number of streams and royalties, faster tempos can capture the attention of listeners, louder volumes can stand out from the competition and genre blending can appeal to a wider audience.


The study also found that streaming has increased the diversity and fragmentation of music consumption, as listeners have access to more songs and genres than ever before. However, streaming has also reinforced the dominance of a few superstar artists and songs, as they benefit from network effects and positive feedback loops.


The study concludes that streaming has had a significant impact on the musical landscape, both in terms of production and consumption. The researchers suggest that streaming platforms should be more transparent about their algorithms and playlists, and that artists and labels should be more aware of the trade-offs between artistic expression and commercial success.


To read more about the study and its implications for the music industry and culture, you can visit the original article at The Wall Street Journal.


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