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Navigating the Challenges of Music Discovery and (38M!) Unused Tracks

Based on articles by Stuart Dredge on Musically on June 30, Tim Ingham on Music Business Worldwide and Trent Fitzgerald, on XXL, April 7, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of the music industry, the rise of streaming platforms has revolutionized the way we consume music. However, as the number of tracks available on these platforms continues to skyrocket, new challenges emerge, including music discovery and the issue of unused tracks.

One platform that is tackling the music discovery challenge head-on is SoundCloud. With their innovative feature, "First Fans," SoundCloud aims to help new tracks find their audience. By leveraging algorithms and user engagement data, the platform identifies early supporters of an artist's music and connects them with new releases. This initiative empowers emerging artists to break through the noise and connect with listeners who are most likely to appreciate their unique sound.

On the flip side, streaming giant Spotify has faced criticism for its Discovery Mode expansion. The Future of Music Coalition has raised concerns about the potential negative impact on artist compensation and fair competition. Discovery Mode allows artists and labels to prioritize their songs in personalized recommendations for users, but critics argue that this creates an uneven playing field and undermines the organic discovery of new music.

Another alarming statistic brings the issue of unused tracks into focus. A staggering 38 million tracks on streaming services received zero plays in 2022, according to a presentation by Rob Jonas, CEO of Luminate, the entertainment market monitor and insights provider that was once known as MRC Data and Nielsen Music. (You can listen to Jonas’s full SXSW presentation through here.).

This highlights the immense volume of music available and the fierce competition for listeners' attention. It also raises questions about the sustainability and discoverability of such a vast catalog.

The convergence of these factors calls for a reevaluation of the music industry's approach to music discovery and the management of streaming platforms. While SoundCloud's First Fans demonstrates a promising solution for independent artists, the concerns surrounding Spotify's Discovery Mode emphasize the need for transparency and fair compensation in playlist curation.

As the industry moves forward, finding the right balance between algorithm-driven recommendations and authentic music discovery becomes paramount. Artists, platforms, and industry stakeholders must work together to foster an environment where undiscovered talent can thrive, and listeners can explore a diverse range of music without feeling overwhelmed.

Ultimately, the future of music lies in striking a delicate equilibrium where technological advancements amplify the artistry of musicians while ensuring a level playing field for all. It's a complex challenge, but one that must be addressed to shape a vibrant and sustainable future for the music industry.


Image by Luminate

Summary by ChatGPT


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