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Culture

Cultural News, Opinion, and Criticism

State of the Streaming Nation

Like the political machine of the early twentieth century, the music industry is run by party bosses, known as corporate executives, who behind the curtains and in backrooms decide in secret who will be the artist of the week. The power used to be in the hands of fans. The internet provides industry executives a medium to conceal their guise from the public, who can’t tell the difference between a genuine star and a propped up puppet. Dishonest managers, agents, and AR’s sell their perceived influence to the highest bidder and cash out on the hype – even if they know their product has no value. See, that’s the caveat, the “influencers” have no influence at all, their reach is artificial and inconclusive but in desperation artists will purchase their services all the same.

Getting the attention of a label executive or AR isn’t about making good music. Making good music doesn’t sell. No, if you want to become a relevant it’s essential to have a gimmick and online persona first, a way to hold an audience’s short attention span, the music can come later. When most of the artists sound and look the same, it doesn’t really matter which one gets promoted.

If you’re wondering why the world of music has been flooded with untalented artists who seem to appear out of nowhere - it’s because they are appearing out of nowhere. No one asked for Blueface or Bhad Babie, they were forced upon us. Their popularity is manufactured, and their hype is artificially generated. It’s easy to do today, you can buy a SoundCloud repost, Spotify playlist feature, or blog placement (not DWI) – frankly, everything is up for sale and no one cares about artistic integrity. If you’ve ever wondered how terrible artists get placements on your favorite channels, it’s because they paid to be there.

If you’ve got enough drug money lying around there are plenty of channels such as WorldStar, No Jumper and Elevator who are more than happy to take it out your hands. But just because you pay them for exposure and see numbers on the song or video doesn’t mean your able to monetize your music. On the contrary, you probably couldn’t sell ten tickets to a venue. The views are as faked and the fans are fickle.

After their “promotion” artists usually receive very meager gains in their overall popularity while the platform whom hosted them can monetize their content and walk away with the profit.

Any service you’re interested in is for sale - for the right price. But that doesn’t mean artists actually get what they are paying for. On the contrary, their return on investment is null. In the age of streaming, an artist can’t act quickly enough to capitalize on their demand even if they do gain traction. The popularity is fleeting. Without the need to purchase the music, listeners move on quickly.

It used to be labels payed artists now the artists pay the labels. The game is backwards. Managers and AR’s don’t care an ounce about the music, it’s a product to them but it’s become one that doesn’t sell well and put them in a precarious position. They make their living, and a good one too, by acting as a medium for laundering illegal cash at the expense of their audience’s trust “. But it’s all a rouse. Fans are being taken advantage the same way the artists are, no one wins.

I too used to think only the best and most talented artists got open at shows or were featured on certain channels. It wasn’t until I created a fake email account and asked about how much it would cost that these channels and “tastemakers” rushed to respond and try to negotiate with me on their pricing.

If you were wondering how to “make it” today it’s really easy - just offer them cash, don’t even bother making good music, the people who have emerged as modern gatekeepers of the music don't care about the art - they make their living by exploiting trends and milking what they can out of desperate people who don’t know any better and who truly believe their placement or exposure will lead to success. The cycle is sad to watch. There is always an influx of new naive fans ready to spend their weekly paycheck. There are artists who pay hundreds of dollars to be performing acts at concerts when after the show no one will remember they were there, and their investment will be worthless.

The people with the ability to stop this pay-for-play practice are too entrenched in the establishment and too corrupt to call out any perpetrators. They’ve accepted the status quo and would rather promote terrible art to impressionable teenagers who hang on their every word rather than expose their audience to real music and art which could change their lives. They are essentially professional predators, lurking and waiting to capitalize off ignorant artists who quite possibly may only have pure intentions of spreading their music.

However, all these scams and opportunists have emerged in the streaming era because independent artists do face the problem of trying to monetize their content. Since no one is selling albums or songs anymore, music artists are largely struggling to convert their clout into dollars. These con artists have no intentions of putting on artists to promote the artist, if anything, they are trying to use the artists to promote themselves. The problem really is with our culture and the idea that with enough cash you can get anywhere. This is the fundamental issue of our scene and until our mentality changes it’s only inevitable that these scam artists will continue to pop up as long as there is someone who thinks that if they have enough cash behind them they will be successful.

Regardless, despite the bullshit, good music will still prevail and be able to succeed. No matter the obstacle, art will find a way to reach the people it needs too, it always has an always will.

The solution is simple but won’t happen – we need to go back to purchasing music. But don’t hold your breath.