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How playlists from streaming services have changed the way we discover new music

Back in the day, budding artists had a system for creating a fan base for their music. They would get in contact with a radio station, and if they were lucky they could convince a radio DJ to throw their new song into a playlist. With a bit of air play, their songs would grow in popularity, and soon enough, fan requests would be flowing in. Today, the process is very different. All streaming services, including Spotify, and Apple Music, offer curated playlists to help listeners discover new music.

To many music fans, the curated playlist option seems convenient. You basically get to discover great music without having to listen to entire albums recorded by obscure artists. However, the curated playlists have one major weakness, and that is the fact that there is no accounting for the variation of taste in music. Services that make use of human curators end up creating playlists that impose a few people’s taste in music on all of their subscribers. As for streaming services that make use of computer algorithms, the creators of the algorithms do not optimize their software for the discovery of music from independent artists.

With the increasing market share of streaming services in the music business, the landscape has changed for the worse for independent artists. Streaming services have a financial incentive, so even as they create curated playlists, they tend to prioritize music from artists signed to major labels because the record companies pay for that privilege.

All of this leaves these up-and-coming and indie artists with little chance of getting known on music streaming services.

The good news is that if you have a great song that you believe should be given more consideration in some of the streaming services, you can pitch the song to in-house curators for inclusion in a playlist. Whether you are an independent artist or a fan of one, streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, and Rdio give people the chance to pitch songs to them. Some services will include a song in their playlist for a fee, but others can include songs if they listen to them and find them good enough. The downside of pitching songs to playlists is that thousands of other people do the exact same thing, and it would take a lot of effort to make a pitch stand out.

But there are other options to find new music artists in the digital age, for instance group listening apps, where you can share other people’s musical taste, such as our own Listen Together App, which is a great way to discover amazing new music. The app makes it a lot easier to share and find new indie artist with friends and music lovers.

The hope for listeners and indie artists lie in the fact that competition among streaming services is on the rise, and players in the industry can only survive if they put real effort into finding great music to include in their playlists.

Photograph by WDNetStudio

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