How do you listen to music today? CDs via your walkman (remember those?!), vinyls or streaming? In today's world, listening to music means streaming on platforms that offer countless access to albums, libraries and playlists! Some may argue that the quality of music on streaming services is lower than other formats such as CDs, vinyls and digital downloads but regardless listeners are more drawn toward quantity and convenience. The ability to look up any artist, any song on any device at the click of a button is the real appeal in our fast-paced and shorter attention span lives.
How will this impact our creative process? How should you and I as artists adapt to this new reality?
To those who may not know, musicians, producers etc earn very little through streaming services. Streaming like many other social media platforms have algorithms (please don't get me started on this extremely convoluted metric) to measure "success" which is affecting how we as content creators write, record, release and market our craft. The insane amount of music being consumed by listeners every day compounded with the ease of creating a song from beginning to end has impacted how artists create. An article in the Wall Street Journal has found that "artists are releasing more music than ever" and as such listeners may find themselves overwhelmed in such sheer volumes of new music released daily. Therefore streaming services such as Spotify needed to find a way to organize the music to create the best listening experience for subscribers and listeners. These algorithms determine how far your music goes and how many people it reaches. How does this affect our creative process? Through my observations, research, being a listener AND music creator these are my personal take on how streaming has influenced my own process.
1) Mix It Up. The most basic and popular song structure is:
VERSE - CHORUS - VERSE - CHORUS - BRIDGE - CHORUS
But what about songs with:
VERSE - PRE CHORUS - CHORUS - VERSE - PRE CHORUS - CHORUS
CHORUS - VERSE - CHORUS - VERSE - CHORUS - BRIDGE
VERSE - CHORUS - VERSE - CHORUS - CHORUS (NO BRIDGE)
To me personally there's no right or wrong structure. It is up to the discretion of the writer to determine which structure fits best with their song, their storyline and concept. But what I do know is that sometimes straying from the ordinary and mixing it up can catch people's attention. The chorus is the section of the song that we all wait for, the meat and potatoes, and the most recognizable part of the song. So if we can grab attention within seconds, the chances of our listeners "sticking" around longing for the chorus to come back again will be greater.
2) Shorter songs. I'm quite reluctant about this one because I have a lot to say and every producer I've worked with have told me that I am extremely wordy. I don't pay attention to how long a song is - I just listen and see how it makes me feel. The ones that really gets me into a trance are the old school R&B/Soul vibes where music took its time to shine over 4 to 5 minutes. Songs that are released nowadays are getting shorter and shorter clocking in at a little over 2 minutes. The interesting thing is, it doesn't feel shorter nor does it feel like the song is unfinished. A very good example of this for me is PJ Morton's "Ready" off his most recent album release "Paul" (if you don't know who PJ Morton is or heard his songs, you are missing out!) In our shorter attention-span generation this may be one strategy to entertain but certainly not for everyone.
3) Collaboration. My blog "Collaboration is the New Foundation" covers this topic further. We see this a lot nowadays where artists are collaborating and being featured more and more on each other's projects. The most notable example is Ed Sheeran's "No. 6 Collaborations Project". It may push you to reach out and work with artists or producers who you wouldn't usually work with which serves as the perfect learning and growing opportunity as an artist . The song shows up on both artists' profiles increasing exposures to different playlists and to different demographic of listeners.
4) Strategize. I hear this all the time along with consistency. Because we are getting hit every second with everything and anything new we have to find a way to remain relevant and not get lost in the crowd. I took some time last year to do exactly that - to research, to create, to strategize and plan my "return" so that 1) I wouldn't burn out as quickly, 2) so my current and new listeners know when I will be coming out with something new and 3) I would have content to share with my listeners - current and new!
In some ways it is a shame that in our fast paced world we don't have time to slow down, sit and listen to some of the greatest hits of all time and truly appreciate the effort that was put into creating and producing something so magical. But with that said we learn to adapt and evolve and through this process we learn new things about ourselves and create something unexpected that can be more magical than anything else!
How has streaming changed your creative process/listening habits?