What A Time To Be Alive In Music

Think you know about music, you may know nothing – other than what you feel about it! This certainly is one of the most exciting and jarring times to be alive and in the music industry – it’s had it’s fair share of doom and gloom but don’t be too early to consign it to the scrap heap.

Right now all eyes are on Apple Music as the possible ‘saviour’ and with it’s gigantic cash pile many are wondering if it could re-shape the future of streaming, we think your eyes would be better fixed on music artists and the power of their fanbase. 2015 has been an incredibly transformative year and if you haven’t felt it – you may not be feeling the pulse of music culture.

Breaking it down a little on the state of streaming as its stands today, we can look at what the Apple Music streaming numbers have achieved so far simply as a new player in the game. According to Hits Daily Double, in the first 72 hours of the release of, Drake-Future’s ‘What a Time to Be Alive’, nailed 29m streams on Apple Music in the U.S. compared to Drake’s last mixtape, ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’, which did 14m in the U.S. across all streaming platforms in the same amount of time. Dr. Dre’s ‘Compton: A Soundtrack as an exclusive gained 25m across its first seven days.

Before realising the mixtape exclusively on iTunes and Apple Music for 5 days, Drake and Future’s mixtape was premiered exclusively on OVO Sound Radio, the Beats 1 radio show. Coupled with the social media hype immediately after the premiere – the snowball effect as you know was full blown. What needs to be read from those numbers isn’t the power of Apple as much as the power of the fans. In reality a huge fanbase despite a surprise release and a short lead up to release for artists of Dre’s and Drakes calibre can attract those kinds of numbers warranting the reason to go all exclusive. It’s too early to say if this is a guaranteed long-term strategy for Apple but they’ve certainly played their cards right.

‘What a Time to be Alive’ may be a notch on the belt for Apple Music and Beats 1 but most of the credit should go to the tactical and genius strategy conceived by OVO Sound on their own terms. In music today – it’s hip-hop and artists like Drake and the fans that are leading the way in the new transformation across popular culture. The Music, Tech, Television, Fashion and Film industry albeit reluctantly are finally having to heed the call and the insatiable appetite for Hip-Hop culture.

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This year alone Drake’s camp have conceived, produced, debuted and distributed music on a multi-platform basis and dominated across the board, by year end he may just nail the largest share of the market and no longer in 2nd place to ‘Taylor Swift’. Apple are likely going to have to nail those exclusives and if those numbers stack up after the subscription period ends, it might be a gamble many more artists are willing to take. Question is can it work out as well without the power of the individual artists fanbase?

Our emotional connections to music are the key and the lag in technology companies getting beyond their obsessions with algorithms and data may play to an artists advantage. There’s no other way to connect with music other then allowing for letting our ‘human’ emotion flow – because in the end it’s how we really feel about music that has the lasting impact. Can technology really make that a better experience or a more sinister one? In the race to get ahead in music content, there are suggestions that the route to our emotions could be in the wearables market. The idea that pulses and emotions could be captured through our heart rates accumulating a whole load of biometric data – is freaky to say the least. A recent analysis questioned whether Apple was still missing that beat – “philosopher Herbert Spencer once called music “the language of emotion.” Jimmy Iovine, the head of Apple Music, is to be commended for trying to reinvigorate the role of music in pop culture and “return emotion to music.”

There is a bigger picture but it’s still being drawn – while the tech elite are always too quick to consign an old industry to the scrap heap in the drive for more ‘disruption’ – it’s too early to call. Silicon Valley has shown that it doesn’t always get to the heart of the matter when it comes to culture, after all a ‘white boys geek club’ may be out for world domination but maybe they can’t dominate this culture! Music culture is ours to create and nurture and yes there may be curators and gatekeepers but in the end it’s a soundtrack to our individual lives.

As cross-generational music lovers with an abundance of music at our fingertips and an insatiable appetite for the new – we’re still stuck between our loyalties and our purchases. When do we want it and how do we really want it for the rest of our lives?  Whether today we’re purchasing physical formats or digital downloads to streaming free or paying subscriptions, the fact is we’re still chasing music.

Right now the future and culture of music is firmly in the hands of artists and their fans, it’s their connection that will force a culture change within the Tech and Music industry and maybe that’s where we all need to be taking the lead. Taking it back to where it started – for the love of music and if that’s the way, then let’s not bathe in the halo effect of our love of music. Be clear that it’s our guilt-free indulgence that also contributed to the dire straits many music artists are currently in.

New artists face greater challenges to build a sustainable career but with nothing to lose they’re also taking their fate into their own hands and taking bigger risks to drive it forward. Stormzy and Section Boyz are the latest U.K artists to hit the top 40 Uk charts independently of a major label or mainstream promotion. It’s also taking a lot more hard work and commitment but it may just be worth it down the line.

Promoting, distributing, touring, booking and connecting to build that coveted fanbase is the only way to keep the power in your own hands. If there’s been enough blood-letting at the hands of the major labels and now the new so-called vultures in the ‘tech companies’ – who really needs to be in charge of music?

With crisis also comes the opportunity for change. Forget the tech communities threats of ‘evolve and die’ – go out and ‘evolve and thrive’ on your own terms. The artists of the future just might not need to play to the tune of the music industry or technology companies –  going all out and taking risks today could mean that the world will be playing to the tune of the music creators! And rightly so!