The line between genius and insanity is never thinner than when talking about Kanye but the rapper/producer’s new decision is foretelling of a change already happening in the music industry.
Worldwide hip-hop superstar Kanye West announced via Twitter on Monday that he won’t release anymore CDs, following the Tidal exclusive release of his new album The Life Of Pablo. (For those with your fingers crossed he’s referring to physical CD’s, not albums) As someone who has become renowned for furious rants, experimenting with music and an unmatched egotism Kanye isn’t always right about things, but he might be right to abandon CDs.
Amongst his seemingly neverending tweet-storms (or “twitter poetry“), this announcement stands out as one that may actually indicate an issue beyond Kanye himself. The truth is that, like it or not, CD’s are a dying platform for listening to music. They’ve had a good run but have since been surpassed by digital downloads and music streaming whilst CD sales drop slowly but surely. There is no doubt that streaming has become one of the biggest sources of music consumption the world has ever seen and is growing all the time.
Music streaming puts users at the foot of nearly all available music and lets them listen to it as many times as they want, earning the artist money each time. There are artists who take issue with streaming, sometimes justifiably, but regardless it’s overtaking the music industry and even boosting it. Universal recently noted a rise in revenue despite a decrease in sales, thanks to their streamed earnings. With the already massive music streaming industry doubling in 2015 alone it’s clear that it’s a successful, maintainable platform.
It’s also evidenced in some artist’s successes how the change is taking place. Major popstar Rihanna recently released her new album which went platinum with 484,833 album downloads and 5.6 million streams in it’s first week. Her CD sales however? A pretty dire 460 physical copies were sold in the same time.
Additionally whilst there is controversy over music streaming’s rate of payment the rates were recently increased and will likely continue to increase as streaming becomes a solidified platform and potentially becomes the world’s primary source of music. Additionally music streaming is helping to kill piracy – before if you wanted to listen to a bunch of new music you would have to buy the albums for up to $15 each driving many to just pirate the music for free. Now for a $10 subscription, or even free, you have millions of albums at your fingertips legally to listen to and every listen earns the artist money. For some users, like myself, we will even use streaming as a trial for albums before buying it if I enjoyed it.
Ultimately it is your choice whether you embrace music streaming or lambaste it but the industry is quickly adapting to the new way to listen to music. CDs will be around for a few years yet, they still fill music stores, but it’s just a matter of time before they are retired. There’s always the vinyl comeback if you’re a sucker for physical music like me.