We’re well into the Wreckage Systems project, having seen it launch in March of this year. And with it, we’ve been spoiled for new 65 music (and other content): a continuous livestream, regular new EP’s, weekly devblogs, and irregular insights into the way 65 make music. It’s been a blast, to say the least (and if you don’t support the project yet, what are you waiting for?).
One thing we haven’t seen yet, though, is any of 65’s new music appearing on major streaming services like Spotify. This has been a conscious decision by the band, but I’m left wondering: is it the right thing to do?
Obviously it’s not my place to criticize the band for the choice they’ve made. This article isn’t about criticism. It’s basically me yelling out loud about something I’ve been wondering about.
With Wreckage Systems, and the Year of Wreckage before that, we’ve been gifted an outrageous amount of new 65daysofstatic music in the past year and a half. But if you only use Spotify to listen to music (as a lot of people do), then replicr, 2019 still seems to be the most recent music the band have released.
Does this mean that 65 are missing out on reaching a whole lot of fans? Is the casual listener even the right demographic for what they’ve been up to lately? What exactly is Spotify’s influence in reaching old and new listeners? And am I alone in wanting 65 to reach as many people as possible? I’ve been wondering about these questions for a while, and have decided to use this platform to see if I can find some answers.
Streaming into the future
Obviously, Spotify has changed the way we listen to music. When it launched in 2006, we were all still buying cd’s, or getting our music in less than legal ways through websites like Napster, and filling out our iPods or other mp3 players. Over the years since its launch in 2006, Spotify has become the best legal way to have access to pretty much all recorded music in history, for only $ 9.99 a month.
This was great news for music fans all over the world, as has been proven again with the app’s popularity expanding even more throughout the pandemic and various lockdowns. For artists however, Spotify’s popularity has been a burden.
Streaming largely saved the music industry from an enormous collapse during the early 2000s, but that success has been limited to the biggest artists, the big record labels, and the streaming service itself.
Spotify (and other streaming services like it) pay artists notoriously little per stream, especially seeing how little is left after labels take their share of the money. But, as Spotify often likes to cite themselves, the platform does, in a way, offer smaller artists the same platform as the biggest superstars. Or does it?
Playlists over albums
Since 2012, Spotify has been pushing playlists as the main way to listen to music. It curates a ton of its own playlists, with personalized ones according to your listening habits, Today’s Top Hits, New Music Friday, tons of genre specific playlists, … the list goes on and on.
This is frustrating to artists in two ways. First, the album is no longer the preferred way to listen to music. Secondly, this allows Spotify an enormous amount of influence when it comes to which music becomes popular.
Research has shown that not only does Spotify push its own playlists over those curated by others, but their playlists favour big label artists over those on indie labels or unsigned artists. So despite users discovering more new artists than ever, those discoveries are limited to those artists who are lucky enough to get signed up early.
To get an idea on how influential those playlists are, here’s an example with 65’s music. If you ask any 65kid about their favourite 65dos song, Radio Protector will be the standout answer, followed closely by either songs from the band’s earlier records, or a few standouts from Wild Light or replicr, 2019.
On Spotify however, the song with the most streams is Hypersleep, with over 11 million streams, almost double the amount of second placed Radio Protector. It’s obviously a great track, but it’s surprising nonetheless.
Until you look at the playlists that 65 are featured in. Hypersleep is featured in ‘Focus Music: Work | Studying | Concentration” – a playlist with 78,000 followers, a “Drive Soundtrack – OST” playlist with 83,500 likes, and “Movie Soundtracks and Cinematic music (Classical / Instrumental)” – a playlist with 197,000 likes.
Unmake the Wild Light and Debutante are the 3rd and 7th most listened to tracks, with both featuring on “Calm Before the Storm”, a playlist curated by Spotify themselves which has about 267,000 followers.
What about the alternatives?
Spotify’s influence is clear to see. However, that doesn’t change that the platform pays artists too little, a fact further exacerbated by the current pandemic.
Interestingly, and notoriously, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek claimed that artists “can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough. The artists today that are making it realise that it’s about creating a continuous engagement with their fans. It is about putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping a continuous dialogue with your fans.”
That’s quite the statement to put the responsibility back on the artists, instead of, you know, actually paying them decently. It’s interesting however, because for over a year now, that’s exactly what 65 have been doing. The Year of Wreckage saw releases on a monthly basis, and the Wreckage Systems releases have been quite regular as well. They could have been a very limited but steady source of income during an incredibly hard time for the band, but instead, 65 opted to first use Bandcamp, and then find support through Patreon.
Both platforms have their uses, but neither has the reach that Spotify has. For example, at the moment 65 have 539 patrons on Patreon, which is amazing as it is, but when compared to the nearly 130,000 monthly listeners 65 have on Spotify, it only seems like a fraction of the band’s fan base. Are 65 missing out on the majority of their fans, or is the Spotify number an exaggeration based on listeners who just listen to Hypersleep on a playlist?
The Wreckage Systems stream on YouTube also has about 500 likes, so the Patreon number seems more realistic than the Spotify one. But it doesn’t seem that farfetched that 65 have more fans than that, considering how many people come to their shows. So is Spotify the way to reach those fans?
Lack of research
Sadly, there’s no real way to know how far Spotify’s reach goes outside of their own streaming numbers. Do big streaming numbers lead to more album sales? Do they lead to more people attending concerts, buying merch? There doesn’t seem to be any real research into that (that I could find, at least).
All research focuses mostly on Spotify’s influence within the app, and that’s a shame. The streaming service has become so much more than just a way to listen to music, and I’m keen to know how much influence the company really has.
What do you think?
So, should 65 make the Wreckage Systems EP’s available on Spotify? I’m still not sure about it. I mean, it would be very handy: I could add some of the songs to my existing playlists, and I could listen to the songs knowing that my stream adds about a 1000th of a cent to the band’s bank account.
Thanks for reading, if you made it this far. Hope you like this new kind of format. Have an amazing day 🙂