The economics of the music industry have completely changed in recent years as sales of physical copies and online downloads have changed to online viewing websites and streaming subscriptions through companies such as Spotify and Pandora. The music industry is clearly rising, as in the first half of 2017, music industry revenues have reached four billion dollars, compared to the midway point in 2015 with revenue of three billion dollars. Subscriptions to online streaming websites are accounting for an increasing percentage of total music industry proceeds. Returns from subscriptions to companies such as Spotify or Apple Music have increased by sixty-one percent from 2016, and American subscribers to streaming music sites now equal thirty million people.
Although this seems to bring in more profits for the music industry, it is still unclear how online streaming sites affect the songwriters and performers. Due to online streaming, the quantity of songs being produced is increasing as artists release more singles and it is easy for new artists to be discovered. Some argue that because a lot of streaming is free, it is hurting the music industry because people are not purchasing copies of music as often. It is arguable that streaming websites hurt artists because it takes away from their total sales, but the artists receive more views this way and are still paid royalties that come from subscriptions and advertising.
The past few years have been known for the large number of great musicians that have passed away; including Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, and most recently, Tom Petty. Historically, after a musician passes away, sales in their music dramatically increase as fans mourn the losses of their favorite artists. This can be seen time and time again; for example, with John Lennon’s Double Fantasy hitting number one all over the world after his death and David Bowie’s receiving thirty times his normal Spotify streams after his death. The deaths of famous artists also spark an interest in older genres of music in younger generations and increase sales to younger listeners. However, as online streaming becomes the most popular way to listen to music, the way we are remembering the work of deceased artists is changing.
Record companies respond to the increase in demand for music from recently deceased artists by reproducing and distributing some of the artist’s earlier albums. Because record companies used to directly control what records and CD’s would be produced and sold, they could pick and choose albums to sell after an artist passes that may be more profitable, usually containing greatest hits compilations for the artist and other widely appreciated albums. For example, after the death of Michael Jackson, some of his more popular albums such as Number Ones, The Essential Michael Jackson, and Thriller were more widely reproduced. However, now that the online streaming of albums is more popular, the public has more control over which albums they stream to remember lost artists.