The wait is over. Finally, fans of music streaming app Spotify can Meet the Beatles. And they’re not alone. Users of Apple, Deezer and Google Play, will also have that privilege. While the move may not sound that earth-shattering to outsiders, it’s a sign the music industry is finally willing to admit things have Moved On.
When it comes to rights-based barometers of Where The Music Industry Is At, nothing sends quite as clear a signal as the Beatles catalog. Sure, Garth Brooks is a famous holdout, opting to start his own streaming service rather than submit to Apple (good luck, there cowboy), but the Beatles have always provided the best picture of how mainstream a new format happens to be.
Things weren’t so dire when music buyers went from vinyl to tape and then to DC. But when just about anyone was jumping into the stream, the Beatles held out. Album sales make more money, and in that arena, the Beatles were still doing just fine, thank you very much. There were some other holdouts. Led Zeppelin took some time to sign on, but, eventually, “Stairway” was available on iTunes. But it wasn’t until 2010 that fans could actually download the Fab Four on Apple’s digital music shop.
Then came streaming. Better money for the flagging record companies, but not so much for the artists – except Taylor Swift, who was quick to remind the streamers just who butters their bread. In 2011, streaming only accounted for about ten percent of music industry revenue. This year that number has more than tripled, to 32 percent. Expect that trend to continue. The owners of the Beatles catalog apparently do.
In any industry, if you look long enough, you will discover trend markers helping you determine when “new” has finally become “mainstream” or when a new idea has finally become a sure bet. Looking at the history of the music industry, movers and shakers like Brooks and Swift come and go, but one brand defines the industry.
Do you know who sets the bar for your industry? If not, you’ve got some work to do.