Love it or hate it, we are currently living in an age of streaming services; this can most certainly be said when it comes to the music industry.
And while this may be an absolute win for consumers of music like myself, I can’t help but feel guilty about the underlying idea that many musicians and song artists suffer as a result. While we get to listen to music as often as we want, the sad truth is that many of the music makers just don’t earn enough.
in the age of vinyls and CDs, the trade-off was far more realistic and balanced. The consumer buys a full experience to (potentially) enjoy, and the culprit behind its creation gets a much more fair cut of the spoils.
But today, consumers are completely covered when it comes to the “potential” side of their enjoyment. If streamers don’t like a certain album they listen to, no big deal. All they really spent was a short amount of time, rather than the money it would cost to buy a physical copy of said album. So the question stands; why would you buy the album, if you can listen to it as much as you want, virtually for free? The answer is, for most, that you simply wouldn’t.
And while that is the blissful reality of the streamer, it is far more unfair on the artists themselves. So how could both sides be pleased? How can streamers get enough free listening time in to like an album, and the artist still rake in a well deserved proper revenue, as a result of a well-crafted project? The British music collective known as SAULT, may have just presented the answer with their latest album.
The Release of “Nine”
Nine is the third album release from SAULT, a pseudonymous collective of musical artists, whose music could be most accurately put into the category of R&B or soul. I hadn’t properly heard of the group before discovering Nine, which served as one hell of a gateway.
The album was released a few months ago. However, for whatever reason, I had only stumbled across the album very recently (at the tail-end of September, to be exact).
I absolutely loved how Nine sounded. Much like the latest release from Little Simz, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, this album struck a marvellous balance between grit and grandeur. Not only did tracks like “Fear” and “Bitter Streets” present this idea so brilliantly, but the interludes and sound-bites did an equally great job of pushing the albums narrative and purpose as well.
But the one thing that really separates this album from so many others, was that it was designed to only be active for a limited time.
On both streaming services, and as a physical copy, Nine was set to only be available for 99 days. This unfortunately meant that by the time I actually discovered the album, I only had a few days to enjoy it.
Initially, the 99 day availability of this album got on my bad side, and irritated me to an extent. However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. For too long had I been spoiled when it came to my unlimited access to music, that only now, I have finally remembered the longing for an album.
And don’t get me wrong, Nine isn’t the be-all-end-all solution to the issue I covered in my introduction to this article. However, it raises a highly interesting idea, which I will go into greater detail in the next section.
Treating Albums Like Sneakers
As well as writing about music, another hobby of mine is learning all that I can about the rising sneaker-craze. And what I mean by that, is the surge of shoe collectors, and people who just want to learn as much as they can about the history of sneaker fashion, just like me.
Thanks to said rise, there are numerous sneakers out there which have skyrocketed in value, due to limited distribution. It is through this kind of “limited edition” schematic, that there are lots of sneakers who are sought after by collectors, or people who just want to show off. I feel that the aforementioned schematic, would work for albums as well.
But of course with music, listeners will certainly be entitled to try out some kind of “free trial”. And with SAULT’s Nine, that “free trial” was the 99 days that the album was up on streaming services.
Imagine a future where album releases involved a limited time-frame, where fans can validate their hopes, and new listeners can discover the aesthetic and feel of both the album and the artist. They will have enough time to form an idea of just how much they like the album, and decide if they would like to buy the album to keep.
I feel that this not only pleases both sides of the spectrum (those being the creators and the listeners), but it may also make discovering music a hundred times more exciting. While music is already an amazing force of good that unites all kinds of people, I feel that this sentiment could be strengthened even more through a more active community of listeners.