Streaming platforms: a great opportunity for classical music Streaming platforms: a great opportunity for classical music

Streaming platforms

A great opportunity for classical music

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It is a well-known fact that music-streaming services are changing the listening habits of large numbers of music consumers. Independent platforms such as Spotify and Tidal or others born inside big companies such as Apple Music, move big numbers and enormous financial interests, recording tens of billions of single plays and tens of millions of subscriptions to their premium services every year. This of course is especially true of the latest releases in pop music. The presence or absence of an artist from the catalogue can determine the success or failure of one platform over another, as the recent case of Spotify removing Taylor Swift from their catalogue to the great advantage of Apple Music demonstrates.

But how does this work for classical music?


Classical music only makes up a 3.2% share of the whole music market – this is equal to just under a tenth of the pop music share, estimated at 34%. Moreover, it has been observed that by its very nature, classical music is a genre that requires greater concentration and produces a different kind of listener than pop music. Classical music listeners tend to focus their attention on no more than one or two albums per day, whereas pop music listeners often use music as the background to all of their activities throughout the day.

These factors, together with the fact that pieces of classical music are often significantly longer than pop music tracks, means that for record labels specialising in ‘classical’ music it is harder to monetise streaming services and make them profitable, as their profit distribution model of is based on the number of plays of single tracks. What is more, the proliferation of different versions and recordings of – say – the same Lieder by Mahler means that revenue from one single composition is redistributed unevenly to a large number of labels, who in turn have to make do with these often meagre takings. For all these reasons, several important classical music labels have decided to withdraw their catalogues from the most popular streaming services, like in the case of British label Hyperion Records.

New perspectives

At first sight, the scenario described so far may appear to be extremely negative, but the truth is that streaming platforms are a great opportunity also and in fact especially for classical music, as they offer the possibility of attracting a new generation of listeners.
 
This is why streaming platforms specifically tailored to classical music were born, such as Grammofy, Idagio and – soon – Melome.

The model proposed by all of these startups goes beyond the mere availability of a wide catalogue of tracks and offers curated playlists that focus on a specific historical period, musical style or composer. These are real listening journeys – including immortal symphonies alongside rare recordings – that can excite and satisfy both experts and neophytes alike. This model offers its listeners a great added value: the curator’s expertise. This added value can play a crucial role in convincing users to sign up for monthly subscriptions to the service and thus in exponentially multiplying profits.

In other words, classical music is increasingly gearing up to make its successful and convincing entrance into the digital ecosystem, and what is important is that it is doing so in an autonomous and independent way. This is confirmed for example by the choice recently made by the Deutsche Grammophon: after launching its own iOS streaming application called DG Discovery, the German label decided to withdraw it from iTunes to work on its own independent platform which will launch soon.

The fact that – at around 6% – the percentage of classical music listeners in streaming (including also those who use sites such as Youtube and Soundcloud) is almost double the market share of classical music in the physical support market (CDs, vinyl, etc.) proves that, together with the live broadcast of events such as PappanoinWeb, the web has the potential to be a great ally for this genre. They key is knowing how to best tap this potential.