Making Sense of the Streaming World at SXSW

Written by Rory Burbeck | November 11, 2013

Tom Erlewine at SXSW 2013

The music industry of the 2000s is defined by not one, but two revolutions in the way we consume music, and the second revolution gave us the power to legally access and listen to just about any song imaginable for free. This opened the door for the rise of on-demand music and internet radio streaming services, and has created a world that’s proving difficult to navigate for artists and consumers alike. The SXSW Music Conference staff recognizes this and has added several SXSW 2014 sessions to help address these issues. But how did we arrive here?

We all know the story of Napster, the pioneer digital music service of the late ‘90s that forever changed the way we consume music. Then came the iTunes Store a couple of years later. Consumers could now pick the songs that they wanted to listen to, purchase, and download with a few clicks of the mouse. Purchase is the keyword in that last sentence. Now, with the advent of on-demand streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube, consumers have a world of music at their fingertips.

A recent article published by Mark Mulligan, a panelist at last year’s SXSW, compares these changes in music consumption in both the United States and Sweden, one of the birthplaces of streaming music. The article, entitled A Tale of Two Cities: What Sweden and the U.S. Tell Us About the Outlook for Streaming, paints a clear picture of the evolution of our consumption patterns since 2010: physical sales are on a steep decline, music downloads are declining or at least slowing down, and streaming is way, way up. The decline in overall album sales, as evidenced by recent SoundScan reports that album sales have hit their lowest levels since 1991, shows that with so much music at their fingertips, the general public just isn’t as interested in buying or even downloading whole albums anymore. There’s just too much music to listen to, and access is often trumping ownership.

So, how do you push your music through the noise, get noticed, and get paid? That seems to be the challenge these days, and next March, SXSW aims to explore all the angles. Whether you’re an indie artist, manager, label, distributor, or just an overwhelmed music fan, there are numerous sessions that can help. Below, you will find announced 2014 panels addressing various issues of the new streaming economy, with some directly related to YouTube (which is now widely regarded as the number one streaming service on the web). We’ll be bringing you more SXSW 2014 session previews throughout the next few months, with topics including artist royalties, copyright issues, internet radio, and more.

  • Defining Success in the Streaming World (Graham James, Spotify)
  • Getting Your Music Heard in the Streaming Age (Kristin Hehir, Rovi Corporation)
  • The Definitive Guide to Live Music and Streaming (John Petrocelli, Bulldog Digital Media)
  • YouTube - New Breeding Ground for Music’s Future (Mario Gonzalez, MPRM Communications)
  • Build the Perfect YouTube Presence with Channels (Caroline Bottomley, RadarMusicVideos)
  • Be Your Own Tastemaker: Music Discovery in 2014 (David Greenwald, Rawkblog)
  • Internet Radio Is On Top Again. Why? (Kathryn Shantz, Samsung Electronics)
  • Thank You For Letting Us Take Your Money (George Howard, Wolfgang's Vault/Berklee College of Music)
  • The New Geography of the Music World (Julie Harari-West, Deezer UK & Ireland)
  • Distribution of Income in a Streaming Economy (Kjartan Slette, WiMP/Aspiro Music)
  • Tom Erlewine (pictured above at SXSW 2013) will be on the Getting Your Music Heard in the Streaming Age panel at SXSW 2014. Photo by Jim Antich.