Ward: Free streaming sites offer music for listeners, advertising for artists


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Spotify is an online music streaming site that provides free music for listeners and free advertising for artists. 

Madison Ward

Music means something different to each of us, and it influences us in a variety of ways. But the one thing that links us all together is music can make the more mundane parts of life livable; that’s why we keep coming back.

But just as music has been the pulse of culture through generations, those generations have also allowed that pulse to change and evolve from the days of tubes-and-wires radio. Now music is streamed on platforms like Spotify and Pandora, and companies like Apple try to put it in a nice, neat package so we get what we want when and where we want it.

The beauty of music giants like Pandora and Spotify is that they both have the ability to be completely molded the way the listener wants. You can select the artists and songs you like, as well as similar artists, and listen to them when and where you want.

Apple has a knack for putting everything we need in one place, which it did with music when it threw its hat into the music-streaming ring with iTunes Radio in 2013. It took advantage of the fact that people would use the platform over downloadable streaming apps because iTunes Radio is already in the same place as a normal iTunes playlist. It’s convenient, which is where Apple rules all.

But convenience is not only where Apple dominates the competition. The company gets people to ignore the bottom line all for the sake of the brand, and it’s banking on doing it again with Apple Music on June 30. For $10 a month, you can get a bunch of random songs served to you on a silver platter.

Regardless, sticking with free apps and a few short ads every now and again is the best option.

Why is it the smart move you ask? Well, besides the money factor, it’s because who wants to pay for an advertisement? Likely no one. The thing that often goes unnoticed with music streaming is that it is an entirely different platform than CDs, merchandise and concerts. When you purchase a CD or attend a concert it is because you are choosing to support one specific artist.

I recently saw Ed Sheeran in Des Moines and blew way too much on T-shirts, but I don’t care because I love Ed’s music and I am happy to support his work. I wouldn’t ask a non-fan like the friend who went with me to do the same because he should have the choice of what artist he wants to support.

When you join a music streaming site it is not necessarily because you are looking for a handful of artists who you like the most. It’s because you are listening to a bunch of artists who happen to be in a genre similar to what you already like, and it’s a chance for exploration.

It’s like watching television. Channels have different advertisements based on the type of people they assume will be watching that channel. Viewers have decided to take part in this channel, just like they have taken the step to listen to music streaming sites. Various companies have elected to put their advertisement on that channel in hopes of sparking the interest of some viewers.

Artists put their work on streaming sites that have a free option in hopes of attracting more fans who want to go out and buy their merchandise, but if you don’t want to support an artist you don’t have to on a music-streaming site.

The phenomenon of music streaming is a form of advertising for all the artists who allow their music to be played on a site without a joining fee, which is why I think it’s kind of unfair for Apple to ask us to support artists we don’t necessarily like.

I think Taylor Swift handled the situation best when she didn’t sit around complaining about not making maximum profit from her mega hits being played on Spotify; she simply withdrew them from the free site in November, and now people who want her music will buy it, and everyone wins.

I’m all for artists’ rights and being paid for their work in the proper situation, but if they don’t want their music being played without money going into their pockets, then they should probably pull their own plug on music-streaming sites.