The Music Industry’s Oversaturation Problem
It’s never been easier for artists to release music and find an audience in any corner of the world. Likewise, it’s never been more difficult for artists to break through the noise. The Internet and streaming services have created a double-edged sword for rising artists. To discuss this, Tatiano Cirisano joined me on the show. Tati is a music analyst at MIDiA Research and a former reporter at Billboard.
Tati released a research piece a few weeks ago that argues the music industry is oversaturated and fragmented — more than ever before. This shift has created a new class system for artists.
In Group 1 are artists that reached prominence pre-streaming in a less cluttered marketplace (e.g. Beyonce or AC/DC). Class 2 consists of artists who rose in parallel with the proliferation of streaming. Drake and Taylor Swift fall into this category. And then there’s the Class 3, that includes newer artists, who try to cultivate audiences in today’s hyper-competitive landscape against the other two groups.
Tati believes the trend line for the music industry’s fragmentation is clearly pointing up. To understand how we got here, why it matters, and how it redefines success, you’ll want to listen to our interview. Here’s our biggest talking points:
[3:11 ] Why consumption is now fragmented
[8:41 ] Music superstars losing their reach
[10:55 ] Modern artists valuing fame less than prior generations
[13:24 ] Benefits to fragmentation
[14:48 ] Updated benchmark for artist success
[16:50 ] Active vs. passive listening
[18:53 ] Music industry is still tied to album sales
[25:34 ] Artists segmenting audiences by platform
[30:18 ] Trap of taking users off native platforms
[32:59 ] Content is becoming more important than the creator
[37:35 ] YouTube and other potential outlier platforms for audience-building
You can read Tati’s full report here: https://midiaresearch.com/blog/music-is-not-a-level-playing-field-it-is-a-field-of-all-levels
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Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co
Guests: Tatiana Cirisano, @tatianacirisano
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[00:00:00 ] Tatiana Cirisano: Fame is actually really low on the list of priorities of artists today. And whether that's because they don't really want it or because they just don't think it's achievable is kind of another layer to that, but the top two things are earning a sustainable income and achieving recognition within their scene. Artists' definitions of success are changing, but I don't know if the music industry is really catching onto that or really supporting that because the music business is a hits business and record labels are trying to create superstars and drive culture.
[00:00:38 ] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I'm your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level.
[00:00:58 ] Dan Runcie: Today's conversation is all about why the stars of today cannot be compared to the stars of yesterday in the music industry. And when I'm talking about yesterday, I'm not talking about 20, 30 years ago. I'm talking about 3, 4 even 5 years ago. The era that Drake and even Post Malone and some of these other artists came up in cannot be compared to what's happening with the artist today and that's as it relates to streaming, as it relates to TikTok and all the ways that things are fragmented in the creator economy. And it was great to be joined by Tatiana Cirisano. She is a music industry analyst at MIDiA Research, where she has written some insightful pieces and breakdowns on this topic in a whole lot more. We talked about the impacts and the current landscape of the streaming era, and what it looks like for artists that are prioritizing their growth and perfecting what they can do on one platform as opposed to spreading it on others. We also talked about some of the trade-offs and some of the challenges for artists in the creator economy and a whole lot more. She does some great research on this topic. So definitely check out the work she does at MIDiA Research if you haven't yet, here's our conversation. Hope you enjoy it. All right, today, we are joined by music industry analyst, Tati Cirisano, who is going to help us solve all of the music industry problems today. Are you ready?
[00:02:22 ] Tatiana Cirisano: One can hope. I'll do my best.
[00:02:25 ] Dan Runcie: So what sparked this conversation was a really insightful piece that you had put out recently through MIDiA Research, and this was about the different levels of artists and where they are specifically in the streaming era. And you had this really good breakdown on how you had the artists that were already established in the streaming era such as your AC/DCs or your Beyoncés, they were established before streaming became a thing. You had the artists that were, folks like your Drakes or even your Taylor Swifts that rose while streaming was really huge. And then you have your artists today. Could you talk a little bit about how that differentiation between those groups impacts success and what achieving success looks like today?
[00:03:11 ] Tatiana Cirisano: Yeah, no, absolutely. And I'll kind of back up a little bit to what is underlying all of that, which is just the fragmentation of consumption. And that's something that we study a lot at MIDiA, and it basically means that you know, with people able to, through streaming, access all the music they could ever want to and listen at any time that they want to, and also with these increasingly sophisticated algorithms kind of pushing people to niches. It follows that there are kind of less mainstream moments or mainstream stars and more of these stars just for individuals and their communities or their niches. And I think that's something that we've all kind of experienced at some point, like, maybe there's an artist that you're obsessed with and all of your friend's love, and you mention it to a friend that is in another circle and they're like, who's that? I mean, I get that reaction. I've gotten that reaction talking about Bad Bunny before, and he is the top streamed artist in the world. So I think we've all had like this anecdotal experience of you thinking that something is mainstream, but it's not as mainstream as you think it is and that is the fragmentation at work. So this is happening on a really, really accelerated scale now. Just because of how everything is online and on demand and because of these algorithms. So we're in this situation where the artists that are competing today are in a much more oversaturated and fragmented landscape where it's a lot harder to have a mainstream impact than the artists that were even chasing success three years ago, five years ago, ten years ago. So the way that I had kind of broken it down, and I think you could actually break it down way further, which I think we're going to talk about is yeah, the artists that came up before all of this, pre-streaming, really, which are the AC/DCs, even a little bit of like the Beyoncés, and because they built their fan bases at a time before everything was so fragmented and cluttered, they're still, like, building on that today. They're still kind of riding that wave. And then you have the artists who came up kind of at the beginning of streaming and before all the second-order impacts happened. So basically streaming did democratize the playing field. It did make it so that way more artists could find their audiences. And there were all these benefits at the beginning, and artists like Drake, Taylor Swift, and Ed Sheeran really benefited from that. But now we're at a point where streaming has also contributed to this really oversaturated landscape, this really fragmented landscape. And it's only getting more and more so every year. And so the artists that are competing in that landscape now face really, really unique challenges, yet they're still competing in the same field as the Drakes, as the Beyoncés, as the AC/DCs. So because so much of this change has happened in just, like, 5 or 10 years, we're in a situation where the artists of today have very, very different challenges than, I think, even the artists of 2020, like the pace of fragmentation, is just insane. And I have data on that too, that I can share.
Dan Runcie: Yeah. It would be great to dig more into that 'cause you've mentioned 2020. I look back on that year, especially, m