Test the waters by streaming

Zac Younkins

The music world is still trying to figure out how to properly use the Internet. Like your 60-something grandmother, the industry just can’t seem to figure the “gosh-darn” thing out. Illegal piracy has been an unresolved issue for over a decade. Online radio services and iTunes have taken away the effect of the once-revered Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Finally, artists and record companies have begun to get the hang of it. Recently, limited streaming has gotten the attention of fans. Artists elect to allow their album to be listened to in its entirety for a limited time, usually via iTunes or Soundcloud. They’ve even taken to Twitter and Facebook for promotion. When Justin Timberlake did it for his first 20/20 Experience album, it arguably changed the dynamic of album sales.

For years, artists have relied on touring for the big money, as the Internet and its many illegal free music sites have killed record sales; but, when Timberlake streamed the album it was projected to sell 50,000 copies in its first week. The result, however was 968,000 copies sold.

It’s true the largest demographic that still purchases music is the middle-aged who purchase it for themselves and for their children. Streaming is a way to reach the younger demographic and get them to buy again. The most interesting dynamic about the sales tactic is its lack of advertising. Usually to find out about the early releases, you have to troll Twitter pretty vigorously. You’re not likely to see ads for the free previews on TV or as a pop-up ad.

This is a great technique for getting the album some notoriety, as this age group is very social media savvy and furthermore very passionate about the music. People stream and then they talk, which gets others interested.

If you want to take part and see what the fuss is about, both Beck and Phantogram have offered up their new albums for limited time. Both albums are getting a lot of praise and blog buzz and are well worth your time. NPR even has a section on their site devoted to first listens. People passionate enough to take the time and stream the full length work will likely be the ones to purchase the physical copy, and those listeners will also spread the word.

Whether you’re actually a die hard music lover like myself, or you just want to impress your peers with your knowledge of trendy new things, you should take part in the new word-of-mouth marketing tactic and stream. I would recommend starting with Phantogram’s dreamy high-production “Voices” album and Beck’s latest odyssey, “Morning Phase.”

Contact Zac Younkins at [email protected]