Category Archives: music

Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino may be Arctic Monkeys’ biggest gamble yet

In an era where nobody’s buying albums, Arctic Monkeys have bucked the trend, but could their complacency backfire?

Back in 2005 the Sheffield band had kept to the traditional DIY ethos of handing out CDs to anyone who would take them. Soon though eager fans started uploading their tracks to indie message boards, and the band became the face of a new era – one where anybody could become Glastonbury headliners as long as they had a four track and a Myspace account.

As word spread about the internet being a revolutionary tool for new bands, the Monkeys were beating older bands at their own game at the same time.

Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not remains the fastest selling debut album by a band in the UK, and after the release of AM in 2013, they became the first band on an independent label to release five consecutive number one albums.

They survived the rise of piracy, the decline of indie rock, and then the rise of streaming. Unlike any other of their peers, however, they continued to shift albums. By almost every metric, no other band this side of the millenium comes close in terms of size to the scrawny-turned-sleek Sheffield group.

That’s why their approach to album number six comes as a surprise.

This morning the band released Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino with little fanfare. Save for a few posters and a 42 second teaser video, there was no other indication of what to expect. No singles or radio sessions; it was just released.

While the Monkeys and their label, Domino, knew that the album would not go unnoticed, by introducing a stark new style it risked alienating their traditional fanbase with no warning.

The guitars are largely out, and pianos have come in; Alex Turner is no longer mouthing off about High Green, but crooning about gentrification on the moon. Compare it to Whatever People Say I Am…, and it’s not unreasonable to think these could be separate bands entirely. 

So do fans think that it’s a way of protecting the album as a collective piece, or was a move to sell records without having to show this alienating change of sound?

We went out to ask some people whether they’d be willing to pay for an album just on the artist’s reputation alone.

Just as we found, the reaction from Arctic Monkeys fans on social media has been split.
There was a consistency that they’re decision not to release any singles was a fear of a backlash, and by saving it to the release they already had album and ticket sales in the bank.
Some fans of their earlier, more frenetic material thought the focus on lyricism and piano playing proved lacklustre.

Although there is some balance and some, including Radio 1 DJ Greg James, think that Tranquility Base showcases the strength of the band’s evolution.

Once the hype and disappointment fades, the album will probably fall somewhere between grand and gaudy.
Tranquility Base is almost infuriatingly dense. The album’s first real hook to grab onto doesn’t come until the sixth track, Four out of Five.
It requires attention unlike other Arctic Monkeys records, but Alex Turner is still the same writer. He’s still funny and clever, willing to turn a phrase from nowhere, but they’re now hidden in long, winding soliloquies.
For those who want festival anthems, this album is undoubtedly be a disappointment.
But it’s wrong to suggest this is Turner starting to coast, in many ways this is the most complicated album the band have released since Humbug.
Whether this controversial change of tact will affect their popularity in the long term remains to be seen.
But one thing is for sure; Arctic Monkeys’ silence has got everybody talking.

Review: Childish Gambino grips American reality in new song

Bob Dylan ‘Masters of war’ has been the first to be declared best protest song of our time, in 2014 by a Rolling Stones poll. Now, it’s Donald Glover turn.
‘This is America”, the latest track of the American-born actor and singer better known as Childish Gambino, has reached 73 million views in less than a week from its release.

To fully appreciate it I have been on the internet trying to dismantle the enigmas surrounding the song.

I was looking for details, insightful pieces of journalism, instead all I got was listicles, mere churnalism. On the web, you can find a pile-up of tweets, reactions and “Watch the satirical Childish Gambino’s latest music video”. No interpretation drawn, nor conclusion reached. This type of journalism is so empty, almost an insult to the core value of the job. But we all know the pressure of the newsroom, stuffing webpages with viral videos to reach the daily traffic target.

Whomever has been struggling, like myself, to get their head around ‘This is America’, has definitely noticed the sad reality. Cultural criticism in its traditional form is dying. Indeed, it has been replace by something, by far, way scarier: the internet phenomenon of the “fandom”.
People want to consume art, rather than consider it.
Fandom provides criticism, although of a different form. Fans are obsessive, have got their opinions and often these are pretty harsh. They know what they are talking about and have a closer bond with the creator, thanks to the era of technology, and so the critic has been replace by the co-creator, whom view is every bit as artistically worthy as the subject.
This scenario is definitely more diverse and entertaining, but there are losses of impartiality and independence. The “fandom” offers love, hate, strategically written nerdy reviews and nothing in between. So the future of traditional criticism is possibly evolving into crowd-sourcing and sharing comments.

At this point, I’m still left with my doubts.
Why has this song been released now? Why did it take so long for a mastermind to put into lyrics and choreography the Americans common feeling of oppression and imprisonment? Will this song affect, in any way, how Trump plays with politics?

The trap gospel is a piece of slick art that rebuff the DNA of the protest music and constructs it into an oddly graceful gust of torture, death and slavery.
Gambino sings a story of impossible escape. It’s a blood-soaked video of blank salvation, but here it is where the artifice begins to show its brilliant traces. The lyrics are so soul-moving that one wants to keep inspecting their dark interiors, waiting for the next “truth of regeneration” to sprout.

‘This is America’ is successful in every way. Its meaning belongs to every listener differently ,according to their belief and views, breaking down into unlimited implications.
But is it a coincidence that the song has been dropped right after Trump has stated that London hospitals are like a war zones, due to the high rate of knife crime?
Is Gambino trying to prove the President how wrongly powerful guns are as mass attacks tools?
Did we all forget the dreadful events happened at the release of a trigger, in USA during the past few months?
The general feeling is that Trump is trying to extend is “security protocols” overseas, declaring that:

“more guns on the streets in the hands of good guys are more efficient than weapons in the hans of bad guys”. (Phrase widely popular among guns rights advocates.)

If closely analysed, London has seen 58 victims of knife crimes since the start of 2018, while 58 people have been shot dead in Las Vegas, during a country concert in 2017, in the space of 10 minutes. During the Las Vegas accident, police has not been able to identify the perpetrator right away, making it more difficult to prove that armed good people can stop bad ones.
Childish’s Gambino video explores the twin spectacles of entertainment and ultraviolence as the motto of Trump’s America, shifting in between registers of afro rhythms and church chorus.
This makes of the song such an unorthodox production and whether saturated with a social or political rant, songs of resistance and salvation typically envision an antagonist or a threat, in this case Trump has been exposed in the lines. But Gambino doesn’t offer no solution. No paths forward, only a spiral of question.
Next, we hope to see a British artist creating a masterpiece with May’s response to dubious Trump’s statements.

 

 

Body found in search for Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison

Police Scotland have said they have found a body in the search for Scottish musician Scott Hutchison.

Hutchison, 36, went missing in on Wednesday in South Queensferry, near Edinburgh. Police said they had found a body on Thursday night at Port Edgar, and that his family had been informed, although it is yet to be formally identified.

His band, Frightened Rabbit, had been scheduled to play in London at Robert Smith’s Meltdown festival next month.

The frontman had taken to Twitter shortly before he was reported missing. “Be so good to everyone you love. It’s not a given.” He posted, before continuing, “I’m away now. Thanks.”

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Throughout his career he had been vocal about his struggles with depression. In what has been his final interview with Noisey he discussed suicide and especially the song Floating in the Forth, (which includes the line; “Am I ready to leap, is there peace beneath, the roar of the Forth Road Bridge?”). He said he found the song difficult to relearn for a recent anniversary tour of 2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight but said “It’s heartening to know that I’ve been through that, and I’m stood there performing that song, alive and feeling good about it.”

Frightened Rabbit, which also featured Scott’s brother Grant on drums, are regarded as one of Scotland’s most influential indie bands, with a 15-year long career.

Hutchison’s frank and open lyricism had formed a loyal, connected fanbase. In one past interview he said he had heard from a fan who said “Floating In The Forth had helped her recovery in the aftermath of her failed suicide attempt” and a couple “who had one of my lyrics engraved inside their wedding rings.” He said “these are the things that make this worth it.”

Some one also posted a letter that he wrote to a fan who had been struggling with depression.

As Frightened Rabbit expanded to a five-piece, they also worked with The National’s Aaron Dessner on 2016’s Painting of a Panic Attack. The album became the second of their discography to make the UK Top 20.

This year Hutchison had also released work with Mastersystem, a supergroup with members of Editors and Minor Victories.

Scottish musician KT Tunstall wrote: “Much love to Scott Hutchison’s family, friends, bandmates in @FRabbits and fans. Very sad news.

“As a society, I hope we learn how to provide far more for those suffering mental health issues. Any one of us could need that support at any time”

The most bizarre thing Kanye West has said so far

The opinionated and controversial American-born singer has shocked us once again.
On Tuesday, during an interview for entertainment website TMZ, Mr. West hinted that enslavement of African American over centuries might have been a “choice”.

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years … for 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” he said during the talk hosted by Mr. Lathan

“We’re mentally imprisoned,” the star added.

It is not the first time Kanye West makes the headlines for his bold statements, but this time around, the audience including TMZ host thought the singer had gone past the limit.
Black people were forced to move from Africa to the US during 17th, 18th and 19th century and later sold as slaves, but Kanye commented that:

“Right now we’re choosing to be enslaved”.

The interview has sparked a backlash on Twitter, which did not stop even after the singer tried to explain himself in a series of tweet that, if anything, made the reactions even more sour.

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The consequences to the interview have been severe. Adidas’ CEO, one of the biggest sportswear company on the market Mr. West has collaborated with, decided to delay the drop of the latest collection designed by the singer.

Does a perfect success formula exist for Music Industry?

What do Justin Bieber, Zayn Malik and Adele have in common? They are what every musician dreams to be like one day. Fame, success, power, money and music, they are the complete golden package.

Every year the Music industry sees many new artists flock from all over the world in hope to score their one sweet chance to be the next musical sensation. Some of them grow up listening music and dream of becoming like their idols, some wish to live the life of fame and have their moment in limelight, some feel it is their calling because music is the way they want to express their life’s story. They spend most of their life training for music, learning their instruments, performing, some even pursue music in their college degrees in hopes of improving their success chances. Seven in every 10 children (69%) in the UK say that they currently play a musical instrument with adults at 74%.

And these people come in all shapes and sizes with vast diversity in their ideologies. Yet the one thing they profess that unites them is their passion, inclination and inherent talent for music.

But then why is it that when we observe the working lives of these people, only a very few manage to break big in the industry? What is the difference between the artists who become famous and those who don’t? Are they more talented? Or did they have any special connections that most don’t? Or were they just plain-and-simple lucky?

The answer is as simple as it is frustrating, for all of the above reasons are true, but one. For people who do manage to climb their way to the top of the pyramid, being talented is a given thing. Because really without talent why would they even consider pursuing this career. This super competitive industry with more supply than demand for new musicians. It’s not like the musicians have the ‘fake it till they make it’ kind of liberties. Nowadays big record labels mostly want those artists who already have established themselves up to a certain level, who have their fan base, have already performed many gigs, and even better if they can write their own songs too. They practically want people who already have their plans figured out down to the last detail and are halfway done in executing it.

Now imagine the kind of distress a newbie but a wannabe feels when he first decides to go down this path. All the planning, making the right connections, discovering their ‘unique’ style and finding a way to sell it as ‘new and original’ to their audience, putting themselves out in the open and creating a fan base, finding the right people to help in the PR and production of their music and connecting with other artists to get a chance to perform in big gigs. So much work to do in so little time, because if we are being real, the music industry is notoriously ageist when it comes to accepting new artists. And unless you are an already established celebrity or a super-rich individual trying your hand at music, there is not much room for entry in the music industry at a ‘late’ age.

But still every year the music industry sees more and more artists coming into it. It is a huge business, with it contributing £4.4 billion to the UK’s economy as recorded in the UK Music “Measuring Music 2017” report with about 142,208 jobs sustained by the music industry. And now with the growth in the online streaming platforms, the industry is experiencing a resurgence in its profits.

And one such newbie artist, looking to make it big in this industry, is Leonard Nedelcu. There are many things that he shares with other talented musicians, like his love for romantic songs, playing the piano, penning his own songs, and being born with the looks of a superstar. But the things that make him stand out in the crowd are his deep appreciation of music by John Legend, Shawn Mendes and Sam Smith, his approach to music as his way to include the LGBTQ+ communities and share his story in a way that is relatable to all.

In this interview of his confessional musings, he shares his story, aims, and the beginning of his musical journey. He talks about how a person, a child of two economist parents gets into music, his struggles. And how despite them all he managed to create and release his first single, “Start with you”, while working on an extended playlist which he hopes to release by end of this years’ summer. All the while being a student at the University of Westminster, pursuing a Commercial Music bachelors’ degree.

Here’s a snippet of ‘Start with you’

He seems to have tapped into the ‘success formula’ of pursuing formal musical education to work on his talents, learn to create his music, find and make industry contacts and finally get discovered. It’s almost like he is trying to pull an Adele (success story) here.

You see, even though every artists’ success story is different, the basic formula of approach to things remains the same. And the six main success formulas are:

  1. Using YouTube to break big
  2. Performing at the biggest, most popular music clubs to get discovered
  3. Participating in Musical Contest show, and with any luck, winning it
  4. Becoming a part of a band, and when/if it goes big, using that exposure and experience to fuel solo act
  5. Formally studying music and training to be the best through schools
  6. Self-releasing music until discovered by big record labels or celebs to endorse music deals

Some of the very well-known celebs got their starts using these very formulas.

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Justin Bieber – the YouTube star before becoming the Global star

Like most things relating to him, even his start in music has a story. Even from a young age, Bieber had an affinity for music, and he narrates himself that when his mom gifted him his first set of drums he was “basically banging on everything I could get my hands on.” But it was an obscure talent contest in his hometown, in which the 12-year-old Bieber finished second that put him on the road to superstardom. Although, his YouTube journey did not begin with the purpose of becoming the next pop sensation. As a way to share his singing with family, Justin and his mom began posting clips of Bieber performing covers of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Ne-Yo on YouTube. And the next thing you know, Justin was an Internet sensation, with a large following of fans and an eager manager arranging for the teenager to fly to Atlanta to consider a record deal. There, Bieber had a chance meeting with Usher, who eventually signed the young singer to a contract.

Taylor Swift – from performing small gigs at the Country music capital to performing globally at her sold-out concerts

Inspired by her grandmother, a professional opera singer, Taylor Swift soon followed in her footsteps. By the age of 10, Taylor was singing at a variety of local events, including fairs and contests. She sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a Philadelphia (where she lived at the time) 76ers basketball game at the age of 11, and began writing her own songs and learning guitar at 12 years old. And to further pursue her music career, Taylor often visited Nashville, Tennessee, the country music capital. There she co-wrote songs and tried to land a recording contract. Noting her dedication, Taylor and her family moved to nearby Hendersonville, Tennessee, in an attempt to further Taylor’s career. Then a stellar performance at The Bluebird Café in Nashville helped Swift score a contract with Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records. She released her first single, “Tim McGraw,” in 2006, and the song went on to become one of the Top 10 hits on the country charts. It also appeared on her self-titled debut album in October in 2006, which went on to sell more than 5 million copies. With that, more popular singles soon followed, including “Our Song,” a No. 1 country music hit. “Teardrops on My Guitar,” “Picture to Burn” and “Should’ve Said No” were also successful tracks. And once she firmly established her roots in the music industry, the sky became her limit.

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04.12.18

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Zayn Malik – gone from contest show to being part of famous boy-band to finally becoming the solo music star

A triple threat of music in terms of utilizing the success formulas if you say so, he began as a teen taking performing arts courses and appearing in school productions. Then in year 2010, he auditioned for the seventh season of the reality TV music contest show The X Factor. He sang “Let Me Love You” by rhythm-and-blues vocalist Mario as his audition song and was accepted into the next round. Then he was eliminated before the final round of the competition, but judges Nicole Scherzinger and Simon Cowell grouped him with fellow competitors Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson to form a new act for the remainder of the show. And thus, the global sensational boy-band One Direction was born. They finished the competition in third place and they were immediately signed to Cowell’s Syco music label. Then came the One Direction with their first single, “What Makes You Beautiful,” which topped the pop music charts with when it was released in September 2011 in the United Kingdom. And their debut album, Up All Night, proved a best-seller in both the United Kingdom and the United States in 2012. After that Malik toured extensively with One Direction, meeting the band’s young female fans around the world. But in March 2015, Malik surprised fans by dropping out of the group’s world tour. On March 25 then, Malik announced that he was leaving One Direction for good. And soon after leaving One Direction, Malik launched his solo music career with a demo version of “I Don’t Mind,” which was leaked online by producer Naughty Boy. Then official singles followed, including “Pillowtalk” and “It’s You.”  And both of these tracks were featured on his first album, Mind of Mine, which debuted in March 2016.

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Auckland / Mt Smart Stadium / Mar 25

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Adele – the modern-day champion of classical and old-school-style music

“There was no musical heritage in our family,” Adele told The Telegraph in a 2008 interview. “Chart music was all I ever knew. So, when I listened to the Ettas and the Ellas, it sounds so cheesy, but it was like an awakening. I was like, oh, right, some people have proper longevity and are legends. I was so inspired that as a 15-year-old I was listening to music that had been made in the ’40s.” And it soon became apparent that while clearly bright, Adele wasn’t oriented towards traditional classroom settings. So, her mother enrolled her in the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology, which has the likes of Amy Winehouse as its alum. Then while she was at school, Adele cut a three-track demo for a class project that was eventually posted on her MySpace page. And when executives at XL Recordings heard the tracks, they contacted the singer and, in November 2006, just four months after Adele had graduated school, signed her to a record deal.

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Thank god for factor 50 sunscreen – photo by Nic Minns

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Ed Sheeran – from street-smart artist to king of the global music charts

Even from a very young age, Ed had been as quick and smart at learning things as he had been active at working on his dreams. He studied at Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham. Then he also studied music with the help of ‘Access to Music’, a UK-based independent training provider. And he also joined the National Youth Theatre when he was a teenager. So, it was no surprise when he had started recording CDs and selling them from his teenage days. At the age of 14, he released songs ‘The Orange Room’ and also ‘Spinning Man’, both he regarded as important works of his early years. And it wasn’t long before Sheeran was recording CDs and selling them, and he soon put together his first official EP, The Orange Room. With that accomplishment and his abiding ambition driving him, at only 14 years of age, Sheeran headed to London for the summer. Thinking he could find gigs in the big city, Sheeran left home with his guitar and a backpack full of clothes, and his musical career took flight. And once in London, Sheeran got busy recording and playing the local singer/songwriter circuit and quickly released two albums: a self-titled record in 2006 and Want Some? in 2007. He also began opening for more established acts, such as Nizlopi, the Noisettes and Jay Sean and released another EP, You Need Me, in 2009, a year that found Sheeran playing more than 300 live shows. Then in 2010 Sheeran posted a video online that got the attention of Example, a rapper, and Sheeran was asked to go on the road with him as his opening act. This led to establishing an even larger online fan base and gaining inspiration for many more songs, which later ended up filling three new EPs, all in 2010. Next Sheeran headed to the U.S. that year and found a new fan in Jamie Foxx, who asked Sheeran to appear on his Sirius radio show. Soon after, in January 2011, Sheeran released yet another EP, his last as an independent artist. Without any promotion, the record reached No. 2 on the iTunes chart, and he signed on with Atlantic Records. With Atlantic, Sheeran released his major debut studio album, + (called Plus) which became an instant hit, and the album sold more than a million copies in the U.K. in the first six months alone. Then Sheeran began co-writing songs with bigger artists, such as One Direction and Taylor Swift and supported Swift on her 2013 arena tour. And quickly and steadily he became the huge global star that he is today.

 

Still out of all the artists who pursue music as their career, 95% of them fail to make a proper living out of it, let alone become huge successes (results from a survery of 200 musicians in UK). The artists we celebrate as our champions, as the main faces of the music industry are only a handful of people out of the millions that get into this industry with dreams of making it big.

And every person wanting to make a career in music looks for a success formula, but life doesn’t work that way, especially in music. For every successful artist following a set mould to enter music industry, there are thousands who failed at it. That is the harsh truth about this industry. And no amount of wishing, dreaming or googling for tips and tricks can change that. The only thing sure about a success formula is that it only works for a few people. At the end of the day, the only way one can make progress towards becoming a musical success is through genuine talent, unending hard work and determination, and with loads of luck and good timing.

Streaming: The saviour of the music industry?

The US music revenue has risen for the second consecutive year – marking the first two times that there has been a substantial increase since 1999, according to an annual report by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

This dramatic change has occurred in recent years mostly due to the arrival of streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal. It was only a few years ago that music executives and artists were claiming that streaming would be the final nail in the coffin for the dying music industry. And while there are still claims that artists are under-compensated for their contributions to the services, it is clear they have brought a new lease of life to the industry. The report showed that there was a rise of 16.5% to $8.7 billion in 2017, the highest it has been since 2008. Music streaming subscriptions have played a role in this growth, with figures more than tripling in the last four years.

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Statistics: Medium.com/Graphics: Christian Onions

While streaming numbers are on the up, the report claims digital sales saw a significant 25% decrease for the year – illustrating how the use of streaming services is leading to a decline in the purchasing of digital and physical songs and albums. In 2016, the RIAA announced they were including audio and video streams as part of their gold and platinum certifications. Despite the radical move this was considered at the time, the industry has come to embrace the format, as it more accurately reflects the way that people are consuming music today.

Video credit: youtube.com/complexmagazine

Despite the growth in revenue, artists and streaming services are still not adequately compensated for the volume of listeners that enjoy the music. According to RIAA Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman, this has resulted in a ‘value gap’: “the gulf between the amount of music being consumed and the compensation that platforms return to music creators for exploiting music.”

Of the nearly $9 billion in revenue from 2017, $5.7 billion came directly from streaming services, representing the largest recorded music format in terms of value. The steady rise is certainly worth celebrating, but it is important to note that the figures are still only at 60% of the music industry’s peak level.

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Statistics: Medium.com/Graphics: Christian Onions

Spotify has been making headlines on its own recently, after debuting on the New York Stock Exchange to the value of $26.5 billion, a figure higher than predicted. In fact, Spotify is now worth more than Twitter, Snapchat and Dropbox. With more than 70 million listeners worldwide, it is by far the most popular music streaming service. Apple music trails behind in second place, with just over half that amount.

In order to understand their streaming habits, I spoke with a few students – the generation considered responsible for the rise of music streaming. This is what they had to say:

Interview Findings:

Q1: What music streaming service do you use?

Results show all participants use a streaming service of some sort. Spotify proved to be most popular, with 40% claiming to be active users. 20% admitted to using Soundcloud, 20% use YouTube and 20% Apple Music.

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Graphics: Christian Onions

Q2: How much do you pay? Is this reasonable?

While all participants thought the price they paid for streaming services is reasonable, there was very little range in the amounts – 60% paid £5.00 and the remaining 40% took advantage of free services such as Soundcloud and YouTube.

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Graphics: Christian Onions

Q3: Since using streaming, have you found that you listen to music more often?

I was curious to know whether having streaming subscriptions encouraged users to listen to music more often than before they began streaming. The results show the participants unanimously answered ‘yes‘ – citing the variety of choice as the main reason.

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Graphics: Christian Onions

Q4: Do you like the service you use? If so, what is it you like most?

There was another unanimous result among the participants when asked whether they like the service they use, they all answered ‘yes‘. When stating what it is they like most about the service they use, there were a few key words that stood out: ‘easy‘, ‘cheap‘, ‘recommendations‘ of music, ‘variety‘/’choices‘ and ‘simple‘.

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Graphics: Christian Onions

Q5: Have you discovered any new artists from the streaming service?

Most participants mentioned they often discover new artists on their choice of streaming service – crediting playlists for introducing new talent or recommendations of new music. One interviewee had experience with both Apple Music and Spotify, and stated that Spotify was superior when it comes to discovering new artists:Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 19.08.58While there is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the world of music streaming, it seems like the ‘trend’ brought about by the millennial generation is likely to stick around for a while. It is difficult to predict exactly what impact it will have in the long run, but for now at least, streaming is the saviour the music industry has been crying out for.

 

 

 

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