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Streaming Music: The New Landscape

Editorial article  by Matthew Haumschild

Photos mentioned in the article are in the photo  gallery  below.


In The Beginning….
I’ve been listening to the metal since Metallica’s Black Album and Megadeth’s “Countdown to Extinction” was brand new. Back then I was around 12 or 13 years old and the way I heard new music when I was that young in the early 90’s were through the following three sources: my older brother, radio, and MTV. When I got a little older, it became how cool the band logos looked in guitar and metal magazines and or how cool the band name was on concert leaflets (that’s how I heard of Fear Factory in 1995 or 1996 see photo) then taking a chance the they’d sound good by buying the CD at the local record store. Where I lived in semi-rural Stillwater Minnesota (it was 25 minutes from the capital but when you’re young, no internet and no car you feel like you live in the country) there wasn’t much for opportunity to listen to new music.

The Internet Boom
Eventually, as time went on, record labels like Century Media, Nuclear Blast!, Earache, and others would actually distribute mix CD’s with their artists on them for marketing purposes to clothing stores, records shops, and other places impressionable teenagers would go. . For the most part, this worked out really well. Just look at crop of artists that came from those record labels from 1999 – 2001, Lacuna Coil, Sentenced, In Flames, Soilwork, and others, it was a success. The internet was just growing during this time and becoming more and more relevant for bands. Websites like mp3.com, Allmusic, and Myspace began to emerge and soon became critical for artists and their image. Myspace became one of the first outlets where bands could market themselves to more and more people. At it’s peak, there were 75.9 million users globally, and until 2008 was the most popular social media website. With Myspace, artists were able to showcase their music via the internet - blending music with people, interacting with each other on a global level. Myspace was then, the latest step in the globalization and marketing of music. As social media became more and more popular, this became the new word of mouth, the new tape trading underground, the new platform in which a band from Italy could connect with new listeners in Brazil, weather the band intended to or not. Personally, I discovered Dommin and The Lovecrave via Myspace. Dommin became very popular via this very site, they had tens of thousands of followers even before Roadrunner signed them in 2008 and their followers weren’t all from the Los Angeles area where the band is from. Just to clarify, Myspace was a factor but not the only factor as to how they got signed. Then there’s Napster…where people were able to upload music for others to download for nothing, allowing everyone and anyone to steal music knowingly and unknowingly, this will evolve eventually.

Technological Improvement
Let us fast forward to smartphones. Technology would evolve to where cellphones, which were already popular during the social media boom of the 00’s, would evolve to where people could listen to music via their phones via 3G/4G LTE networks. At first with iTunes (and others), people were able to buy music from their computers, then load them into their phones. People were still confined to listen to music via their computers or via conventional media such as CD’s. With iTunes and then eventually with Google Play, people could preview music and load music into their phones, which made music mobile more conveniently than the Discman, and this would be a game changer. Cellular networks would only get faster and it has come to this point where it has become affordable to stream music with the internet speed of most cellular phone companies where this wasn’t available even 5 or 6 years ago.
Due to the proficiency of cellular internet connections, anyone can listen to Spotify, Apple Music, Milk, and other streaming services with the same audio quality as listening to a CD without the buffering of yester year. For our purposes, we’ll stick to Spotify and Apple Music when we refer to streaming music, YouTube is also a major player, however since their business is far more focused on video it’s hard to get any type of statistics. Streaming is vastly different from buying music from the past and this has changed the music buying habits of everyone on the planet. There are pros and cons to streaming music; it’s easier to promote music, it’s far more readily available, and it’s inexpensive. However, because streaming music is so cheap, people are not buying as many albums as they once were - making bands more reliant on concert attendance and selling merchandise.

Music Industry Shift
Over the last year or so, I’ve had a number of requests from artists market themselves to me on Instagram by liking one of my photos, following me, or sending me a direct message saying, “check us out on Spotify!” Sometimes, I would get curious and I would take them up on it. Just like any other website, I’ll be listening to one of these bands and Spotify will give me a suggestion on what to listen to next. “[T]he business model in music has completely changed and we have to face it,” Kiara Laetita, former Skylark current solo artist originally from Milan Italy- continues with, “Spotify is good for playlists if you enter a good one with many subscribers. If you make those potential fans might discover your music. If you don’t you still have to be on Spotify cause it’s free and people do go there for music, Instagram is a totally different story.” Alia Tempora, a band from the Czech Republic, was one of those bands that reached out to me on Instagram, when I asked them, “Do you think that Spotify and other streaming sites are good or bad for emerging artists?” Markie of Alia Tempora replied, “I think they are good because many people download your tracks anyway for free and from streaming you get at least something back as an artist.” Has Spotify made a positive impact on a local level however? Allan Towne, singer for Minneapolis based, “Glutton for Punishment” and Apothic, mentions, “I do. I have seen my bands on playlists and the easy to use format has made promoting our music extremely easy and aesthetically pleasing.” Dave Evad of Naples Florida based Hellfrost says the opposite, “We haven’t made any significant income from streaming and I don't think it draws in new fans, but its necessary so people can have easy access to your music.” He continues with, “Digital music has an advantage because its easier to get your music out, but the disadvantage is that the market is over saturated, the pay out from Apple Music and Spotify etc is low. We get new fans make our money from selling merch at shows.”

Spotify has 96 million subscribers and 207 million active users. Apple music by comparison has 56 million paid subscribers without a free tier. These figures are worldwide, both platforms give artists the means spread their collective wings worldwide. Although Spotify is available to every smart phone, Apple Music is generally only found on iPhones. To their credit, iPhones are extremely popular. Spotify has over 40 million songs and 20 thousand are added every day coupled with 2 billion playlists in over 61 countries. In comparison, Apple Music has 50 million songs, although the statistics on the number of playlists aren’t known, I do know from using both platforms that Spotify has a lot more. As of June 2017, Spotify had 40% of the global music streaming market where as Apple Music as 19%. These numbers may look small, but since 2017 Spotify’s market share has likely risen given the amount of subscribers mentioned above are more current, if anything Apple Music’s market share has likely gone down given the large sample of people I’ve interviewed. Now, think about this statistic, as of April 2018, 72% of all Spotify users are under 34, 40% for Apple Music, that means 60% of Apple Music users are over 35.
Why do people use streaming services? Take your pick. I find that it depends on the users relationship with music. Most people into metal and those over the age of 30 tend to use it to find new music or to access what they’ve already purchased and they don’t have enough phone space to store their tunes. However, that same demographic, tends to purchase music after listening to it on streaming platforms. I’ve asked college students at the University of Minnesota and St. Thomas University why they listen to music via Spotify and I usually get the same response; “I’m a college student, I don’t have money to buy music,” “who buys music? Hahaha,” “I have all the variety I need here” and my least favorite, “nobody buys music anymore unless you’re old.” 90% of the people I asked, listen to hip-hop. The other 10% listen to pop and hip-hop. My follow up question which fell on deaf ears, “what about local artists?” their reply, “we don’t know of any.”

Streaming music is what the artist makes of it. My advice to them, is not to be afraid to sink money into their product to increase production value. In the music industry, production has to do with not only musical arrangement but also the sound quality of their song. Soichiro Honda (founder of Honda Motors) once said, “If you make a superior product, people will buy it.” If one markets a superior product effectively, they’re going to see impressive returns. If mumble rap can make money, metal can too, but it must be marketed properly and to new-potential people and not to just existing fans. If they can’t show up to the show for any reason, give them a reason to buy the album or to order merchandise. Money is the life blood of any genre and to survive, it needs to circulate. After a year of utilizing both streaming services, I was able to find some incredible music, music that I likely would not have heard of outside the album reviews gryphonmetal.ch offers to readers like you. If underground music is to survive and for the smaller bands to succeed, concert attendance must raise and or albums should be purchased. Some of the bands I’ve found I think you should check out include the following (please click on the links below):




DIVIDE - Limited information is available about this band, but they’re from Scotland! Which makes them automatically cool in my book. I discovered them on the “Female Fronted Metal” playlist on Spotify. Most of the bands I listen to are from Europe anyway, but this is a first from Scotland! It’s metal, but it relates more towards the punk variety - especially for their vocal style, which I’ll explain later. Now, this is the part that gets confusing, regarding the name; if you type in DIVIDE, a few artists appear, click the one where you see four people in the picture (or just click on the bloody link above). What makes this even more confusing: after the song listings, under the section where it lists, “Fans also like,” lists another group, “DIV/DES.” They’re the same group. When I inquired about them they wrote back, “We were called Divides and were continuously hassled by another band with the same name, so we put the slash in. They were still not happy, so we got threatened some more and then just changed to Divide.” They’re unsigned and on hiatus, the only reason I’m writing about them is because the music on both pages are some of the best I’ve heard on streaming platforms. Their most listened to song is, “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost.” Although “Make A Killing” is a better song in my opinion. I liked them so much, that after listening to 90 seconds of a song from their latest EP, “Embers,” I was already looking at iTunes to purchase it. The music itself is harder to describe, if I could lump it into a genre, it would remind me of heavy alternative. Too heavy for actual alternative music, but the singing has the type of aggression reminiscent of punk rock yet there are many instances of actual melodic singing, think of Dolores O’Riordan from the Cranberries. I haven’t been able to stop listening to them, despite lack of material to listen to. The mix and the sound quality sounds totally professional, I’m rather shocked they’re not an active touring band. They are the cream of the crop that I’ve found that aren’t signed, and don’t bother with the other groups that go by similar names, I’ve tried listening to them and they’re not with it, check out this band instead and you won’t be disappointed.

ALIA  TEMPORA, as quoted here, are from Czech Republic. I can’t remember if I discovered them on Instagram or if they discovered me. I believe they sent me a follow request, coupled with the singer’s magenta or purple hair (I have a hard time naming colors for some reason), predilection for unicorns, and quite possibly the coolest mic stand since Jonathan Davis’s mic stand from “Life Is Peachy,” I had to check them out. Musically I would compare them to Delain and other female fronted symphonic metal bands. However, not to sound disrespectful to them, but they’re Delain on a budget. Although they are a smaller group and they have to their credit, opened up for powerhouse acts like Xandria and Amaranth in addition to playing at the Female Voices Fest in 2017. Listening to the songs available on Spotify, I can tell that they have a lot of potential and I’ll keep waiting for them to breakthrough to the next level and if they find a really good producer and an excellent studio, they could really make some noise! Watch for this band!


INSANE  DRIVER. A band from Brazil that also found me on Instagram, For the past 6 months, they’ve asked me to listen to them, so I relented -- I will have to say they’re one of the hardest bands I’ve had the pleasure of listening to recently. They’re newest album was mixed with the bass-guitar heavily emphasized, which plays exactly in line with the guitar player, which is redolent of Megadeth and Metallica in style. To say their style is dated wouldn’t be accurate, but it’s clear that musically, they’re from the early 90’s, lyrically from the late 90’s, they’re heavy, fast, they’re a metal band to the T. Is the music catchy? Not really. I couldn’t find a song to drive fast to (ironically) or a song to work out to, the song, “Change” is their best song, it’s their heaviest, catchiest, and something that actually stands out, otherwise, it’s good music to have on in the background.


KIARA   LAETITA, honestly I don’t remember how she ended up on my radar, might be from….Instagram(?). Examining her on Instagram and Facebook, she doesn’t play out much unfortunately. Her music is more rock than metal, clean singing with excellent tone. The music on Spotify reminds me of something that could have been released in the late 80’s without it being upbeat, still worth putting on in the car in case there’s people that don’t want something quite as heavy but you still want some sort of rock playing.



HELLFROST – When I listen to this band, I try to ignore the some of the things I hear in their first track, “Neolithic,” like a drum roll that disappears just before the chorus, which could be attributed to either the mix or the drummer not coming up with something better mid song. As a compliment, this is what underground metal is. It’s harsh, it’s not perfect and it’s glorious. The band isn’t death metal by any means, but they’re definitely on the harder variety with harsh vocals with melodic guitars. The more I listened to - the more I liked. “The Ghost Withing,” is better than their first track. It produces a type of atmosphere that brings the listener into their own world, which is the hardest thing for any band of any genre to do. “Blessings from the Crone” is even better than their first two tracks, it’s slower and it really shows off a dark atmosphere. I’d like to see what kind of imagery they portray on stage. If only all metal bands from Florida sounded like this, then we can expect great things as well.


GLUTTON FOR  PUNISHMENT – From my back yard, it brings me great pleasure to write to you about one of the better underground bands I’ve listened to in a while with a style that I don’t get to listen to enough. One of the better harsh/near death metal vocals I’ve heard in quite a while, reminds me a little bit of Switzerland’s Darkmoon, the low end harsh growl that you can audibly kinda sorta understand, think of Chuck Billy circa Demonic Refusal. The sound quality of the tracks posted is far better than most, although it’s not perfect by any means, it’s the best one is going to get without spending a lot of money. I find myself nodding my head during each track, it’s fast, it’s hard, this is a great example of the Minneapolis metal underground.
To find out some new gems in your area of the world, the link below will bring you to an interactive map with some of the most popular groups in your area, it isn’t genre specific unfortunately, but it’s still a helpful tool no less. https://spotifymaps.github.io/musicalcities/

by  Matthew Haumschild

Some interesting things about the photos:
The Iron Maiden flier was something I picked up at my very first concert on February 9th 1996 with Deftones, Korn, and Ozzy Osbourne. I was 15 years old, and I remember some guy outside the stadium handing these things out and at that time, I was going through this new awakening of music. Already into Biohazard, Sepultura, Pantera, and Machine Head, I looked at that flier a hundred times, gazing at the cool band names. Seeing “Fear Factory” I thought to myself, “wow, that’s a cool name.” I went to the record store, and bought, “Demanufacture” with my allowance money. I still listen to it today and they became one of my favorite bands.
The “Identity 5” Century Media mix CD. In 1998 or 1999, I was in my last year of high school, and this new store opened up at the mall, “Hot Topic.” Before it became a place for cartoons, anime and other stuff, they had a highe selection of metal style and gothic style clothing. In the store, they had this CD spinning, and I thought it was rad, so I bought it. It was the first time I had ever heard, Lacuna Coil, Sentenced, Old Man’s Child, Opeth, Katatonia, Iced Earth, and a few others. That CD, expanded my metal horizons more than ever. It was very powerful, I hope that Spotify does something like that to someone who wants to get into the genre, I have high hopes for those playlists.

To give credit where credit is due, the following statistics were found at these websites:


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