Eric Hutchinson long cherished his alphabetized treasury of CDs, but when he began gravitating to streaming-music sites like Pandora, he packed his music collection into four suitcases. That all fits in my pocket now, he remembers thinking, as he shoved them in a taxi to take to a second-hand CD store.
If you subscribe to the anti-Spotify gospel of Taylor Swift, Hutchinson’s actions should strike fear in the hearts of artists: a music lover moving from money-making purchases to the feels-like-free universe of streaming tunes. The only wrinkle: Hutchinson is a musician himself.
A recording artist for more than a decade, Hutchinson is headlining a 30-date cross-country tour, playing theaters that can accommodate 1,000 or more people. The singer-songwriter also listens to seven to 10 hours of streaming music a week. “The model is not perfect yet for sure, but the more people stream, it’s an exciting time to be making music as a result,” he said.
The rise of streaming services like Spotify and Pandora is spurring a fundamental change in how the industry makes money, from selling ownership of music to selling access to it. This shift fogs the career path for artists: Beside complicating royalties, it hasn’t been around long enough to prove it can sustain careers. Plus, stars looking down from on high — like Swift, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and The Talking Heads’ David Byrne — proclaim the model cheapens music and rips musicians off. But artists who ignore the high-profile preaching will find streaming actually levels the playing field, giving more musicians than ever a fighting chance.