Streaming is big and getting bigger, although not every genre is fully on board. Pitchfork takes a look at the situation.
Experts have been anticipating the dominance of streaming audio since the days of Y2K and nu metal. In 1999, the first customizable online radio service, Launchcast, was introduced. In 2001, seven years before Spotify, Rhapsody was unveiled as the first proper on-demand streaming music service. But those early streaming dreams were squashed when the iTunes Store opened its virtual doors in 2003, giving way to a downloads-based digital music economy, which has held fast ever since. Until now: If current patterns hold, 2016 will mark the first time subscription streaming revenues will meaningfully overtake download sales.
So it’s worth noting both the significance of streaming music’s accomplishments this past year as well as how historically fragile those accomplishments remain. Going into 2017, streaming will no longer be a niche for music but the new normal. The big question is no longer whether streaming is the future, but what form that future will take, who will benefit, and what that might mean for listeners.