After a couple of decades where country music and rock reigned supreme in the USA, rap/hip-hop has become the most popular musical genre in the country, according to Business Insider. It was therefore not surprising that Drake’s Scorpion was the best-selling album of 2018, followed closely by Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys. During 2018, total album equivalent consumption enjoyed an increase of just over 23% in the USA. This increase, according to Nielsen, was driven by a 49% increase in on-demand audio streams. Once seen as the black sheep of the music industry, streaming is fast becoming the consumption means of choice for millions of music lovers, both in America and across the world.
Is streaming really as popular as it’s made out to be?
While the commercial airwaves are filled with the hits of chart-topping artists such as Drake and Malone, listeners are still limited to the music chosen by the station managers, advertisers and record label execs. This is not to say that there aren’t underground stations and amateur operators who actively promote the plethora of popular and yet-unsigned hip hop and rap talents: there definitely are. Top talents such as Tierra Whack and Baro have found a home at many stations with a more open-minded approach to their playlists. Streaming simply allows a music lover to pick exactly what they want to listen to when they want to listen to it, and the statistics reflect that.
The figures speak for themselves
During the course of 2018, rap, hip-hop and R&B also accounted for more than a third of all music streaming, according to a report by Nielsen. It is for this very reason that Spotify swiftly got rid of its ‘Hate Conduct Policy’: their moral crusade would more than likely have turned out to be a very expensive one. While the company announced in June last year that their policy against hate will remain in place, they will no longer play judge and jury as far as artist conduct is concerned.
Streaming and underground radio can reduce the regionality of hip hop
Apart from streaming affording the ‘smaller guys’ a shot at mainstream success, it could also make urban music much less of a regional genre. Since being established in the South Bronx, hip-hop has, for example, always been very closely associated with the area. Similarly, Los Angeles is considered the birthplace of both funk hip-hop and gangsta rap, while New York rappers are inherently proud of their intricate lyrics. Thanks to streaming, however, anyone is able to simply upload a song and can, if it is well-received, see it on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The regional aspects of rap and hip-hop may have very well fallen away to an extent, and will undoubtedly continue to do so as on-demand streaming becomes even more popular.
Music streaming has been a saving grace for many artists and urban music lovers alike. Not only can up-and-coming artists get their music heard by the masses, but listeners can choose exactly what they want to listen to and when they want to listen to it.