Music fandom’s problem is TV’s opportunity 

Music fandom is approaching a crisis point. The good news is that because of streaming, more people are listening to more music than ever and more artists are releasing music than at any time in the past. But, while doing so, streaming has turned music into a ubiquitous commodity – a passive soundtrack to our daily routines. The biggest price paid for convenience has been the steady erosion of fandom. With music transformed into a raging torrent of new songs that live for a few minutes in a user’s playlist before giving way to the ‘up next’, music has become a song economy. In this song economy, the artist is a second-class citizen, forever feeding the streaming algorithm with new music in an effort not to be swept away.

Music fandom is fragmenting. Super fans are still present, but there are fewer of them. Most have become passive music consumers, acclimatised through a decade of streaming to background listening and desensitized to the deprioritising of fandom. Even half of music aficionados (those who spend the most time and money on music) are now listening to music in the background while doing other things. It is an inevitable trajectory for a model that offers so few ways for listeners to lean in and connect with an artist’s story. To some extent, this gaping hole in music fandom has been filled by TikTok, allowing the rise of new internet-centric scenes and a place for music fandom to thrive again.

However, with TikTok being used by less than a third of the UK population (and two thirds of those being under 35 years old), most consumers still face a fandom blackhole. It was not always this way. There used to be many more places where even the most casual of music fans could learn about new artists and connect with their story. Traditional platforms such as radio and TV used to play a crucial role in this, but radio listening continues to fall and music showcases have become few and far between. Yet, TV (and video streaming) may represent the missing piece in the fandom puzzle.

The promise of streaming was to democratise listening and do away with the human gatekeepers in favour of the algorithm. As streaming nears its peak, the veneer is beginning to wear off. This is so much so that 54% of consumers want music chosen by humans, not algorithms, while 38% of music streamers say they struggle to find music they like on streaming services. If they are struggling to find new music they like,  they are also struggling to find and connect with new artists. When the half-life of a song is the swipe of a finger, the distance between an artist and their potential fans is greater than it ever was. Artists and their labels are finding it harder than ever to even start an artist’s career, let alone sustain it. Instead, artists are stuck in a perpetual struggle to keep their head (just) above water long enough to breath, playing an energy sapping game in the hope that a few streams happen. Consumption is abundant, fandom is not.

The endless hustle of the song economy has forced labels into pursuing short-term marketing tactics aimed at creating hits, pulling them away from their true heartland: long-term artist brand building. Artist branding requires expertise in the first principles of marketing – creativity and integrated marketing communications – joined-up campaigns that build an artist’s ‘brand equity’ and set them up for longevity. Instead, everybody finds themselves stuck in the hamster wheel of chasing the latest trend. It is no surprise so many artists have expressed relief that they arrived on the music scene before the dominance of social media.

The heart of problem Is that streaming is about consumption, not artist-fan engagement. While Spotify’s recent vertical feed launch is a step in the right direction, it is just one (as of yet unproven) move by one music streaming service. Artist storytelling must happen elsewhere. TikTok may be the industry’s go-to, but its role is far from perfect. 64% of TikTok users rarely know what the music is in a video they are watching and just 19% go elsewhere to listen to music they discover on the app.

The problem is not even TikTok. It is the fact that TikTok’s young audience skew means that it is not even part of the equation for most consumers. While the 16% of TikTok users that discover music from viral trends (equating just to 6% of all consumers) is small, 37% of consumers say they discover new music through TV shows (which includes streaming TV shows). It is not all about scale, it is about reaching different parts of the population: twice as many over 35s discover music through TV shows than discover music on TikTok.

Sync has become a massively important part of the modern music business and the power connection that music can deliver in a TV show is loud and clear. Imagine how much more impactful TV could be if there were more showcases where audiences could meaningfully engage in artists’ stories, not just at the breakneck 15 seconds of fame pace of social media.

TV / video is one of the few places genuine cultural moments can still occur. Why does everyone talk about The Last of Us? Because TV and video streaming are some of the few media assets left that can create watercooler moments – times when people can come together and be part of something bigger. TV and video formats enable people to see beyond the song, to share in the story of the artist, and build a depth of fandom so rare in the streaming era. They can help develop artists into more than playlist-fodder. Artists that have a voice, a story to tell, and a fanbase, that are greater than three minutes of a streaming consumer’s day or 15 seconds of a social media user’s day.

If TV sync can have such an impact on music discovery, think about the impact of TV showcases. There is power in seeing artists perform their songs while conveying their musical skills, talent as performers, and having their personality and passion shown on their sleeve. With showcases becoming fewer and further between, audiences are craving what they have been missing. It is no coincidence that Eurovision is enjoying a renaissance. Consider the 2021 winners Maneskin. The rock bands’ success follows a long list of TV showcases and award shows supercharging artist careers, from The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, through Adele at the 2015 Brits, to X Factor launching the career of One Direction (without whom of course we would not have Grammy award winning Harry Styles).

Indeed, X Factor is a key illustration of how TV showcase formats can build fame and fandom while encouraging audiences to become invested in artists’ success by making them part of the story. It is a model that social platforms since tried to adopt for audiences to feel that they understand the artist and their journey, rather than swiping past a vacuous post about what someone happens to be doing that particular day. Showcase formats show artists at both their most creative and most vulnerable. It is that vulnerability that allows audiences in, building the foundations for a relationship where fans feel like they are part of the story. Something that is near impossible to build at scale anywhere else.

Streaming is an amazing consumer proposition, and it will continue to evolve and get better at doing what it does, but its reason for existence is consumption. TikTok and Instagram do a good job of driving virality, but they exist for engagement. Streaming builds audiences and social builds followings. Sustainability has never been a bigger issue for artists and their labels. There is no single-shot cure for the mass of inter-connected challenges, but creating more places where artists can tell their stories at their pace is a central part of what must come next. Until social and streaming get better at it, TV and video streaming are the fandom opportunity waiting to be tapped.

11 thoughts on “Music fandom’s problem is TV’s opportunity 

  1. Pingback: Music fandom’s problem is TV’s opportunity  -

  2. You make a well argued and hugely relevant point for the taste makers and associated A&R departments. I have a couple of observations which on first blush may appear contradictory. 1 If I am not mistaken, despite some ridiculous pricing decisions that embrace a more corporate market, but isn’t live music booming. 2. AI is everywhere and while I buy into the “find and develop” school of A&R, it’s quite clear that artist anonymity can be emboldened by non-human “artists” fronting AI generated music. If the audience appears to not particularly care why would the music releasing business. Lazy A& R , perhaps but somewhat inevitable.

  3. Pingback: Music Fandom Problems Are Television Opportunities – Petch Ployz

  4. All the world is now an elevator. Since fans no longer purchase music, they have a no stake in it. In the late 1980s, in order to hear music whenever they wanted it, fans had to purchase a physical recording of some type. Many look back and think the value of a phonograph record or compact disc was in its physicality, however, it’s value was actually in being able to play music on demand Today, with streaming, we miss the ability to purchase music, and so it has lost its value. What is needed is a way for fans to once again buy, sell and trade music. The answer is the Play on Demand (PoD) license. In order to play a song whenever wanted, a fan should own it. Streaming services should have to verify ownership before a listener is allowed to hear music that they have requested. In that way, the experience of hearing music would be similar to the 1980s. Interestingly, a digital mechanism for indicating ownership exists, but fell in to disrepute due to wild speculation in the marketplace. The nonfungible token provides a virtual, digital, public record of ownership. By connecting an NFT to a valuable commodity such as. play on demand, it is removed from the realm of speculation and given real, rather than virtual, value. This would provide a way, within a streaming economy for music to once again be bought, sold, and traded, because in order to hear a song on demand, one must own one of its NFT integrated Play on Demand licenses. The nifty pod (NFTiPoD) will become, in the future, the same as records or cds were in the past, and musicians will once again be paid for their creativity. This concept is known as Fair Trade Music Distribution. When artists stop giving away, Play on Demand (PoD) rights, music will once again garner fans and no longer be ubiquitous environmental noise gotten with a subscription. One may subscribe to a service that provides bandwidth and storage for music, Stream on Demand, but not the music itself. Music intellectual property should be protected by theNFT integrated Play on Demand license, which is embodied by a NFTiPoD. Visit

  5. Pingback: Music fandom's problem is TV's opportunity. - News Fall Out

  6. @markfrwilkins

    The return of a thriving live scene points to the consumer demand for artist connection. BUT many small venues went under following Covid disruption, and more are set to follow, which means that the path to becoming established is becoming closed off to many emerging artists. Live already suffers from being heritage heavy – that might become its defining characteristic 5-10 yrs from now

    @Kirk Clendinning

    I like the idea of brining tokenised payments into music behaviour, but it is too late to try to reverse a >decade of consumer behaviour. instead, we should be exploring such technologies as ways to build additive not substitutive solutions for fandom and monetisation

  7. Talk about your “TV showcases”.

    On most US tv “talk shows”, even some that are hosted by singers (such as Kelly Clarkson), the musical act is generally, thought not always, relegated to the last part of the program, where they sing but don’t get to be interviewed. And when very few of those musical acts do get interviewed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the others are left wondering why they didn’t get the “couch time”.

    Shouldn’t there be a “TV showcase meets talk show” format for the artists that don’t get to be interviewed by the likes of Fallon, Kimmel, Colbert, Meyers, Hudson, or even Clarkson? Better yet, why not combine the old NBC Friday late night show “Midnight Special” with a talk format hosted by a singer or musician, and all the guests are bands or singers that do get the “couch time”?

    Of course, with audiences for late night shows being as low as they are compared to the last century, an idea like that seems mighty doubtful.

  8. Did you visit the website? The technology is not substitutive, but additive. The concept gives streaming companies a way to provide additional monetization to content creators without changing their economic models. Play on Demand licensing leverages the current streaming ecosystem by adding a verification step to any music play request on a streaming platform. If the listener has a Play on Demand license for the song, as validated with an NFT data record, then the music is streamed. If not, the listener is given an opportunity to purchase a Play on Demand license. As such, consumer behavior is not modified, only the method of purchase. If a consumer wants to listen to a song on, let’s say Apple Music, and doesn’t have a subscription, they are given an opportunity to purchase one. Similarly, NFT technology provides a way for consumers to license an individual song. The change in behavior that is necessary, will be music content creators realizing that they have to stop giving away their Play on Demand rights for nothing. Please visit the website and we can discuss specific issues rather than a misunderstanding.

  9. Pingback: Music fandom’s problem is TV’s opportunity – Germano Stein

  10. Pingback: TV is the answer to the music fandom crisis says MIDiA’s Mark Mulligan – Platinum Indie

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