Deez Music Streaming Services

I’m a religious consumer of the Digital Music News podcast.

Source: Statista

About two weeks ago, I caught the latest podcast episode, which focused on the growth potential of the Latin American digital music market. The featured guest was Oscar Castellano, CEO of Americas for Deezer, a French subscription-music service like Spotify or Apple Music. To be quite honest, before working in the music industry, I don’t recall hearing about Deezer. As it turns out, it’s quite the major player in the music streaming space.

According to a streaming service review, Spotify has more than 30 million songs in its library, which reaches 58 countries, while Deezer has 40 million songs that reach more than 180 countries. In the race for emerging market market share, Deezer recently announced a distribution partnership with Rotana, a Dubai-based media company in the MENA region.

All this said, I thought I’d be interesting to give Deezer a spin and see where the value proposition lies.

Right off the bat, two things stood out to me on the home page of the Deezer mobile app: My Flow and live radio. My Flow is essentially what My Mixtape is to YouTube’s music streaming platform. In my opinion, the discoverability aspect was mediocre. I felt that about 20 minutes into listening, My Flow would repeat an artist that was previously streamed. I’m personally a bigger fan of YouTube’s My Mixtape. The live radio option was pretty interesting. I haven’t used it much, but could see myself use it frequently when at work or commuting to/from work (especially the KEXP station). I’m extremely curious as to what Deezer’s profit margin is for the streaming of these live stations. After exploring the app a bit more throughout the last few weeks, I found that Deezer lacked a bit in the music library aspect (to my disappointment, the T. Rex library was missing the essential Electric Warrior album). In my opinion, Deezer’s unique selling proposition (other than its diverse set of audio content), is its audio quality and control. Much like Tidal’s value proposition (with the exception of ALAC which Tidal includes), Deezer offers 320 kbps MP3 audio on their Premium tier and 1411 kbps FLAC HiFi tier. The expansive selection of audio content and the control of audio quality looks to be a more affordable version of what Tidal offers to audiophiles.

In the above-mentioned Digital Music News podcast episode, Oscar Castellano, detailed that My Flow was going to play a significant role in the expansion of Deezer in LATAM. I could see that, along with its diverse selection of audio content, being vital motivators for LATAM consumers to select Deezer as their one-stop shop for music/audio streaming consumption. I’ll be keeping a close eye on the Deezer LATAM market share, that’s for sure.

How The Music Album Strengthens Brand Relationships

In a recent write-up from Music Business Worldwide, the consumption of the album versus singles was discussed. An idea was pointed out about fans being encouraged to develop a less-committed relationship with new artists due to the nature of music streaming platforms. It’s clear that in today’s attention economy, consumer behavior is shifting to consume singles as opposed to entire albums. When looking at the consumption of the streaming consumption of Drake’s 25 track long album Scorpion from earlier this year, 63% of global streams from Spotify came from three songs: “God’s Plan”, “In My Feelings” and “Nice for What”.

This brought up an internal debate within myself on the topic of how artists can establish a more committed relationships with consumers, turning them into superfans. I hypothesized that the underlying idea to driving fandom is through emotion.

The Artist As A Brand

Through academic studies on branding like one conducted by Robert Heath, David Brandt, Agnes Nairn, and Eivi Lyon, we’ve come to understand that it’s the emotional creativity, and not the rational message in advertising that builds brand relationships. How does this idea apply to the consumer and the relationship to an artist?

When we look at communication appeal through the lens of Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, an emotionally-driven form of communication makes a quicker and greater impact on the System 1 part of our brain, which is capable of making quick decisions based on very little information. Emotions and feelings will always be formed pre-cognitively and pre-attentively before any information processing takes place, as argued by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. As a result, we can establish that emotions influence us in ways we don’t even realize.

Furthermore, not only is mental engagement greater when there’s a greater level of emotion in the message, but emotion helps drive long-term memory encoding. According to Peter Pynta, “what’s key to turning [a recent memory] into [a] long-term memory is how intensely emotion is experienced. The more intense, the more likely it is to be remembered.”

So, emotions influence us on an unconscious level AND emotions help drive long-term memory encoding? Sounds like emotion-based communication is the way to go for brands…

Being that artists are essentially brands, it’s pretty fascinating to think about the implications of emotional communication to potentially consuming audiences. Let’s take Drake and his long-standing rap beef with Pusha-T earlier this year as an example. Whether or not you think Drake won the rap feud with King Push (imho, Drake got bodied), the novelty of the rap battle and lyrical jabs thrown by both artists drew attention and made us feel some type of way. These emotions not only captured our attention to the feud at hand, but also helped embed this as a long-term memory for many rap fans. At the end of the day, whether it was concerning the lyrical abilities of each of the rappers or the dirt thrown around, the rap battle was also a well-played means to a marketing end, considering that Pusha-T dropped his album DAYTONA a few days before the beef reached its peak with “The Story of Adidon”.

Where the Album comes into play

In our “attention economy”, we face constant cognitive overload from brands in our everyday lives. When it comes to music consumption, things are no different. It’s overwhelming to think about the insurmountable amount of music when we log onto our go-to music streaming platforms. Due to the cognitive overload, most of the times the artist selected is the one that’s top of mind.

So, how to artists/brands become top of mind? Well, as mentioned above, it’s through emotion-based communication that we come to recall brands, not only in the short-term, but also years from now since the emotionally-charged message that we recall down the line. Artists can use emotional narratives to not only draw attention and engagement with frontline repertoire (a new album release), but also leverage emotion to help encode their brand in the consumers mind for catalogue engagement years from now.

Source:  Tumblr

Source: Tumblr

An album as a body of work, as opposed to releasing solely singles, could serve as a tactic to continue to build the brand narrative of the artist and thus drive fans up the fan pyramid. One album that does a great job on building an artist narrative is Kendrick Lamar’s chart-topping, conceptual album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. Within the album, Lamar “chronicles [his] experiences in his native Compton and its harsh realities, in a nonlinear narrative. The songs address issues such as economic disenfranchisement, retributive gang violence and downtrodden women, while analyzing their residual effects on individuals and families.” If you’ve gone through any of the the experiences narrated by Lamar at any level, the storytelling hits home and you get the feels. Could this level of story-telling have been achieve by solely releasing singles?

While I’m aware that some artists are album artists, while others are singles artists, my key message is that an album gives the chance to further build the narrative for the artist. While artists have the ability to relay emotionally-charged messages to potential audiences through marketing-related stunts, an album gives the chance to further nurture the narrative sonically through the music of the artists.

Test Driving YouTube Music

As I had mentioned in a previous post, humans are creatures of habit. Being that I feel invested in my premium Spotify account due to the the fact that I have the comfort of navigating a user interface I’m familiar with, I figured I’d step out of my comfort zone and give YouTube’s paid music streaming service a try. I was also going into the experience pretty curious about the music recommendations from the streaming service. Being that the Google-owned platform has their own proprietary recommendation algorithm and understanding its potential for new music discovery for consumers, my curiosity was getting the best of me.

The on-boarding was fairly fluid. Upon staling the app, I was asking to log in using my existing YouTube account information. Resourceful on behalf of the YouTube Music app since this applies already established consumption behaviors from your existing YouTube account. The app also had me to select artists that I liked, further collecting more data on my listening preference. After setting up, the app presented the main screen (mind you, I usually stream when I’m at the gym, hence the slew of rap artists and hip-hop recommendations). Two things struck me on the main page: the endless personalized “Your Mixtape” playlist and the simplistic approach to the total number of tabs shown at the bottom of the screen. The bottom bar is extremely similar to Spotify’s latest app redesign for users in their paid premium tier, which rolled out the redesign after I started my YouTube Music trial run. The main difference is that while YouTube Music has a Hotlist button, Spotify has a Search button in the same middle positioning. YouTube has a search button in the upper right corner of the screen.

The hotlist shows a selection of new and trending videos. What I found really convenient was the option of selecting whether you wanted to play the video or just the audio version of the track. Being that I primarily stream music in the gym, I’ve been finding the Spotify vertical videos a bit of a nuisance. It’s great content, I don’t necessarily want to sift through videos to find the right track for the moment.

When it came to the Search function, one thing I found limiting was the lack of searching through a voice query. Knowing how much voice interfaces are going to play a pivotal role in the years to come, I was pretty surprised to not find this option available. Other than that, the Search function was easier to navigate than Spotify’s. In similar fashion to Spotify, you scroll down the screen to see the results, whether it was a song you were looking for, an album, a music video, or a playlist featuring the artist of interest. However, what I found convenient were the buttons underneath the search text box, in order to jump to the section of interest, instead of having to endlessly scroll down the search results.

The last thing found a little annoying with YouTube Music was the lack of an option to add a track to the queue. One could drag and drop a track to position the song to be played next, but that a lot of dragging and dropping if you want to customize an existing playlist.

Now this might be subjective (in fact, I know it is) with a hint of confirmation bias, but I thought the suggested tracks from YouTube Music streaming service was much more in line with my personal taste, was fitting to the playlist being listened to, and most importantly consistently included new artists in the mix. While Spotify hits the first two of the three points above, it’s not very successful in introducing me to new artists (at least in my experience). Due to all of the music consumption data YouTube/Google’s been collecting from me for years, in addition to the slew of artist- and user-generated content they have on their platform, they might have the leg up on new artist discovery for consumers.

Smart Speakers and The Consumption of Music

In a previous post, in which I announced my new position as Insights Strategist for Universal Music Group, I expressed an interest in the evolving media consumption behavior as a result of connected devices.

Source:  Edison Research

With the dawn of the internet of things came the introduction of smart cars, connected home automation devices, and wearable technologies among other nifty connected devices. While these gadgets are all fascinating smart technologies, none have taken hold in US households as much as smart speakers. In January 2018, smart speakers were being used by consumers that fell within the “Early Adopters” and “Early Majority” stages of the innovation curve. According to an Adobe Analytics study, almost 50% of US consumers will own a smart speaker after the 2018 holiday season.

The smart speaker revolution is undeniable.

What does this mean for the consumption of music?

In the same Adobe study mentioned above, 70% of the respondents reported using their smart speakers for music consumption, which makes it the primary activity followed by weather forecasting (64%), and alarms/reminder (46%).

In my personal experience, using a smart speaker seems to remove the friction when wanting to listen to music. When I want to listen to music, I don’t need to manually look up an artist, album, song, genre, etc. There’s a clear consumer pain point that was being addressed. However, since most smart speakers don’t have a screen, that means the results for voice queries for music have to be much accurate. If we were to look up an artist on a search engine or music streaming platform, we’re given several songs or albums to to choose from. With the lack of a screen to refer to, consumers are given the one algorithmic-driven result deemed most appropriate by smart speakers. That means that these smart devices have one shot to get the customer experience right and pull up the “right” song.

Keeping in mind choice paralysis (there are times when I want to listen to music, but feel a little overwhelmed by the vast catalogue of music out in the world) and as consumers interact with smart speakers in much more intuitive and natural ways (as opposed to written queries) the dependence on genre or mood queries will play a key role in music consumption. But, with the melting pot of music genres, how does one categorize the genre-bending band Gorillaz, for example? In an ethnographic study that Edision Research conducted, we can see the toddler asks Alexa to play “Elsa” and “Frozen”. Besides the fact that pronunciation is an essential factor for smart speakers to deal with (think about how many consumers might be mispronouncing an artist name or lyrics), the smart speaker device should comprehend that the “Elsa” and “Frozen” prompt means to play “Let It Go”. But doesn’t this change if there’s an artist named “Elsa”?

All this means that there’s going to be a lazer-like focus on getting the music metadata right to serve up the right music at the right moment.

This is an extremely fascinating time to be alive. Voice is here and seems to be the future.

P.S. While there might be some apprehension from digital immigrants to use smart speakers, isn’t it fascinating to think that the same toddler from above is going to grow up naturally accepting Alexa as a digital assistant?