At the outset, I must confess that I am possibly not the best person to talk at length about streaming services. I won’t consider myself as a regular user of any of the services such as Netflix, Spotify or others. However, since the start of lockdown, I, like many others, have started spending more time on these services. And this led me to think about the impact that these services could be having on Culture.
Culture is a very broad term. I will be using this term largely in the context of Arts and Entertainment, specifically music and video.
Let’s start with the consumer. I guess there can be no doubt that the consumer has benefited from these services. One is no longer bound by the dictates of local television channels or record stores, but has the ability to discover artists and shows from around the world. It is easier and cheaper to experiment with new stuff as there is no incremental cost of watching or listening to a song or show. And, just as important, one can carry around one’s ‘TV’ / ‘Audio System’ and listen to one’s favourite music / watch TV.
Has this benefited the artists? I am not an expert, but I can understand that this can be complex. On the one hand, all artists now potentially have equal reach and are not overly reliant on the TV Studio or Record Label for distribution. Also, to the extent that piracy is controlled, they can also more effectively monetise their output. However, I do not have details of the revenue sharing arrangement between all the parties involved to say if artists are better off financially with the increasing adoption of streaming services.
What about record labels / TV and film studios? Again, this is a complex area that I am now going to get into, simply because I have very little information on the relationships between them, the streaming services and the artists.
Coming to the crux of the article – What is the impact of the widespready popularity of these services on the nature of the work being produced? Are all the advantages of these services (some of which have been mentioned above) being made use of by the artists to come up with more and more unique, path-breaking work? Or is the prevalence of ‘algorithmic’ discovery leading to a standardisation of output to maximise views and listens?
I have just started researching about this topic. And so it will be presumptuous of me to claim any knowledge or understanding of this. The best I can do at this stage is to refer readers to some of the more interesting articles on this topic I came across. I would recommend beginning with Can monoculture survive the algorithm? Another one is Is Netflix Ruining Culture?