Making Hits

Netflix makes hits.

Streaming music services do not.

The latest example of this is “You.” A failure on Lifetime, it’s a viral success on Netflix. As of two weeks ago, 40 million households had partaken of an episode within a month of “You” launching on Netflix. On Lifetime, it barely broke a million. Proving, once again, that distribution is king. The show’s the same, the service is different.

You see Netflix promotes its own shows. I don’t only mean the shows it produces, but rather than depend upon outside sources to drum up viewers, it’s a closed ecosystem, it’s self-perpetuating, Netflix promotes shows on its own service.

As do network and cable, but you can’t fast-forward, you can’t shut the ads off, and they end up irritating you, to the point you root against the shows.

So when you sign in to Netflix you see one show promoted. And under that you see what’s hot and you get the feeling you’re on a website as opposed to a service. That you’re in control, that you get to choose, that someone has done the curating for you, and what’s out of sight is out of mind…when locked into Netflix you don’t care what’s happening on the five hundred channels and the competitive streaming services.

But music streaming services are different, they’re just distributors, like the record stores of yore, and that paradigm no longer works today, we need someone to tell us what to listen to, whom we trust, who has a great track record.

Actually, that’s why Tuma Basa and Rap Caviar were so successful. But Tuma left to join Lyor in the black hole of YouTube and has never been heard from again, proving once again that distribution is king.

But there’s only one Rap Caviar…not only has Spotify been unable to replicate that playlist, neither has any competitor.

You see it’s the streaming music services’ obligation to break records. The truth is they are a replacement for both retail and radio. And they’re leaving the public in the dark.

On the home screen should not be the usual suspect popular hit, but a track that people SHOULD hear, that would break if people only listened to it. With a new one once a week, so people would tune in to see it.

And maybe a Hot List, of at most five tracks, of different genres.

Streaming music services are abdicating their power.

And how about consumer ratings?

Netflix screwed theirs up by going from a one to five star system to thumbs up or down, now almost everything gets a great rating, but when you’re interested in a show and it gets three or three and a half stars, you steer away, or go in with your eyes open, ready to grab the remote and tune away.

We need ratings on streaming music services, so we know what to pay attention to and what not to, to add coherence.

But streaming services are afraid of scaring away the suppliers. But the system today doesn’t work for customers, and they’re the gods of all commerce.

We need streaming music services to point the way.

As for Discover Weekly, it’s great, but you get the feeling you might be the only person listening to this track you’ve found, and in the era of social media you want to connect, you want to be part of the group, that’s why I watched the first episode of “You.” Not my thing, I won’t watch more, but now I can play, go to parties and talk like an authority, know what the hubbub is about, never underestimate the appeal of belonging.

And I don’t expect streaming music services to make and promote their own product. First and foremost, it’s a terrible business without catalog. But the truth is they’re much more powerful than the major labels. Wanna mess with a major? Threaten to cut them off, like the government shutdown, we can see how much money was lost, how many lives were ruined. The major labels depend upon streaming music services for survival, they’re the lion’s share of their income, so the services can flex some muscle, they don’t have to be that afraid.

But they’re all techies, who just don’t get soft skills. They’ll tell you about the algorithm, they’ll tell you about efficiency, they just don’t focus on the music itself. As for their vaunted curators…drones who provide the same number of tracks every week, as if music was a production line in China.

So it’s hard to make sense of what’s going on.

But sense will eventually come. When the streaming services own their responsibility and start breaking tracks, of all genres, when they start being active instead of passive, when logging in to see what’s happening is the same as logging in to Netflix.

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