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Spotify in the Caribbean: Turning Cultural Capital into Financial Capital

Spotify is to audio as YouTube is to video.


Spotify: Music and podcast is finally available in Jamaica and the Caribbean region. At their Stream On launch event they announced services to over eighty new markets expanding to additional one billion customers. They also announced their Audience Network which will accommodate cross advertising between music and podcasts. This will increase revenue for especially podcasters in the region through per stream advertising. Spotify has exclusive podcast deals with Barack and Michelle Obama and comedian Joe Rogan who reportedly got  paid over one hundred million dollars for his content.

This is welcoming news for the creative industry in the Caribbean as more persons are developing intellectual property specific to the niche audiences in the region. As Spotify grows so will creators on the platform. The Spotify Audience Network will bring money to creators and with popularity hosts can court local advertisers to capitalize on their audience reach.

Spotify is to audio as YouTube is to video. 

With both audio and video streaming platforms being in the region, it is the best time for artists to gather their music and other audio content with crafty, thoughtful release campaigns. According to Business insider Spotify pays between US$.003 to US$.005 per stream. Which means about 250 streams equal one dollar. Compared to YouTube which has three different ways to pay artists/content makers ranging from $USD .008 to US$0.00087 per stream/view.

Like the old days of terrestrial radio, when DJs were the gatekeepers and getting on a national radio playlist would mean immediate success for an artist, now getting on a popular Spotify playlist curated by proven and trusted sources will be the difference maker for artists in a sea of streams. It is not entirely true that it will be easier to make it in the music business with the advent of audio streaming, but now an artist can make music, send it out to the world without paying manufacturing or distribution costs. Boutique record labels and production companies can find young and inspiring talent, produce a record and with the press of a button the song is in the marketplace.

Damian Marley explains the benefit of streaming on the World Music Views Podcast, “A Youth that is working in Kingston and doing some music with the click of a button can upload his music for the world to have access and that will be a benefit to musicians”.

For many others it will not be as simple as pressing a button and suddenly your fans are found. The principles of the music business remain the same. If artists are not ready to work hard and make the kind of music that resonates with eager fans they will struggle to connect on Spotify.  It is the constant improvement of marketing and promotions strategies that connect with an ever evolving culture and capture the imagination of a core audience that will demonstrate success in streaming numbers.

The success of streaming is the business of Caribbean culture. 

Spotify and other streaming platforms in the region depend on the taste makers; the cultural capital of artists, Djs and other musical influencers who curate the music that enhances the listener’s experience. There is a dancehall ‘Back A Yard’ Playlist and  the ‘World Music Views’ playlist that are updated weekly with the top hits of the week in Jamaica, rest of the Caribbean, USA, Canada, and the UK.

Spotify CEO, Daniel Ek said during the global launch event “Stream On”, that sixty thousand tracks are uploaded per day or a new track every 1.4 seconds. If Spotify is a figurative audio content highway then success will be dependent on artists knowing where they are going; where their fans are located, and how to get to them. The road just got a little smoother for the journey. Artists must make music for the fans who will miss them if they are not on the platform.

For young and emerging artists in the region, there are over twenty million internet users who now have a role to play in ensuring that their favorite artists succeed in the streaming era. Traditionally, Caribbean people do not buy records according to Damian Marley, but he said that streaming has come to validate the music of the region in a recent interview on the World Music Views Podcast.

Spotify is free with an option to upgrade with a paid version. It is also a one stop app for music, podcasts and playlists. This relationship also works well for creatives who will pass on the cost to advertisers while giving the consumers a free option. They pay artists and content makers more money for audio than YouTube currently and it signals full integration of streaming in the region. The other streaming platforms that are yet to be widely available in the Caribbean such as Pandora, SiriusXM, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and Facebook/Instagram streaming should be here in a matter time.

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