Aug 25, 2019

Generation Z knows how to own the pop charts

Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X. Photos: Jonas Walzberg/picture alliance via Getty Images; Johnny Nunez/Getty Images

Generation Z artists have figured out how their peers consume music in the streaming era, and they're tailoring their release strategies to give their songs an otherworldly longevity on the charts.

Why it matters: A traditional single launch with a big-budget music video isn't enough to create a mega-hit in 2019. True staying power requires a savvy use of memes, remixes and videos to sustain buzz — and the recent war for #1 between Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X utilized all 3, previewing the music industry of the future.

  • Eilish's "Bad Guy" ended the record 19-week reign of Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 this week, making her the first artist born in the 2000s to hit #1 on the chart.
  • If Eilish hadn't succeeded, "Bad Guy" would have spent a record-tying 10 weeks at #2 without ascending to the top spot.

The big picture: Streaming is already the biggest factor for Billboard's charts. Last year, Billboard changed how streams count toward the Hot 100, granting the most weight to songs played under paid subscriptions with services like Spotify and Apple Music.

And on-demand songs from ad-supported services (think YouTube and streaming services' free tiers) have more weight than songs played on programmed services, like Pandora.

  • 84% of Gen Zers use their smartphones to consume audio content daily, according to a Consumer Technology Association survey. It also found that their 2 most popular sources of audio content were streaming services and online video.
  • A Music Business Association survey found that 15- to 19-year-olds are far more likely to opt for paid streaming than other age groups because of their preference for mobile streaming — even though 24% said they weren't the ones paying for it.

Eilish and Lil Nas X fought a months-long battle for #1, targeting their peers across their preferred platforms the whole time.

The bottom line: The world's biggest record labels have already caught on — and soon, these promotional strategies won't be limited strictly to the young.

Go deeper: Taylor Swift unloads on Scooter Braun's Big Machine deal

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The streaming battlefield is getting crowded

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the streaming wars heat up, consumers are going to have to be choosy about which services they subscribe to, or risk racking up steep monthly bills.

Why it matters: Digital streaming was supposed to break up the expensive cable bundle, but now that so many companies are launching their own services, paying for TV could get even more expensive and complicated.

Go deeperArrowSep 13, 2019

Billboard tops its charts by adding Nielsen data

Modi Wiczyk, co-CEO of Valence Media and Media Rights Capital, speaks on a panel at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 29, 2019. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Valence Media, the parent company of Billboard, agreed to buy the music industry data and analytics business of Nielsen Holdings, per Bloomberg.

Why it matters: This would reunite the music industry's top publisher of sales charts with the company that supplies its data. It also could let Billboard expand its data offerings, including possible subscription products.

BackgroundArrowSep 6, 2019

Ken Burns' "Country Music" focuses on trailblazing women

Courtesy PBS

"Country Music" — an epic film about a true American art form and women's role in the industry, from the great Ken Burns — begins tonight at 8 ET on PBS and streaming.

What we know: The film features 3,200 photographs and interviews with more than 100 people, including 40 members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Go deeperArrowSep 15, 2019