While the final chapter has not been written on the impact of the digital age on the music industry, one very pronounced trend is the substantial diversification of the music that listeners hear, a phenomenon BMI executives have dubbed the “Library Effect.”
Over the last five years, this trend has doubled the number of unique musical works processed by BMI, growing at an average annual rate of about 13 percent. For songwriters and music publishers, this means that more titles are heard by the public, and more songwriters, composers, and publishers receive a slice of the royalty pie.
“Throughout the last decade, we’ve observed continual growth in the number of songs played by digital media,” said Richard Conlon, BMI Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Communications & New Media.
Where consumers once discovered most of their new music on terrestrial radio and TV, nowadays they are more likely to find new titles via websites that stream and distribute music, and through satellite radio and social media.
A number of factors converge to explain the “Library Effect.” As BMI began moving from survey to census technology about seven years ago to track radio performances, the number of unique titles detected quickly increased by 20%. While the number of radio stations playing music has fluctuated from year to year, there has been a trend to increase the density of music played. As some stations moved away from deejays and celebrity hosts, they have had more time for music. Some of the stations also operate alternate HD channels and stream music from their websites, providing more opportunity to broaden playlists.
New technology has also enabled BMI to track music performances in areas where it was once impractical or impossible. Music played by digital jukeboxes, airlines, theme parks, professional sports teams, and even nightclubs and bars are examples.
The digital age has certainly altered the scoreboard for the music industry. Increasing the variety of music consumers may enjoy and providing increased opportunity for more songwriters to be paid for performances are changes that many will cheer.