Every week I “discover” some song I’ve never heard before that I really enjoy. I dig a little deeper and realize the track is 10 or 20 or 50 years old, from an album I’ve never heard of, and often by an artist I’ve never heard of.
If I really like the song, I play the whole album.
These are albums that never became big hits; the artists never became household names. And here they are getting a new chance to make a first impression.
In the old music industry, this rarely happened. Labels had a habit of abandoning any album that didn’t take off after a few months. No more promo. No more pressings. To the archives!
I say it a lot, but no shelf space means no shelf life. And older material that wasn’t successful in its debut is finding new audiences.
Again, I’m not just talking about obscurer albums by famous bands; I’m talking about really rare stuff by musicians you’ve probably never heard of. For me this happens most often when I’m listening to my customized Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify, but it also happens occasionally with Apple Music’s curated playlists and on Pandora.
As artists, the impact that this change in consumption habits can have on our music is something we’re just starting to understand. It became clear decades ago that our music will live longer than us — in that it could always be… available. But that didn’t mean anyone was actually hearing it. Now, thanks to playlisting and the infinite ways you can re-contextualize back catalog content, your oldest music might still connect with new listeners.
It’s not a hypothetical. As a listener, this happens to me every single week.
Don’t just focus on selling and promoting your newest songs. Make it all available. Put it all on streaming platforms (and in a sync licensing catalog, because you never know what music will fit the needs of a TV or film production).
For people listening in a more passive way (like, for instance, putting on a playlist for an hour or two), they don’t care what year a song was released, only that they don’t need to skip it.
Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s lots more you could do too.
What do you do to draw attention to your older albums? I’d love to hear your suggestions, and your thoughts on whether or not music ever gets “old” in a streaming world. Holler in the comments!