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How millennials' spending and streaming power can change the future of hip-hop

By paying the most for music, they're making the genre more in-demand than ever.

Adrien Vargas // REVOLT

How many of you still go to stores and purchase CDs? Or, are you still buying and downloading tracks from iTunes? Or, are you currently paying for a music subscription like Apple Music, Spotify, or Tidal?

If I could guess, most of you likely answered affirmatively to the third question, which is why Nielsen’s 2016 U.S. Year-End Music Report shows that on-demand audio streaming has now grown to 38% of total audio consumption, making it the largest share of consumption.

So, who do we owe all this to? Naturally, the millennial age group. On services like Spotify, millennials make up 72% of their listeners, which is how they became the dominating group when it comes to spending money on music purchases.

However, in 2015 this was not nearly the case. According to the latest consumer trends survey by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), just two years ago, consumers aged 36 and older were spending the most on music purchases, and the majority of the group were CD buyers.

So how did streaming take the music industry by storm, while also creating a major shift in the age demographic for music buyers? REVOLT TV spoke with Aura Harewood, who works in digital marketing at Interscope Records, to get some insight on this streaming takeover.

“I think it’s a mixture of convenience and music discovery,” Harewood said. “[Streaming services] do a good job of serving up emerging talent, as well as curating playlists that fit the listener's taste. If one is throwing a party and doesn’t have the energy or time to hire a DJ or create a playlist, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, etc. will handle that. Additionally, music fans can have access to music from an infinite amount of different artists at their fingertips for a monthly fee.”

Nielsen’s report also reveals that the streaming landscape is led by R&B/Hip-Hop, which accumulates the highest share of on-demand audio streams with heavily-streamed artists like Drake, The Weeknd, Kanye West, Rihanna, and J. Cole.

We asked Harewood what she believes this could mean for the future of hip-hop.

“It’s time that everyone really acknowledges that hip-hop is the most listened-to genre in the world,” she said. “Hip-hop touches every aspect of mainstream popular culture, and it’s only going to continue expanding.”

Harewood continued, “Increased social media activity has also contributed to the success of hip-hop/R&B releases globally, and we’re now able to predict if a record is going to be a hit very early on. For instance, with a record like Rae Sremmurd's “Black Beatles,” streaming data indicated its success even before the 'Mannequin Challenge' made it a viral sensation. Hip-hop music and culture is trendsetting and profitable, and if these artists continue to utilize their social media reach effectively and creatively, they will continue to dominate the streaming charts and pop culture overall.”

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