Music

It’s never been easier to be an artist — or harder to become a star

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Streaming has massively increased the amount of new music available to consumers every day. That has made it all the more difficult to break out.

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The Vergecast logo with a hand holding a phone. Logos of music platforms in the background

Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge

Erica Lubman, an indie artist who goes by the moniker Boy Jr., is objectively good at TikTok. She has amassed more than 300,000 followers with her tongue-in-cheek songs and videos spoofing indie rock culture. Those followers have translated into ticket sales for live shows and millions of streams. But even when Lubman gets praise on videos that get half a million views — for her songwriting, for her humor — she is realistic about how fickle TikTok can be.

“I appreciate those comments a ton,” Lubman said. “But there’s a really good chance you won’t see another video from me for months because your TikTok algorithm is going to just show you other things and you’re gonna forget about me.”

On paper, it should be a golden age for music. Anyone with a song in their heart and a subscription to TuneCore can distribute their music on Spotify and other music streamers right alongside Beyoncé. And plenty are taking advantage of it — nearly 75,000 new songs are uploaded every day. So why, as research firm Luminate reported earlier this year, are consumers listening to less new music than before?

In part two of The Vergecast’s series on the future of music, I try to find out why it is so hard for new artists to break out. Speaking with industry experts, I explore the past 25 years of music streaming: from early warnings of the “celestial jukebox” to my personal golden age of music, the MySpace era, to the current boom and bust cycles of streaming today.

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