Ever since iTunes arrived, the biz has pondered when it will see its first digital Christmas.
It never quite happened with downloads and, as I write this (ahead of the chart's full publication), 14 of the Top 20 albums on the Midweek Sales Flash have racked up fewer than 1,000 streaming ‘sales’ for the week (six have less than 100!). That’s a sure sign that physical music is once again elbowing its way to the fore with the tenacity of a Black Friday shopper who’s spotted an Olly Murs album going cheap.
Taylor Swift’s streaming holdout rightly garnered a lot of attention, but it’s worth remembering there’s a whole host of artists who don’t have any creative or commercial problem with streaming, but frankly might as well not bother making their music available there for all the impact it makes. Ball & Boe have another runaway hit on their hands with Together Again, but their streaming figures are so low the format might have to be renamed ‘trickling’. Same goes for everyone from Morrissey to Gregory Porter. The question is: are fans of those artists - and there are plenty of them - just not interested in listening digitally, or are streaming services not doing enough to attract those consumers?
In the short term, it’s surely a comfort to the biz that there’s another physical festive season in the offing. But, while there’s no sign yet of the streaming revolution slowing, some may worry about the future if all-you-can-eat access to the entire history of recorded sound is really still not a sufficiently tempting offer for such a wide range of music fans to sign up.
Spotify, Apple Music et al have nailed their proposition for young music fans. But only Amazon really seem to have thought about older, less hip consumers and what they might want from a streaming service.
That needs to change if the ghosts of Christmas future are still going to have music at the top of their letters to Santa. Otherwise, we may just have to accept that a stream is for life, but just not for Christmas.