Last updated on 04.06.2020
Over the years, people are have been getting more updated by how things change around them. Traditional tools are shifting to more modern tools. As the world advances, people have also found new ways to interact and achieve things through the use of technology, and one of them is listening to music. Initially, we could only listen to music through traditional means such as radio, buying a physical copy of an album, or even buying a single song through a music service like iTunes.
In recent years, however, with the fact that smartphones are getting more prominent by the day, people have found new ways to do things like reading the news from internet, watching movies from Netflix, and listening to music – using music streaming services. To date, there are many streaming services. However, in this essay, I am only going to talk about two such services: Spotify and Smule.
To start off, let us define what Spotify is. So, what is Spotify? Spotify is a website and a service on smartphones and personal computers that allows the listener access and listen to podcasts, and millions of songs, mixtapes, and remixes from artists across the globe. The music on Spotify is completely free to play for the benefit of listeners. However, they can also decide to upgrade from Spotify Free to Spotify Premium. The differences are that Spotify Premium allows the listener to skip any songs whenever they please. Meanwhile, Spotify Free users can only skip 6 songs every hour. Spotify Premium users can also play any tracks available to them. Not just that, they can download any track that they want and play it offline as well. On the other hand, Spotify Free users have no choice but to shuffle play songs and they will not be able download the songs. Moreover, they will have to play it online. Although Spotify Free version and the Premium version have different features in term of playing the songs, both have the same basic features. For instances, the users can choose which album or single to play through browse and search, make music playlists, look at what friends, and artists have listened to, and many more.
The subscription for Spotify Premium per month differs for each country and plans vary. In Singapore, a Regular Plan cost 9.90 Singaporean dollars a month. For students above 18 years old, they are eligible to buy a Student Plan for only 4.90 SGD per month. There is also a Family Plan which cost 14.90 SGD a month. Up to six persons who reside the same address each will get their own unique Spotify Premium account.
Now that I have explained to you about Spotify, I would now give to you some information about Smule. If someone loves music especially singing, they would probably already know about this. Smule is a digital studio originally from San Francisco. Established in 2008, it has boomed over the world. Users of their applications can sing over 20 million of songs or make music with other people. It has some apps like Magic Piano, AutoRap, Guitar!, and the most popular one is the Sing! Karaoke app. In the Sing! Karaoke mobile app, users are allowed to sing a song alone, record it into a duet, or even with a group. They can choose which part that they want to sing and the lyrics and the correct pitch level will be shown. They can also choose to share the recorded video while singing. Not only that, they do not need to sing it together. The starter can leave the song open for few days and everyone can join the song in that limited amount of time. For those who prefer making music than singing, they can use Magic Piano to play given songs in the app, or play freely as if they are using the real instrument, or Guitar!, which uses the same concept as Magic Piano but with a guitar, or AutoRap for those who want to do rap music. The app will turn speech into a rap and making it easy for users to make rap songs.
Listening to music online means people will stream music from the internet, which makes it very convenient because they can choose the song that they want. However, this could mean that people in this era will be listening to radio far lesser than in the past. In this essay, I will talk about whether Spotify and Smule have replaced radio in terms of popularity and listenership.
In the third quarter of 2018 (July to September), there were approximately 191 million monthly active Spotify listeners worldwide according to the corporation’s official reports. Out of that number, around 87 million listeners were the Premium subscribers.
According to Statista, the number of Spotify users grows each quarter. In first quarter of 2015 (January to March), there were 68 million of Monthly Active Users (MAUs). This increased to 180 million MAUs in the second quarter of 2018 (April to June), and 191 million MAUs in late 2018. (Please see Appendix A).
Putting users according to region, the total of Spotify users reached 36% users in Europe, followed by 31% in North America, 20% of them are from Latin America, and the last 9% are from the rest of the world. (Please see Appendix B).
According to The Drum, Spotify has a far more massive influence in advertising in United Kingdom than any other commercial radio station. Although Spotify Free users and commercial radio listeners share a similar gender portion, Spotify Free influences more millennial. For instance, Capital, which is the biggest commercial radio station in United Kingdom, reached around 12% radio audiences who do not use Spotify. However, the radio station reached 19% of Spotify users that do not listen to the station. People who listened to both forms of media are just around 10%. (Please see Appendix C).
As of May 2018, there are as many as ten songs that could get as many as 1 billion streams. The first song that gained a billion streams is “One Dance (ft. WizKid and Kyla)” by Drake, which was achieved in December 2016. In 2016 alone, Drake peaked with 7.4 billion total streams, followed by Ed Sheeran with 6.3 billion total streams. Drake topped the list again in 2018 with a total of 8.2 billion total streams. Although Ariana Grande was the top female artist in 2018 in total streams, she did not make it to the top 5 most streamed artist in 2018. However, she is currently the most monthly streamed artist.
With Spotify getting more popular through the years, the service currently hosts an approximate total of over 40 million songs with a total duration of 16.8 million years. (Please see Appendix D).
Initially the name of the company, Smule changed the name of their Sing! Karaoke application to Smule in 2012 after the application reached 50 million active users. The popularity of the application was further cemented as celebrities like the famous Jason Derulo (singer of Talk Dirty), Charlie Puth (singer of We Don’t Talk Anymore), Luis Fonsi (singer of Despacito), Kelly Clarkson (singer of Because of You) and many other famous singers have used the application. As of July 2015, there were only 25 million active users and another 25 million active users have been gained over the next three years.
In CNET’s interview of Jeff Smith, the CEO of Smule, the application has gained an additional 50 million active users in July 2018 and among them, 2 million were VIP. This means that these users are paying 20 US Dollars monthly or 99 USD yearly to gain access for all the songs in the application. Furthermore, in 2017 alone, the revenue of Smule had reached 130 million dollars and it has shown an increase of 30% year on year. 90% of the revenue, according to the CEO, was made by users who have subscribed to their monthly and annual subscriptions. Meanwhile, the rest came from advertisers.
App rankings differ according to country, total number of downloads, total number of active users and total amount of money they spend on the application. Business Insider has found WhatsApp to be the most downloaded app and has the most monthly users in Singapore in 2018. Meanwhile, Sing! by Smule was fourth in a combined list for consumer expenditure in Google Play and the Apple App Store for the year 2018. This is followed by the famous Carousell app.
The situation is different in Malaysia, however, as Smule was third on a list that sorts applications by consumer expenditure in 2018. This is just a place higher than the rank in Singapore. (Please see Appendix E)
In 2017, Luis Fonsi started a collaboration record in a bid to get everyone to join him in singing the hit song ‘Despacito’. The record alone reached 21.1 million views, 832 thousand likes and around 1.4 million accounts have joined in on this collaboration. A girl with a username ‘isabelitaezeiza’ in Smule did a duet with Luis Fonsi in Smule and got a total of 1 million views, 131 thousand likes and 12.6 thousand comments, making her the most liked and viewed collaboration on the song. (Please see Appendix F)
Radio’s Relevance in Recent Years
Radio was initially mainly used to contact ships that were sailing on the sea prior to the 1920s. This was, at the time, a great improvement from Morse code as it helped sailors communicate with other ships when they want to a send message in an emergency.
The importance and usefulness of radio dramatically increased during the first World War. The militaries involved in the war used radio almost all the time to send and receive messages to the offensive and defensive forces.
During the second World War, radio was used again. However, it was mainly used as a way to communicate to the public about the news of the war and for the government to get support from the general public in the United States and United Kingdom.
After the war, the purpose and use of radio changed. In its heyday, not only did radio become the source of entertainment for the public in the form of in serial programmes, radio stations also focused on playing popular music at the time. This way of broadcasting music helped radio rise in popularity. As time progressed, radio stations began to use FM (Frequency Modulation) instead of AM (Amplitude Modulation) because FM has clearer and better sound quality due to better and higher bandwidth. Moreover, it has also higher sound spectrum with twice the number of bits per second than AM.
This popularity in radio did not last long, however. Over the past 10 years, tons of streaming sites and applications were launched. Due to convenience and the advancement in technology, people began to shift away from radio for music streaming instead. Nowadays, people have preferred to use music streaming sites instead of relying on the radio as their source of music. This is also evident in the more individualist society, thanks to the addiction of mobile phones. Due to this, radio stations needed to find ways to reach people as the general public are more dependent on their mobile phones. This led to radio stations starting to focus on broadcasting their programs on digital incorporation, so people on their mobile phones can also still listen to radio.
People in the age group of 18-30 tend to prefer to streaming music than to listen to the radio. Usually, the times where they depended on the radio are either when they are going to, or going back from university or work. This also applies to when they are in a car going somewhere, or in public places like convenience store, retail stores, fast food restaurants, supermarkets, etc. The older generation usually prefers to watch television or listen to radio to get their news and listen to music.
The main reason why younger generations no longer listen to radio as much anymore is because they are more attracted to their smartphones, tablets, or PC. The other reasons are due to the freedom of choice, as streaming sites and other music application like Spotify allow listeners to choose whatever track that they want to listen to. Additionally, with applications like Smule, people can interact with other singers and participate in singalong sessions with them with their choice of song. Listening to music online could also allow the user to avoid any form of news broadcasts or DJ intermissions. Though both streaming sites and radio have advertisements, what really matters is how much revenue is garnered through the users who choose to use it for free.
To help improve the popularity of radio broadcasts in Korea, there are several radio programmes that are hosted by idols. Due to this, fans across the globe would listen to that programme. Such radio programmes broadcasted by idols include Idol Radio, Kiss the Radio, Skill of K-pop, and many more. Most of these programmes usually feature other artists, soloists, or popular music groups. Idol Radio is one of many such programmes broadcasted by MBC Standard Radio company. This programme is hosted by Jung Ilhoon of BTOB, and airs at 12.05 KST on weekdays and 12.00 KST on weekends on the frequency of 95.9 FM. Though most of the episodes are recorded and uploaded to internet, some of the episodes are only available only on radio with at least 10″,000 listeners.
Another of such programmes is Kiss the Radio, which airs under the KBS Cool FM company on the 89.1 FM frequency. Formerly hosted by Ann Danny from g.o.d in 2004, the show has been hosted by “Sukira”, a name given to the various members of Super Junior over the years of 2006 – 2016. Since then, the show has been hosted by various artists.
‘Skool of K-pop’ is another such programme under the tbs eFM station on 101.3 FM in Seoul, South Korea. Mainly aimed at foreigners, this show is hosted by Shin Peniel of BTOB, who is fluent in English. The main language used in this programme is English, which is its main selling point as more fans from other parts of the world will understand what is being talked about.
In my honest opinion, I have come to the decision that although Spotify and Smule have outnumbered radio listenership, radio is still rather relevant in our society. While it is true that the aforementioned mobile applications have contributed to the decline in radio listening, it does not mean that there will not be any radio listeners anymore.
As a matter of fact, radio broadcasts are still rather widespread as it is still being used for purposes other than news, music or talk shows. For instance, the police and military uses handheld transceivers to communicate with each other.
Furthermore, radio is also used for emergency broadcasts. In the case of a natural disaster happening, the authorities can broadcast warning signals and messages for the general population to inform them to evacuate immediately. During war time, the government could also announce to the people to evacuate to the nearest bunker for safety.
As mentioned previously, idols in South Korea are making the effort to make people listen to radio. As the idols host, and a lot of other artists are invited to be featured in the show, fans will tune into the radio station to listen throughout which usually takes around an hour or two.
Furthermore, most elderly rely on radio for news. This is because majority of the them are not into technology-literate and prefer to stick to the old-fashioned media like newspapers, radio, or the television to get news.
To conclude this essay, I believe that radio would still have listeners from around the world if the programme is actually good and interesting. I refuse to think that radio broadcasts will die. As a matter of fact, the number of radio listeners in the United States for 2018 have reached 243 million monthly users. Therefore, even if there are services like Spotify, Smule, Youtube or any other streaming platform who are trying to disrupt radio’s popularity, radio is still important because they have some uses that streaming platforms lack.