Streaming in a Post-‘Lemonade’ World: The Rise of the ‘Visual Album’

Posted by Flux on 

28 December 2016

What’s trending now:
The ‘visual album’ seen through the likes of Béyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ and Frank Ocean’s ‘Endless’ has shifted albums away from being simply being heard into a space where they are now watched as well. By definition this sees one continuous package of content linking all songs. Not dictated by cohesive film-making, resulting in a more conceptually version of the album, it’s a mix between a short-film and a music video.

The concept is not by any means new in its innovation. Pink Floyd experimented with the idea for the grandiose rock opera The Wall (1982), Prince brought the story of a struggling artist to life with Purple Rain (1984) and Daft Punk brought their groundbreaking ‘Discovery’ to life in a space anime – Interstella: 5555 (2003).

However, 2016 marked a turning point when Béyonce and HBO created ‘Lemonade’ – more than a spectacle, a cultural phenomenon that captured the attention of audiences around the world.
As music videos continue to dwindle and consumers continue to seek more online content, the variables might change but the opportunity stays the same. Considering the fact that the idea is gaining new prominence with some of the biggest releases of the year, more artists will begin to experiment with the concept.

Why it’s important:
Streaming platforms from Apple Music to Spotify are all competing for a larger stake of the market with each executing the same strategy of timed exclusive releases (usually for the first month upon release) with artists. In a market where streaming is seen to be the future of revenue as sales continue to decline, ‘visual albums’ present exciting new opportunities for these platforms to increase their value propositions to consumers and provide them with more call to act and use the service at a monthly rate.

As the volume of ‘visual albums’ grows so too will the call-to-action to access streaming.
Both Apple and Tidal have already experimented with ‘visual albums’: Frank Ocean’s ‘Endless’ releasing on Apple Music and Béyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ releasing on Tidal.

The foundation has been laid for more big-name commercial artists and independents to follow suit.

Butterfly Effect:
Streaming sites could incorporate a similar model to that of Netflix, which pays for production of its own unique content, licensed to different services. This would result in the likes of Apple Music and Spotify providing artists with the capital to produce ‘visual albums’ exclusively to their respective platforms.

Consumers are wanting more interactive, authentic and well-produced content and, if the success of SVOD models like Netflix and Hulu are anything to go by, this could see streaming providing more ‘visual albums’ as a result.
The effect could see brands like Red Bull (who exert a heavy influence in the music space) assisting in the production of ‘visual albums’ for more independent artists.

Due to the success and excitement that SVOD platforms have enjoyed by producing their own content, streaming platforms could see similar success. Players like Google could see a similar model through either Google Play or YouTube, which is still considered as one of the largest platforms for distributing and accessing music.

Through the YouTube ‘Red’ tier (a monthly subscription-based service without ads) a host of benefits gave subscribers access to new original shows and movies from the top content creators on YouTube through ‘members-only’ content exclusives. The long term vision of this could see possibility of content creators as well as existing producers in TV launching new channels and shows through Red – creating a stronger value proposition for the platform. Further to this, in line with Google’s strong position on investment and providing seed capital for startups, this same model could be applied to production for content available through Red.

Apple and Tidal are leading the pack in diversifying their content offerings against competitors like Spotify and Deezer, with the latter going beyond music and capturing and streaming more live events such as Kanye West’s latest NYFW shows for both his YEEZY Seasons 3 and 4.

The field is still open for players to rethink how they can expand their value propositions.
So while Tidal and Apple may have a start, YouTube could come back with a much stronger approach through YouTube Red; which is already gaining traction stateside.

By: Jordan Major

Image credit: NPR

About Jordan


Travel, in all its varied forms, is a concept that inspires and drives the ambitions of Jordan Major. From backpacking around Europe to exploring new professional territories his journey is one that knows no bounds. Having written for the likes of GQ and Between 10 and 5 this young creative sees this new chapter with Flux Trends as a way to speak to the present about the future in a meaningful way.

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