Have you checked if your music got pulled from Deezer!?

Because they just removed… 

[WAIT FOR IT] 

… twenty-six…

…MILLION…

…tracks!

I repeat: 26 million tracks were just removed from Deezer in an attempt to “declutter” its catalog. That’s roughly 13% of ALL the music on their platform.

What music was removed from Deezer?

“Useless” tracks.

That’s according to Deezer’s outgoing CEO, Jeronimo Folgueira. 

In practice, this meant the removal of 26 million tracks that were either:

  • Noise tracks
  • Mono-track albums
  • Music by “fake” artists
  • Or streamed ZERO times in the last 12 months

I just pinched myself to see if I’m a fake artist. But doubt remains, so I’m checking Deezer and… oh, phew! My songs are still there. I’m real. 

Jokes aside, though, one can easily understand why Deezer removed the first three categories above. The platform sees 100,000 new tracks uploaded every day. And inevitably that includes duplicative tracks, new noise tracks no one needs when there’s already a thousand “washing machine sounds for sleeping babies” albums, and so forth.  

Few artists are concerned with those removals. Fewer are concerned with the removal of frauds. But what speaks to potential big changes in the industry is that last category: Tracks that no one cared to listen to in the past 12 months. 

What does THAT change suggest about music streaming in the years to come? 

3 predictions about the future of music streaming

1. Digital shelf-space won’t be endless

We began this century with faulty assumptions:

  • That the internet could store everything we made forever.
  • That, because a file was freely or cheaply replicable, and didn’t compete with physical goods for actual shelf space, the various digital platforms for music, video, and social content would just… keep increasing their catalog size regardless of demand. 

But as Deezer and Spotify start shifting towards “artist-centric” royalty models, and as Deezer removes many millions of tracks from the service, there may no longer be infinite free storage and endless availability for music with little-to-no regular engagement. 

What can you do about it? 

Don’t rely on platforms as your permanent archive.

As Bobby Owinski says in his article The Streaming Purge has Started:

… a policy change often comes at the drop of a hat, which is why it’s best to never trust an online service as the only repository for your content and contacts.

The same way you’re advised to own you direct relationship with fans via email and SMS contacts, be sure to warehouse your music content — audio files, lyrics, videos, credits, and more — on your OWN website. 

2. Customers want curation, not options 

Decades into this internet experiment in “everything, all the time,” the average music listener is exhausted by choice.  

And while streaming services once boasted about the size of their music catalogs, it now appears the pendulum is swinging back towards selectivity. Whether the platforms are motivated to save on storage costs, avoid legal issues, or limit dilution of a streamshare-style royalty pool, the culling dovetails nicely with actual consumer needs. Namely, good curation. 

I don’t even think we care all that much how (it could be an algorithm, AI, or a human aficionado doing the recommendation); we just want our lives to be simpler. 

Golgueira explains that Deezer seeks to “give our customers a high-quality experience and relevant content.”

Selectivity helps. 

What can you do about it? 

Promote every new release as much as possible, including:

The more effort you put behind a song when it’s new, the greater its chances of being selected for recommendation in the years to come. 

3. You can’t stop marketing your catalog!

We just talked about promoting new music so that it’s selected for early recommendation, thus boosting the chances it remains relevant and available long-term. But what about your back catalog?

Let’s acknowledge something big about Deezer’s changes: Plenty of real artists’ older songs just got removed from the platform because they didn’t generate any streams. 

And artists DO have a bad tendency to focus on their new releases to the exclusion of everything that came before.

Unlike Spotify’s recent accounting changes, where they stopped paying royalties for tracks that generate less than 1000 streams per year, Deezer made a bolder move: Get rid of all tracks that no one listened to. 

And by “no one” they mean NO ONE. Which is why you can forgive Deezer for describing the music they removed as “use-less,” even when referring to legitimate (or at least aspiring) artists. 

Hopefully you’re marketing ALL your music throughout the year to grow your audience and bring in new listeners. And hopefully you’re in contact with your existing fans frequently enough that they’re reminded to go back and listen throughout the year as well. 

But if you’re the type of artist who constantly hops to new projects and neglects your back catalog, stop it! 

What you can do about it? 

If digital platforms now threaten to remove music with low engagement, that should be all the motivation you need to schedule a few annual promo efforts around your previous singles or albums.

Even your oldest songs will be new to most people on the planet.

And as far as existing fans go, they already like your music! So you can give them fresh context — a new video, story, contest, merch item — that encourages people to go back and replay music they already know.

You can also make a direct appeal, informing your fans how important their listening is in determining whether or not new people hear your songs.

Some ideas to reinvigorate your back catalog:

  • Album anniversaries
  • Unreleased tracks from older sessions
  • Collaborator shoutouts (players, producers, co-writers, etc.)
  • Playlists that feature unique instruments used on your tracks
  • “Best of” playlists
  • “The songs I’m proudest of” content series
  • “3 things I never told anyone about [name of older song]”
  • Free + Shipping & Handling music offers
  • Live group listening parties (digital or IRL)
  • Reels and TikTok live performance videos of older tracks
  • Livestreams or live shows themed around a specific older album

Conclusion

Have you checked your catalog on Deezer? Still there?

Despite these changes only having an impact on noise tracks, fraudsters, and artists with no engagement, I still think it’s big news for the music industry. 

It’s a trend I’ll keep my eye on, because it’s possible this is the beginning of an era of limited storage, tighter curation, and higher marketing expectations for independent artists.

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