'12 people control the playlists that have global impact': radio is not king anymore, but how much power do playlisters hold?

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Times have changed and radio isn’t king. But has the streaming age changed anything in terms of power over impact? Mom + Pop Music co-president, Thaddeus Rudd has shared his concerns.

The consolidation of curators has been astounding,” said Mom + Pop Music co-president, Thaddeus Rudd. Indie label and digital platform executives sat down to discuss the growing influence of streaming services at Day 1 of Midem 2018.

In our latest podcast, Global Streaming Curator and Strategist Elise Cobain analysed the notion of ‘playlists as radio stations’. Not so long ago, the power was in the hands of the programme controllers and producers (and those able to court them!) at the top radio stations, who were able to hand-pick the tracks that would become huge hits.

According to Rudd, not much has changed: "There are 12 people that control the playlists that have global impact," said Mom + Pop Music co-president Thaddeus Rudd.

The power is now in the hands of the streaming curators and strategists who have built huge followings, which offer breakthrough numbers for artists. However, whilst the Midem panel agreed that playlist keyholders have a great deal of influence, picking up features on major playlists still does not return instant success.

Even though we have a ton of streams, it doesn't necessarily translate to following on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram,” said Patrik Larsson, A&R and label manager for Playground Music in Scandinavia.

Label and marketing services are still essential to breaking an artist and this is the element that streaming services will not be able to touch. Rudd encouraged the execution of digital strategies to get music in front of playlist curators. “The editors of Spotify and Apple have shown a supreme independence from their label liaisons. They don’t want to be pressured,” he explained.

Whilst knowing the right people is still hugely beneficial, courting radio teams has become less of a factor in the success of an artist. The streaming age has levelled the playing field for artists to share their music with an unimaginable audience.

Quotes from Billboard

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