Billie Eilish is a perfect test case for the Californian company’s story because Apple has worked with the singer in the past year to debut new music, produce a short animated Christmas film, and plaster her face all over the Apple Music app in the lead-up to When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?.
That’s what initially made me chuckle when I saw that the album had garnered 800,000 global pre-saves because this is a statistic that’s never (until two weeks ago) been a public-facing point of pride. This is partly because unlike an album pre-order, which comes with a specific price tag attached to it, the amount of streams generated from a pre-save is far less exact. Luckily, Music Business Worldwide quickly followed up (“Billie Eilish proves that young people WILL stream blockbuster albums… when they’re encouraged to do so
”) on Monday after the album’s release, stating how well the entire
album was streaming on Apple Music. Yet again, without any further context about the streaming performance of other albums, it’s hard to glean much real value from these isolated information drops.
Last Friday, Music Ally wrote about
how major music streaming services scrambled to promote Eilish’s album. In short, YouTube released a documentary series, Apple made an effort to push the album in the ways I’ve just described, and Spotify created something called the “Billie Eilish Experience” where one could access unique video content. The piece attempts to close on a hopeful note:
Our hope, though, is that the effort and thought being put in to these kinds of ‘storytelling’ campaigns at the top end of the artist pyramid will have an impact further down, with product features and learnings that other musicians can use to properly connect with fans, rather than just being another line on a playlist.
I won’t hold out the same amount of hope because it doesn’t really seem like it’d be in the interest of any of these streaming services to put in the effort that went into Eilish, unless it was put into an artist that is already at a level of notoriety where such obnoxious promotion wouldn’t be a turn off to users. There is also no economic incentive for these companies to champion smaller acts with this level of support; yes, Apple Music premiered Eilish’s earlier work, but that was still years after she had signed to Interscope.