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Can streaming services bring unique compositional techniques to original contemporary compositions?

15 Jul 2022

PhD Music Composition Research Proposal

Music streaming services are the forefront of music listening in the 21st century. As of 2021 streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music made up 80.6% of music consumption in the United Kingdom (Savage, 2021). When looking at the wider genre of ‘classical’, rather than focusing on my own composition style of contemporary classical music, it was found that ‘25 percent of subscribers to streaming services explore classical music at least once’ (Wassenberg, 2020). However, only 1 to 5 percent of the streaming market is represented by classical music, which is ‘too small for the mainstream industry to bother with’.

The focus on music streaming for my research is due to the modern day usage of these services, however, they still retain a lot of faults, especially for the artists. Spotify has been referred to as a ‘battleground’ for the smaller and unsigned artists (Anderson, as cited in Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee 2021, p.538).

Aleatoric Music, ‘also known as indeterminate music, or chance music’ (MasterClass, 2022), has long been explored by composers. Haydn and Mozart were ‘believed to practice dice music’ in the 18th century (Steib, 1999, p.18), with Mozart designing a ‘musical dice game, the Musikalisches Würfelspiel’ (Dean, 2009, p.110). In the 20th century compositions such as John Cage’s Music of Changes (1951), Pierre Boulez’s Piano Sonata no. 3 (1957) and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Klavierstück IX (1956) are examples of the use of chance to compose or perform music (Steib, 1999, p.18).

However, a search for ‘21st century aleatoric music’ on Google or searching ‘Aleatoric’ on Spotify fails to bring many results, with the closest match being an artist under the title ‘Aleatoric Soundscapes’ uploading to Spotify, with their highest played track having 4,642 plays (as of 29th March 2022). Similar searches for ‘chance music’ through Google bring definitions for aleatoric music and on Spotify brings no results. However, searching for 20th century aleatoric pieces by composers such as Cage, Boulez and Stockhausen brings more popular results, with David Tudors’ 2012 recording of Cage’s Music of Changes (1951) receiving 48,027 plays on Spotify (as of 29th March 2022). This was by far the most popular aleatoric recording available on Spotify, however, when compared to Cage’s most popular recorded piece on Spotify, In A Landscape (1948), which has 4,732,137 plays (as of 29th March 2022) then aleatoric music is less popular than its other contemporary counterparts.

This led me to explore the question; how can 21st century contemporary music composers reach the level of listeners that 20th century contemporary music now receives through streaming services? This PhD research will provide a critical and creative re-imagination of how music can be made specifically for audiences using streaming services, creating a new and interesting composition format for 21st century contemporary composers to use and engage the modern streaming service audience.

Reference List

Bayle, L., Provenzano, C. (2021) in Beckerman, M., Boghossian, P. (ed.) Classical music: contemporary perspectives and challenges. pp.103-120. Available at: (Accessed 14/03/22)
Beek, M. (2021) Which are the best music streaming services for classical music lovers?. Available at: (Accessed 29/03/22)
Boulez, P. (1957) Piano Sonata no. 3. Available at: Spotify (Accessed 07/03/22)
Cage, J. (1951) John Cage: Music of Changes. David Taylor. Available at: Spotify (Accessed 07/03/22)
Cage, J. (1948) In A Landscape, Cage: Early Piano Music. Herbet Henck. Available at: Spotify (Accessed 29/03/22)
Dean, R. (2009) The oxford handbook of computer music. Available at: (Accessed 08/03/22)
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (2021) Economics of music streaming (HC 50). Available at: (Accessed 10/03/22)
Götting, M. (2021) Distribution of streamed music consumption in the United States in 2020, by genre. Available at: (Accessed 29/03/22)
MasterClass. (2022) Aleatoric music explained: 5 examples of indeterminate music. Available at: (Accessed 14/03/22)
MIDiA (2021) Research Music Subscriber Market Share Model 11/21. Available at: (Accessed 14/03/22)
Savage, M. (2021) Music listening soared during lockdown. Available at: (Accessed 10/03/22)
Steib, M. (1999) Readers guide to music: history, theory, criticism. Available at: (Accessed 10/03/22)
Stockhausen, K. (1956) Klavierstück IX. Available at: Spotify (Accessed 07/03/22)
Vultaggio, M. (2021) Spotify editorial playlists: what they are & how I got on 7 of them. Available at: (Accessed 14/03/22)
Wassenberg, A. (2020) Streaming music, the song economy and classical music. Available at: 10/03/22)

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