Sheryl Crow on the rise of streaming: “I feel sorry for young artists”

The veteran musician discusses streaming’s impact on artist development and the album format.

Sheryl Crow has given her two cents on music streaming in a new interview, explaining how it inhibits the growth of young musicians. 

“I feel sorry for young artists. It used to be that if you made a record, people liked it and bought it, and that gave you the ability to continue,” Crow said in an interview with Guitar Player published 12 November. “It also encouraged artistic growth and self-discovery. Now everything is happening so fast that the music is practically out of date before you even put it out. I don’t see how that’s good for the art. It is what it is though, and nothing’s going to change that now.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Crow explains that streaming services have rendered the album format “non-existent to the average consumer” as listeners can select different songs to construct their own playlists. The increased redundancy of the album format, Crow says, is why her album Threads, which she released in August, will be her last.

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“It’s been a process of letting go of the idea that you create a sole artistic statement, when people just cherry-pick songs and make their own compilation so that they never really hear it as you intended it,” she said.

While Crow concedes that streaming services may have “saved the music business” in some way, “the issue is so much deeper,” she says. Crow zeroes in on streaming’s emphasis on speed and instant gratification:  “When music is designed for a six-second attention span, there’s so many things you have to look at and analyse differently that don’t have anything to do with making music and buying records.” 

Threads comprises a number of collaborations with musicians Crow has worked with in the past, including Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Joe Walsh. “It just feels like a nice, neat, and tidy way to wrap up a 30-year-career of the tradition of making full artistic statements, which is basically what I grew up with,” Crow said in a previous interview with Vanity Fair.

Despite Threads being her final album, Crow has no intention of leaving music altogether and will continue to release songs and perform. “I can’t imagine what I would do if I wasn’t recording or touring,” she told NPR in August. “I mean, touring for us is really where the joy is at. I love going in and recording songs.”

Threads is out now on Big Machine Records.

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