“Turn the Game”: Those Who Stream Lo-Fi Music Need No Money or Career in the Music Industry

5 min


In the 70s, aspiring musicians could not afford expensive audio equipment and studio rental, so the quality of their recordings left much to be desired. This is how “lo-fi” appeared, which even the early Beatles had to do with. However, the term was quickly rethought – in the era of cassettes, it was backed by those who deliberately abandoned the struggle for pure sound and saw in this a special way of expressing themselves. But by the time YouTube streams appeared, lo-fi had become completely different and turned into a self-sufficient musical direction.

Let’s talk about this in more detail and discuss how the lo-fi streamers are doing.

Photo: Kyle Sudu. Source: Unsplash.com
Photo: Kyle Sudu. Source: Unsplash.com

Girl studying

A mix of soft hip-hop beat, instrumental parts, voice samples, sounds of nature, the city and the barely perceptible crackle of a vinyl record – this is the modern “lo-fi”. It has nothing to do with rock music. Her predecessors – “boom bap“,”jazz hop“And the periphery of the hip-hop culture of the 1980s and 1990s. This sound took on a second wind towards the end of the 2000s, when video hosting and streaming platforms just gaining an audience.

However, it took it another decade to get louder.

When live broadcasts appeared on YouTube and musicians began not only to upload individual tracks, but also to develop their channels using thematic streams, the process went faster. Recommender system platforms more and more often pushed lo-fi mixes to the top, and their authors tried to make their work memorable and recognizable. Headings, descriptions, tags, and background were used. The latter, it would seem, was done in a couple of minutes in haste – they took a desktop wallpaper, a screenshot or a gif with the participation of famous pop culture characters – for example, the Simpsons. During a multi-hour broadcast, such a screensaver could be repeated hundreds and thousands of times, but this did not bother the listeners – the mix was opened in a separate tab and used as backgroundgoing about your business. The main thing that was required from the visual component was to accurately convey the mood and make the stream more noticeable in the SERP.

This is how the music lo-fi “atmosphere of a coffee shop on the outskirts of the city”, “warm-tube-soft-lo-fi-beat”, “lo-fi for concentration” and many of its variations appeared. Graphics with city locations and short GIF fragments from anime with characters who were just sitting at the table were put on the substrate – doing their studies, writing something down in a notebook, thinking or working with concentration.

At the peak of the popularity of such broadcasts, the ChilledCow channel presented a stream titled “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax / study to“With a repeating animation for eighty seconds. The listeners could see how the girl sits with headphones in front of an open laptop, at her workplace is a large table lamp, stationery, a flower in a small pot, a book and a couple of notebooks. Above the table there is a shelf with books, under it is a column, on the right side of the girl is a cabinet with a calendar and other literature. In the background is a view from the window of the old city, resembling center of Lyon, and a tabby cat on the windowsill. The girl was nicknamed “study girl”. She quickly became a symbol of lo-fi music and a true YouTube legend. Her image outplayed hundreds of other channels and celebrities, and ChilledCow has become one of the leaders in the niche and has gained over 7.5 million subscribers.

Photo: Carlos. Source: Unsplash.com
Photo: Carlos. Source: Unsplash.com

Lo-fi turned into a powerful musical direction and became a cultural phenomenon of the late 2010s, but not all musicians managed to make money on their creativity and streams.

Let’s go without it

A huge audience and millions of views on YouTube do not guarantee the authors of compositions any income – most of them simply do not pay compensation for including works in the mix. But the musicians don’t mind – there is an atmosphere of friendship in the lo-fi environment: they don’t complain about the channels, and if they do get warnings, then exclusively from companies that own the rights to the video sequence, from which they often make GIFs for decorating broadcasts.

Many of those who support broadcasts are not chasing publicity. Take at least a channel ChilledCow – its owner’s name is Dmitry, some time ago he lived in Paris, and that’s all. There is no other information about him yet and most likely will not appear.

Channels don’t make money from advertising either. In a lo-fi environment, it is not customary to interrupt the broadcast with promo-inserts, but on pre-roll not earn substantial funds.

And payments for a user stream from the site are on average a tenth of a cent, which allows you to count only on a thousand dollars for those whose broadcasts break through the bar of a million streams. Something like this math lead experts and music journalists when discussing lo-fi channels like College Music

Those who could

Purposefulness and business acumen allow the owners of some lo-fi channels to “raise” decent money. This path develops Chillhop music Is a channel that can be safely called a full-fledged business project and something like a label in this niche.

His team converts YouTube audiences into listeners for collections and mixes, but on a different platform – Spotify. how notices director of the project, there its authors managed to gain more than a billion streams, which can speak of multi-million dollar payments.

Photo: Lê Tân. Source: Unsplash.com
Photo: Lê Tân. Source: Unsplash.com

However, there is a suspicion that only a part of these funds reaches the musicians – for example, the lo-fi label Strange Fruits shares with them only a third of the income, although in this niche it is customary to distribute earnings in equal shares. Moreover, the songs are usually preferred to be released one at a time and on different labels – in this way the authors bypass long-term contracts for several albums with strict obligations and, probably, modest royalties.

Where to go

Chillhop owners are well aware that it is not worth exploiting such a primitive business model for a long time. They recognize that their dependence on streaming platform royalties makes their project vulnerable and are considering diversification. One of the team’s ideas is to launch their own establishment and other thematic media that could interest the audience of the channel and listeners of lo-fi music in general.

Authors need to do something too. While they do not stand out in the general mass of those who fall into this or that mix. And the lo-fi broadcasts themselves have become too similar to each other. What this situation will lead to, time will tell, but for now, let’s focus on the positive side of what is happening: we have a huge choice of what you can listen to depending on your mood, circumstances, the need for concentration or good rest.


What else to read and listen to:



0 Comments

Leave a Reply