Every decade marks a change in the music business, from how we listen to music to the growing type of sounds. Boomboxes, audiotapes, and new wave and pop songs defined the 1980s, while CDs and Apple iTunes played boy and girl band phenomenon and catchy one-hit wonders throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s.
As we approach the year 2021, there is one thing we have learned about the future of music in the digital age nothing is guaranteed. With the Covid-19 epidemic halting live music and concert tours, musicians have been forced to get inventive to contact their audience and release new songs. If anything, the music industry’s slowdown in 2020 may have given us a glimpse of some of the future trends, from social media, live streams, and genre boundaries to the debut of the contemporary record player and the emergence of the indie artist.
Music has never been more pervasive. Yet, like gold dust swirling about us, its revenue sources have never been more scattered, as invisible, or as difficult to grasp. How much information is truly available? What is its location? Who is making money at your expense? And what type of music market will the 2021s be?
It has been the most difficult decade in memory for the ordinary professional musician or music business. With little to show for all of this mesmerizing new technology, most of us are still suffering as hard as we were ten years ago, longing for the simpler, more affluent days of CDs and seriously questioning whether so-called modernity is regressing into a cultural dark age. If you’re in this situation and rely on music for a living, prepare for a paradigm shift. The larger picture that is currently developing throughout Europe, America, and Asia is brighter. After nearly two decades of economic and existential catastrophe, the music industry’s beleaguered Titans are back on their feet and seeing green in all directions.
It occurred previously
It helps to know what has happened previously to comprehend what is occurring today. The music industry, like the music itself, is essentially cyclical and linked to the larger technical, cultural, and economic landscape. The music industry downturn we’ve been experiencing since the early 2000s, as severe as it has been, was not the first, and it’s unlikely to be the last. Radio caused a similarly devastating music crash in the 1920s. This tidal surge of free music on cooler, newer devices coupled with the Great Depression and a broader feeling of civilization collapsing during the interwar years. This perfect storm knocked the once-dominant phonograph business (and artists in general) into irrelevance and poverty for the next twenty years. It wasn’t until the 1940s that a revamped music industry rebounded in a drastically different culture. That’s about where we are right now. And, like in the 1940s, when the world was preoccupied with much more pressing issues, today’s most astute survivors are waking up to a startling realization the music industry isn’t just reviving; it may be greater than ever.
The evidence is mounting a record 50 billion dollars in annual music sales and ticket stubs are now flowing through an economic landscape so transformed by the internet that even today’s billionaires can barely map this multidimensional terra nova, 15 billion dollars of which is tangled up in the invisible jungles of digital commerce. We’re still below pre-crash levels, even after accounting for inflation, but we’re getting there, with one big difference: music is becoming more strategically important to the larger economy. When all of the spin-off trades such as audio equipment, sponsorship, broadcasting, merchandising, music media, and B2B services are included, the surrounding ecosystem is estimated to be worth 130 billion dollars – a level of economic activity compared to the GDPs of fast-developing countries such as Morocco or Kuwait. When smartphones are factored in, music becomes a war that the contemporary world cannot afford to lose.
Where once rock stars reigned supreme
It’s no coincidence that the world’s largest tech corporations are pouring billions of dollars into putting music at the core of their ecosystems. This isn’t philanthropy. They anticipate that money signs will continue to pour from the metaphorical Clouds of the 2021s with growing ferocity. Looks see the elephant in broad daylight if you don’t believe me: The live sector was mostly untouched by the internet and now worth a record-breaking 20 billion dollars globally. With ticket prices averaging a record 94 dollars the number of festivals increasing, sponsorship increasing and online marketing becoming more accurate, it’s no surprise that big venue gigs and monster festivals remain the juiciest end of the modern music business – albeit for the lucky children of the music world. But here’s the catch. There is no sign of it coming to an end. Goldman Sachs is one of the numerous market analysts that predict that the live business will continue to expand gradually to about 38 billion dollars by 2030.
And this is why just ten years ago when piracy raged and record firms went bankrupt, it seemed for a brief moment that soaring ticket prices for grandpa rock stars’ farewell tours were the end-game bubble before total collapse. Despite this, new festivals continued to develop. Millennial pop and EDM (Electronic dance music) continued to fill stadiums formerly dominated by rock musicians. And as sponsors continued to pay, performances and festivals morphed into all-encompassing lifestyle events, which youngsters like. And now, the recorded music sector’s resurgence has removed the final clouds of doom, tipping all predictions solidly into the positive. Record labels, which were once on the verge of extinction, are now worth more than 20 billion dollars and growing at a pace of 10 percent each year. With inflation, that is still much less than the 26 billion dollars peak reached in 1999. However, it is 5 billion dollars more than the 2015 low. Major and indie record companies have survived the digital revolution, although they are still recuperating but have officially exited the recession.
Angels in business
Subscription streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tencent, Pandora, and Deezer are responsible for today’s renewed feeling of synergy, profitability, and sustainability. A staggering 255 million individuals currently pay for subscription-based streaming music. Spotify is far ahead of the competition, with 108 million paid members and another 120 million individuals utilizing the system monthly in some ad-funded form. When you put these mouth-watering statistics next to the concert giant Live Nation, which sells 60 million, tickets each year, it’s easy to see why, for the first time in a generation, business angels are fluttering down from their towers. Labels spent $5.8 billion on artist royalties and A&R last year, a level of spending not seen since the CD boom. No profession is happier than concert producers that labels are quietly resuming their historical responsibilities as the talent pumps for the whole musical ecosystem. Silicon Valley’s billionaire tycoons are ecstatic as well. Even they’ve realized that small old record companies are still the finest suppliers of successful songs, new stars, interesting videos, and overall street cred. Artists and repertoire are the heartbeats of the whole music ecosystem.
The demographics of today’s streaming community are very encouraging. Spotify, previously believed to be too European for America, is now reaching over half of the country’s 16–24-year-olds, demonstrating that a $10 monthly membership is becoming the standard for the smartphone generation, regardless of country or family culture. Legitimate streaming services are even gaining traction in poorer countries where bootlegging was once the norm. South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, and India are among today’s musical El Dorados, where big record labels are investing in local A&R teams and copyright lobbyists to capitalize on 20 to 25 percent growth. All of this is good news for both copyright and diversity. As the internationally embedded majors are already observing, the more the adoption of streaming across all continents, the greater the need for local repertoire. Furthermore, areas of the world are already directly listening to one another, as seen by the present success of Korean pop across East Asia or the appeal of Latino electro in Arabic-speaking North Africa.
Is it the end of traditional formats?
Music has never been more multifaceted. If record companies have survived, it is due to their ability to adapt, diversify, embrace the young culture, and tap into as many income streams as possible. It’s a mathematical requirement. Currently, streaming accounts for 40 percent of recorded music income. The remaining 60 percent is dispersed among an unprecedentedly complicated jumble of generations, locations, and forms. Take, for example, MP3 shops, which are in decline, as seen by Apple’s statement in June that it will phase out its once-dominant iTunes service. However, be wary of eye-catching headlines proclaiming the demise of obsolete formats regularly. The music industry still earns a healthy 2 billion dollars from all downloading outlets combined. CDs, vinyl, and cassettes continue to produce around 5 billion dollars in revenue. The CD’s 20-year decrease is more akin to the setting sun when compared to the life expectancy of baby boomers.
Previously we had discussed the history of music that how when and why the industry has already faced that kind of change so now let’s discuss Music trends that will reshape Music Industry in 2021.
The Rise of the Independent Artist
Independent musicians are discovering creative methods to reach greater audiences through multiple platforms as a smart approach to ride the social media wave. In this day and age, all it takes is one hit song, distinctive dance routine, or other popular sweeps over trending subjects to pique people’s curiosity. Interested indie musicians can continue to share their music through a YouTube channel, TikTok entertainment, and other innovative ways to increase their following. It’s a two-pronged strategy: persuading people to watch and compelling them to remain.
In some respects, the highly competitive nature of the music industry makes it more difficult for indie performers. In others, though, they have the benefit of providing people with what they want from their listening experiences today: tailored playlists, fresh, intriguing sounds, and underground discovery of musicians who are not yet well-known. In some respects, the highly competitive nature of the music industry makes it more difficult for indie performers. In others, though, they have the benefit of providing people with what they want from their listening experiences today: tailored playlists, fresh, intriguing sounds, and underground discovery of musicians who are not yet well-known.
Music Documentaries and Visual Albums
As concerts and live music continue to be curtailed or canceled, music business trends that capture an intimate look at the music-making experience with background material and personal insight from the artist will remain a popular outlet through 2021.
Beyonce‘s Lemonade album, released in 2016, was one of the most recent and famous albums to be accompanied with a visual feature that allowed fans to witness the words being played out on screen. It opens you to a new channel of storytelling to engage with followers while also capturing consumers who are already using major music streaming services.
Musicians are increasingly capturing behind-the-scenes views at their albums to provide additional context for their inspiration, method, and production. Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, and Shawn Mendes are just a handful of the numerous celebrities who have published projects like this on Netflix, YouTube, and other video streaming platforms.
Music Recommendations Using Algorithms
In today’s society, we may get digital music on-demand via any of our technological devices. Data is collected for every music app, audio streaming service, and internet search we do, and we are given new alternatives based on our listening history. You may direct Amazon Alexa, which is already incorporated into 100 million devices (as of 2019), to play you a song, album, or playlist based on your mood, time of day, or other artists you’ve listened to in the past.
The same mathematical method is used by major audio streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora. It’s a method of constantly delivering new material to you since these sources “predict” what you’ll be interested in. The objective is to increase the amount of time you spend streaming music, the number of artists you listen to, and your reliance on these platforms to help you find what you’re searching for in the future.
Musicians’ Alternative Revenue Streams
With live performances on the decline and streaming subscription services on the rise, paying for real records has become a less common way for performers and record companies to make income. To fully achieve the sort of material and items that fans desire, it takes innovative thinking outside the box and listening to their input.
Taylor Swift, for example, shifted gears in 2020 and released a produced-in-the-pandemic album that deviated from her normal pop-country style. She’s already released a special CD with additional tracks, brand goods to complement the album’s themes, and, most recently, an intimate performance video on Disney+ that revisited the album’s creation.
It demonstrates that music business trends in 2021 must be just as flexible and in sync with their audience, as consumers have grown to demand. With the number of materials people consume daily, there is a difference between being a flash in the pan for someone who is momentarily trending on Twitter and parlaying rising popularity into something long-lasting.
Breakthrough Artists in Film and Television Soundtracks
It’s purposeful if you’ve ever been watching a Netflix original movie or show and thought, “Who plays that song?” There is a dedicated staff in charge of casting and creating playlists of major and independent musicians who fit well with the atmosphere of these events and have a tone that will resonate with people.
Music that catches the attention or evokes a certain emotion may revive old songs and reintroduce them to the masses, or it can thrust emerging musicians to the forefront as a career-defining moment. For example, Lizzo’s hit “Truth Hurts” single was two years old until it found fresh life on the Hot 100 list after being included in the Netflix film Someone Great before becoming a regular rotation for Spotify audiences and radio stations.
Genre crossover in music
Music collaborations have always been places where performers have been able to blur the lines between genres, especially with country and pop. However, the door is now broader than ever for performers to collaborate with other musicians or gradually venture into a genre for which they are not well-known. The music business has followed a similar pattern throughout the years. People want to be familiar with the music or performers they already like, but they also want to be surprised by what’s to come.
Lil Nas X demonstrated how readily listeners might adjust to music genre crossovers with his 2019 hit “Old Town Road,” which reached Billboard’s Hot Country chart despite being marketed as a hip hop/country tune. From there, the recording artist was able to provide various remixes and gain quick internet support from fans. This is only one example of the variety of music that people seek and how they listen to it. Everyone is searching for new ways to be amused and astonished.
Playlists without a specific genre
Because of the fluidity of music genre crossovers and consumers constantly on the lookout for the next big thing, music streaming services such as Spotify have created playlists that are less focused on genre and more sensitive to lifestyle and cultural tastes and trends.
Spotify‘s Pollen idea is a method to promote music from a diverse range of major and underground artists who have a common aesthetic. This idea focuses on curating for the current mood. Setting the mood is more important than picking a certain genre, whether it’s gathering noises that inspire creativity, calming music that allows you to rest, or party playlists that get you fired up.
Most individuals who love diverse genres of music but are drawn to performers with similar styles, lyrics, and/or sound are interested in genre-less playlists. It also paves the way for undiscovered, independent musicians and encourages variety in the music market’s lesser-known genres and groups.
Back to Live Music
Fans will be yearning to see their favourite performers live after the end of live music events in 2020, enveloped by the ambience that only an in-person concert experience can give. It remains to be seen how live music events will adapt to reintroduce this option, but with various avenues accessible now, the music business does not have to settle with one certain way to tour. Drive-in concert events, small at-home live streaming, and other concert modifications allow musicians to ease back into the live music scene.
There will be an increase in festival gatherings, just as there will be an increase in music genre crossover and the mood-setting aesthetic that people want. Various artists will collaborate to create a multifaceted experience that will introduce audiences to music in the same manner as genre-free playlists and algorithms strive to do with technological advancements.
Trends in the music industry are driven by fans. With more individuals having a direct platform to communicate their ideas, preferences, and dislikes with artists and executives at big record companies, data collection becomes easier, allowing wise decisions to be made that benefits everybody. As with every previous music trend, it is necessary to stay ahead of the pack in terms of what is hot at the time and then learn how to capitalize on it in the long run.
Because of the epidemic, artists were compelled to take sanctuary in their beds, equipped with home studio equipment and access to the internet. The internet brings people closer together; the outcome of this borderless feeling? Of course cross border music cooperation. According to a Figure analytics analysis, music cooperation has more than doubled in the previous decade, with the majority of the growth occurring in the last three years, as shown in the chart below.
According to Chart Metrics, collaboration, while not the primary goal, promotes “prolonged success.” After analyzing original songs and the “collaborated version,” the original peaked at half the playlist reach compared to the collaborated version.
Rapper K-Waltz coined the term “bilingual music,” which refers to artists rapping/singing in different languages, and predicts that more of this will occur in the coming years. Bilingual music is not only creative, but it is also a strategic move; as music becomes more competitive, language is being used to attract different types of audiences.
Blockchain, NFTs and the Crypto Craze
There is widespread dissatisfaction with how much musicians get paid per stream on services such as Spotify, prompting a government review sponsored by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS). The DCMS identified several critical problems, including:
“a huge power disparity between big industry stakeholders and the people who make music.” This cannot continue and must be changed.” –DCMS.
Let’s look at streaming payments to get a feel of this disparity.
Spotify pays artists roughly $0.00437 for each stream the song obtains, however, this $0.00437 must be shared across the music team (producers and composers), which may be three (or more) individuals. In the end, artists will earn roughly $0.00145667 per stream, which is why blockchain distribution systems are appealing to many musicians, even if comprehension of the underlying technology is lacking.
Here are a few reasons why an artist should distribute their music via a blockchain-powered platform rather than traditional streaming services:
Blockchain distribution for musicians is a no-brainer for artists, but it appears that demand isn’t there yet; without a clear income stream, blockchain platforms like Bluebox, Birdsong, Voice, and eMusic find it difficult to expand, adapt, and optimise their products over time. Furthermore, as long as convenient, value-for-money systems like Spotify or Apple Music exist, customers will always prefer them since they gain more benefit from them until music blockchain providers can develop a competitive business model.
Fintech in Music
Labels usually provide advances to musicians, allowing them to create music without constraints. Without labels, musicians will have to find other methods to fund their music, particularly when it comes to music promotion, which can be costly. Unsurprisingly, the finance sector has packaged a financial product that allows investors to purchase royalty-backed debt securities, the benefit of which is that returns are uncorrelated with the market.
Beatbred is undoubtedly a pioneer in this sector, providing potential musicians with over 10,000 streams with advancements, the amount of which is determined by the artist’s perceived success and past performance. Another music fintech business, Opulous, allows investors to diversify their portfolios by investing in loans for musicians, with royalties serving as security.
Album Purchasing Vs. live Streaming
Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal aren’t new ideas – streaming services have been around for a long, but their position in artists’ revenue is shifting.
Initially, it appeared to be merely a new opportunity for musicians to diversify their revenue and divert listeners away from piracy.
Streaming is a high-risk approach to establishing a career, but it is also an excellent way to raise awareness. Spotify playlists continue to be an excellent way to be found. Even today, many famous singers post complete albums on YouTube. While streaming royalties and ad income may appear little on their own, it would be inaccurate to believe that people have ceased purchasing records.
The important thing to remember is that the music industry has evolved, yet consumers continue to buy music.
Albums continue to sell CDs, vinyl, and digital. Listeners now want to feel as though they own a piece of the musician’s brand. It’ll be a lot more intimate, making people feel like they’re helping the artist’s career.
Streaming will serve as the entry point into this. You should research how people consume music to determine what your fans want from you next and develop partnerships with retailers where they can purchase your CDs, merchandise, and other experiences. Streaming may make you a lot of money, but its most valuable asset is its capacity to boost brand recognition.
Traditional sampling and loops will be as visible as ever, but there is a new, hybrid approach between virtual instruments and static samples – UJAM’s Beatmaker 2.0 series, which will allow producers to edit MIDI loops, create their loops, and drag them directly into sessions, all while using factory samples that have already been perfectly processed.
Traditional samples lack such degrees of versatility, as well as the fact that pre-recorded loops can only be altered a limited number of times.
The ‘MIDI Drag and Place’ function, in particular, will be quite handy, allowing you to grab loops right from the Beatmaker and drop them into your session. Then you can modify them as you see fit.
No other technology will provide you with the same level of freedom in tearing up loops, altering them, and changing them on the go, bridging the gap between static loops and customised for your rhythms.
With performance venues and big festivals now closed, there has been an increase in live streaming numbers. DJ sets, production sessions, and home concerts all help.
People are searching for greater personal interactions during the epidemic, even if it means that the performance is coming from behind a computer screen.
Twitch used to dominate the live streaming business, but Facebook and Instagram have expanded their tools for streamers, and Tidal now offers a virtual concert system.
One advantage of live streaming over concert tours is that they are less likely to be cancelled at the last minute. There are no possible difficulties with hotels, venues, trailer rentals, or anything else on the lengthy list of logistics required. Even more crucial is the fact that impromptu performances are now easier to stage than ever before.
For quite some time, there has been a rising trend of musicians developing their careers entirely on their own. Everyone nowadays has the option of controlling their dissemination via social media and internet platforms. Big tech platforms continue to give musicians greater power and authority.
Record companies would act as distributors; however, this part of their business is rapidly dwindling in value. This is mostly determined by a few key factors:
- Do they have enough devoted fans to assist musicians in their development?
- Will the label have resources to support the artist’s career, such as studio access and cash to pay mixing and mastering engineers?
In the case of 2, many producers will be unaffected because they do everything on a laptop.
Because they cannot generate money from live performances, medium-sized record firms will have to dramatically alter their business model in the next years. Today’s musicians have greater clout to approach labels while yet maintaining a viable solo career.
In recent years, there has been a huge tendency for music artists to remain independent and earn their living through digital sales, merchandising, streaming, and other means.
The epidemic has given artists even greater influence over the industry’s titans. While it is currently an extremely challenging moment for musicians, if this trend continues, their power to manage their careers will expand.
During the CD era, there was a strong drive for audio engineers to make songs as loud as possible, even if it meant sacrificing dynamics. There was an extreme limitation imposed, killing transients to artificially increase the master’s loudness. There was some merit to this notion at the time — CDs could only encode at 16 bits (although 24 is the standard now).
This indicates that the memory isn’t deep enough and that it adds digital noise when the audio is too quiet. This ‘loudness war’ occurred in part to reduce the influence of quantization noise and preserve the original audio as best as possible. This tendency has outlasted the peak of CD sales, and many producers are hesitant to reduce compression and limiting since the recordings would sound quieter than those of other artists.
However, manufacturers are becoming increasingly uninterested in volume. It’s taken some time, but musicians are now coming up with the idea that their music sounds cleaner when they don’t use heavy limiting, which destroys transients and dynamic range.
It’s not only a question of quality. Large streaming services help by automatically matching the volume of music individuals are listening to. If you create a loud song and another producer creates a somewhat loud song, outlets like Spotify and YouTube would most likely play them both at the same level, negating the benefits of heavy restricting.
Streaming sites match volumes to make the user experience as pleasant and smooth as feasible. This has the added benefit of actively encouraging producers to make comparatively better judgments.
Low Fidelity Music
Before the epidemic, TikTok, and Generation Z all came at the same time, these kinds of music or so-called “background for studying” were not visible or participating in any music debate.
Indeed, during quarantine in 2020, when TikTok was one of the most popular platforms, there was a huge surge in interest in Lo-Fi and Chill music (citation). When watching videos on the site, it is clear that a lot of instructional or aesthetic content is filmed alongside Lo-Fi & Chill Music in the background, which raises awareness of such genres and encourages listeners to explore them. Because Generation Z is the primary audience for TikTok, it has also become the primary audience for Lofi & Chill music.
Since this debate, there is little question that Lofi & Chill Music will continue to flourish in 2021. For example, Amuse, an independent music company, engaged specialists to create a Lofi section to study and expand the genres, hoping it will continue to flourish. When can be seen above, as Lofi music begins to thrive, industry professionals may agree that music does not have to be dynamic or mood-boosting — it can also be something that does not capture a listener’s attention but rather helps them focus on a daily agenda.
Musicians and producers are constantly refining their sounds, thanks in part to the growing number of plugins available in popular DAWs.
Most DAWs also have competent granular effect modules, which was unheard of until recently, and producers seldom take the effort to master granular processing since few comprehend or know how to apply it.
There is a rising trend toward providing extraordinarily complicated processes in easy-to-use interfaces and providing common usage with minimal effort. This is quite prevalent in atmospheric effects. The FLUXX audio plugin has excellent presets for generating dreamy effects, such as F=luxx2 and Dark Matter.
Analogue modelled plugins will also become more popular as the sound comes closer to that of genuine hardware instruments. This trend is expected to continue as producers continue to add more complex sound to their tracks because plugins outperform physical consoles in terms of ease and price point.
Finally, some thoughts
It’s an exciting time for indie musicians, and it’s just going to get better. As the music ecosystem evolves and shapes around this new mould, musicians will have a clearer route to building their careers and will have all the tools at their disposal. I see a society in which bedroom musicians are the norm and musicians only contact with labels when they require financial assistance. I believe labels will survive if they provide an environment that allows indie bands to thrive. Bigger industry participants must give the tools, expertise, and network to future musicians to establish a healthy, fair future for the music business as a whole.
In the sector, newer and more advanced technologies emerge regularly. They are set to offer music producers and musicians far more influence than they previously had.
Many of the trends discussed in this article are becoming increasingly common. People are gradually abandoning old habits and becoming more receptive to attempting something new, whether it be in production techniques, developing new audio plugins, marketing music, or other areas.
Every year, musicians have more tools at their disposal and a greater number of possibilities to get their music heard by those who could fall in love with it.
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