A new generation of change-makers are taking control of the music biz
The music industry has a gender problem, the division of streaming revenues is increasingly contentious, and there are a number of artists who are now choosing to work independently. Here, AIM chairman Ed St John, breaks down the biggest trends driving and shaping the music industry, and what this means for the future.
The Australian Institute of Music (AIM) last week published a report which mapped emerging trends in this highly dynamic market, and helped define the skills and knowledge that will come to the fore as the future unfolds.
We’ve identified seven mega-trends that will shape the future of music in the next five years. These are trends that anyone hoping to work in music, in any capacity, will need to understand.
The global music business is evolving, rapidly.
New technologies and trends are emerging at dazzling speed, forcing all participants to re-assess the way they do business. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new set of variables, dampening progress on some fronts whilst accelerating the rate of change in others.
A new generation of change-makers are taking control of the industry as some of our most legendary titans inevitably recede. We are living in interesting times.
Mega Trends in Music: 2021
Inclusion & Diversity
The music industry has a gender problem. The ‘glass ceiling’ that limits opportunities for promotion or career advancement for women and minorities is still very much in operation. Women have been disrespected and paid less for a very long time. There have also been many well-documented examples of misogyny, harassment and sexual assault. The issue is now a major priority for many companies. The industry still has a long way to go to achieve equity for all participants – but imagine the rewards if genuine diversity can be achieved.
Democratisation & the rise of the indie artist
The rapid growth of streaming services has been great news – it’s now possible for any artist, from anywhere, to make their music available to a potential global audience. Home recording is now cheap and easy. It’s no longer strictly necessary to find a label that’s willing to invest in your career and add you to their roster. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of artists are now choosing to work independently.
The equitable distribution of revenues from streaming services is now emerging as a contentious issue. Music publishers believe they are receiving too little compared to record labels. Virtually everyone believes the streaming platforms are making too much. And predictably, the people who actually create music – the writers and musicians – continue to receive a raw deal. Far too many artists receive mere pennies for their efforts, whilst the multi-national content companies reap ever-larger profits.
The games industry
The video game industry is a juggernaut, with revenues four times the size of the global music industry last year. The year of lockdown has only accelerated the growth of this entertainment category. The music business has been slow to embrace the revenue opportunities in gaming, but the race is now on to capture the value in this massive sector.
For decades, the majority of the popular music consumed by a world audience originated in North America and the UK. Most decisions were made in these countries. Artists from elsewhere had to base themselves in the US or UK to be globally competitive. This is now rapidly changing thanks to streaming and social media platforms – creating new opportunities for global artists.
During the pandemic, the livestream business has boomed, rapidly becoming more sophisticated. Originally conceived as an alternative to a live concert experience, the race is now on to develop platforms that deliver a sensory, multi-dimensional experience. It now appears likely that livestreaming technologies will continue to surge post-pandemic, in the same way that sports TV exists alongside live sport.
The rise of data
One the bright frontiers of the global music industry is data. The industry already runs on metadata – ISRC is the unique identifier embedded in each recorded work – but audience data is a different matter. A decade ago, the music industry barely had any understanding of their audience. Today, we have he ability to understand audience behaviour in granular detail – allowing us to make better creative and commercial decisions.
A new relationship between Artist and Fan: Patreon, NFTs & more
The most sacred relationship in music is the one between an artist and their audience. Unfortunately for artists and fans, there are a lot of other intermediaries trying to get a piece of the action – whether they’re record labels, publishers, concert promoters or broadcasters, streaming services or managers. We’re now seeing the emergence of new platforms that can facilitate a more intimate relationship between creator and fan. Right now there’s a lot of talk about Patreon and NFTs – but what’s next?
Music is constantly evolving – reflecting the zeitgeist and signposting the future. It’s part of the role of all creative arts to push the boundaries, opening our imaginations to new ways to view the world. Music is an expanding universe that now encompasses education, therapy, gaming, and a vast array of technologies.
Here at AIM, we’re responding to these trends by re-inventing the role of tertiary education. We recognise that there are new skills and approaches needed to participate in the music industry of the 21st century. Rapid technological change will demand an agile and flexible approach to learning, innovation and creative ideation.
With the wave of COVID-19 slowly receding in most parts of the world, there has never been a better time to consider an education in music. Whether you use that education to follow your creative passion, or acquire skills that will help drive your professional career, or help unlock new ways of thinking innovatively, we doubt you’ll regret the decision.
Ed St John has been a part of the Australian music industry since he wrote his first article for Rolling Stone in 1976. In the intervening years he has worked for three different record companies, leading two of them (BMG and Warner Music). He was an ARIA board member for 10 years and chaired the ARIA Awards committee. He is now a board member of Music Australia and the Chairman of AIM.