Chris Koney’s column: Music business trends


From 100,000 new songs a day to the TikTokification of music and culture, 2022 was a year of change and new realities for music and the music industry. 2022 was rough, but it had a few key themes.

The new normal of inflation is out of control. There has been massive economic pain inflicted on the global economy that will have a ripple-effect for some time. A recession is imminent, and companies are haemorrhaging good people. There’s a lot of talent back on the streets and a lot of money sitting on the sidelines. This will make for an interesting alchemy when things pick back up.

The music business, though, seems healthy and growing. The major labels are showing massive revenue growth and seem poised to take advantage of new innovations. The live business is healthy as tickets are selling like crazy and artists are getting back in the touring swing. Brand partnerships continue to reach new heights, too, as more artists are open to these types of collaborations. If you look at those key pillars, music is bucking economic trends. From a macro perspective, I expect music to continue to do well because it generally has a recession accelerating business.

Here are some other key trends we saw from the year:

100K songs a day – Spotify announced they are now seeing 100K new songs uploaded each day. I’ve been stressing the importance of ‘curativity’ for years. In a world where there is this much content dropping, the curators are almost more important than the creatives. Consistency is now the primary game in town as everyone fights to stay on top of the social graph.

TikTokification – The same way MTV impacted the radio star, TikTok impacted the pop star. Songs are getting shorter, bridges have all but disappeared, advertising campaigns are incorporating dances, and Gen Z is getting its news on TikTok. Culture is being shifted by this platform, for better or worse.

The end of the genre – Songs are now categorised by vibes and moods. Genre-bending is the status quo, and an artist’s ability to create a movement is more important than their stylistic choices. But with so many new songs and so many new silos, it’s harder than ever to create real stars who break through. What’s worse, the songs are blurring together. Even the biggest projects from the biggest artists tend to come and go.

The year of Bad Bunny and global superstars – Big artists need to be global now – not just big in America, and Bad Bunny is the prime example. Marketing your campaign globally is the whole shabang. Ten years ago, Top 5 superstars generated 15 percent of Warner’s revenue. Now, the majority of money is coming from being a truly global entertainment company, operating in over 70 countries. For the superstars, it’s no longer a hits business, it’s a global business. And for the rest of the industry, similarly, it’s not so much about hits but focusing on fandom and the many ancillary revenue streams that being an artist can provide.

City-to-city marketing – If you’re not going global, you better be going hyper regional. Scenes are back, baby! How you run a marketing campaign in Cleveland is different from how you run one in L.A. or Paris. Smart, targetted marketing campaigns are hitting city-by-city now, not state-by-state or country-by-country.

Livestreaming consolidation – Livestreaming content and commerce are sure-shots in my mind, it’s just a matter of time. A lot of indies tried to stand up brands during the pandemic, but as the dust settled, it’s clear the big companies are taking control and building out the livestreaming industry. It makes perfect sense that platforms like Apple Music (with the Super Bowl), Amazon Prime (with their fashion shows), Spotify (with their videocasts) and Google (…YouTube) are going to lead the charge in music livestreaming. Dreamstage merged with Driift and sold to Deezer. I’d expect more consolidation before summer 2023 and more traction for the livestream shopping phenomenon that is resonating in Asia.

Year of the Big Con – 2022’s business news cycle was littered with stories of controversial business leaders and hucksters. While SBF and Elizabeth Holmes head into the thick of their legal struggles, Anna Delvy and Billy McFarland are roaming free on the streets. Will they turn into industry darlings? Will the media keep gravitating toward con artists? Can they win back the hearts (and pockets) of the people? America does love a comeback.

Web3 is building the future – Web3 is gaining ground in music and will enhance all facets of the business, just as it did during the first two major online evolutions. Merch, fan clubs, ticketing, d2c relationships, pricing, royalty payments, and content creation itself are being affected. I couldn’t be more excited about this space and the enhancements it’s going to bring to the industry. Soon enough Web3 will just be part of our vernacular and we can drop the exhausting jargon and focus on the amazing benefits it’s providing.

Virtual performers, events and merch – There’s so much happening in the virtual space, it’s hard to tell what’s most promising. I’m most excited about brands bridging the gap between the metaverse and the physical world with products and performances. Avatars are on stage at Rolling Loud, NFT companies are making sneakers, and it’s starting to feel the good kind of weird!

Nostalgic brand building – 2022 was big on nostalgia from the When We Were Young Festival being a hit to the revival of brands like Winamp, Napster, and Limewire for the Web3 era. This year, Nostalgia went from a powerful marketing tactic to a great way to launch and build a new brand.

AI is finally having a moment – AI is flooding culture. Lensa’s got some problems, but it’s proving the interest is there. I’m waiting for a robot to have a hit in 2023. It feels inevitable.

Music and The Brain – Music makes the world a better place and strengthens your brain. It’s the universal language. Music is already medicine to microdose your mood and enhance your activity. I recommend Peter Gabriel’s new book, Reverberation. It’s a great baseline for where things are and where things can go.

When I think about what 2022 showed us, it’s the importance of critical thinking. We all need to develop the ability to decipher what’s what and form our own opinions.

  • Can the streaming services handle 700,000 (!) new songs a week? Do they have the bandwidth? Will the artists fight back? Will the fans lose interest?
  • Will TikTok avoid bans and a potential cold war with China, or will it continue to dominate culture?
  • Will Twitter make it happen under Musk? Or are the new, decentralised platforms going to eat into the market share for public discourse?
  • Will something better than Discord materialise (fingers crossed) or are we destined to live in a world of inefficient, always-on messaging?
  • Will holograms be the new ringtones? Who will be the first performer on the moon? And who will figure out how to bring the next 100 million users into Web3?

There are so many questions to answer. I want to see your road maps for 2023 and find ways for us to work together. That’s what’s on top of my agenda for calls this week. I would love to know your thoughts. Drop me a note and let’s get a head start on 2023.

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