Tired of that word yet?
It’s apt though.
2021 (or “2020, Part 2”) was… unprecedented.
The music industry had been changing fast, but the pandemic accelerated all kinds of experimentation in 2021:
Amidst all this experimentation, the independent music sector only grew in strength and market share this year. CD Baby just announced that we’ve paid out more than $1 billion to musicians. “Our mission has always been to work as hard as possible to serve musicians dedicated to doing their own thing, their way. Our success is a reflection of their success,” said CD Baby President Joel Andrew.
Given that there’s no ONE path to success these days, CD Baby has made sure to empower artists in a myriad of ways: digital music revenue, publishing administration, sync licensing, physical manufacturing and distribution, social video monetization, label services, and more. That’s a LOT of the music industry right there. Which also means we have a lot of experts in-house who are shaping the present with an eye to the future. I wanted to ask them what their predictions were for the music business in 2022, particularly as it relates to independent artists.
I think 2022 will be a year where A/V services like TikTok, IG Reels, and YouTube Shorts continue to grow in their economic value to the music business. Music will increasingly be the soundtrack and background, not just the foreground like on services like Spotify. Artists can still focus on the music space, but they need to make themselves available (licensable!) to all the new ways music is consumed. We are moving to an access economy where you want your music to be accessible.
The Metaverse came into nomenclature this year and it really is just about making things accessible across apps, spaces, and the interoperability of things like avatars, digital goods, and music. How do you become accessible? It isn’t really new or hard: Find a great distro partner, work with a Publishing Administrator so your rights are licensable, and let your music be used — not just consumed.
All the visual pushes of Web3 and NFTs likely are still in an extremely early place so I will save those for 2024 predictions. We are likely in the Napster era of NFTs and their future utility likely will not be anything like the Myspace-feeling graphics that drive the NFT conversation now.
As we’ve seen in 2020 and 2021, 2022 will see the importance of “Creators” continue to increase as competition for consumers’ attention intensifies. This is particularly meaningful to independent music and musicians because, as the value and influence of creators grows, so does the value of smaller independent music catalogs.
Let me explain: The currently-accepted narrative is that social video platforms (and creators) provide value to smaller indie artists in the form of exposure. For this reason, artists and administrators must keep license fees low, to non-existent, in order to entice creators to use their music. But, it is often ignored that Creators NEED affordable music to create engaging content. After all, what is a YouTube video without a good intro/outro, or a TikTok video without a piece of music to support the message being conveyed in less than 30 seconds?
The successful creator has a set budget and none of them are going to shell-out thousands for a Justin Beiber song when they could spend $25 on a quality, lesser-known indie track. Furthermore, the number of video platforms is growing, and a licensed track in a video on one platform likely means a monetizable use of that same video on another platform. So make sure your distributor has the rights to license your music, opt-in for ALL video monetization options, and keep an eye on those sync revenues.
More and more international collaborations will happen. Not just as a result of the pandemic, which forced artists to find new ways to stay productive long-distance, but also because genre-boundaries are dissolving for listeners. In terms of creativity, that renders borders porous, and the blending of two “local” sounds can go global. I believe, obviously, that technology will play a huge role in this kind of collaboration, as more and more tools are developed to support artists’ efforts in recording, collaboration, sampling, and sharing.
I can also see a “renaissance” like movement when it comes to live music. So many artists and bands are ready to hit the road again once there’s more certainty around the effects of Omicron. it’s going to be a frenetic year for live music — if we don’t have any more Covid surprises (knock on wood).
In 2022 artists will continue to be confused by NFTs. No doubt there is value to digital merchandise, but the hype has caused many artists to make plans around lottery-winner narratives, instead of focusing on how they can engage with their fans in new ways. Meanwhile, what are you doing about your full-rights monetization? What are you doing about your physical merch, publishing, monetization at social platforms? Do you have back-catalog that you haven’t released yet? Your fans want that too and you need to maximize it.
Virtual events will increase and improve through augmented touring: In 2022, bands will fill out tours with virtual events, and I can’t wait! It was hard to book a show for each night of tour even before the pandemic, and there were always a few “nights off.” We pivoted to doing virtual events over the last couple of years and a lot of us found it lacking. But augmenting an in-person tour with a few nights of virtual events helps artists get to perform more and hopefully make more money, helps fans that can’t participate (or won’t yet) still engage, and bands will see that virtual events are an additional way to connect with fans as opposed to a forced alternative.
Musicians and fans will be excited for this and great things will come from it. Have a night off? Tell everyone at your live shows that you’re hosting an intimate, virtual, follow-up event for only your biggest fans. Have them sign up with an email address at your merch table or send them to your Show.co page — and then try something new at a practice space, basement, or hotel room…lots of opportunity here.
For 2022 I’m thinking of alternate sources of revenue for artists. Humanity is still struggling to overcome all the restrictions the pandemic has brought to the music ecosystem, as changing policies make it complicated for people to travel and attend live shows.
Artists are living in an unstable landscape and have become increasingly aware of the importance of partnering with service providers that help them find all possible sources of revenue from their catalog. Music distributors, Publishing admins, PROs, sync agencies, labels and audiovisual developers are some of the key partners that artists need. Companies that represent fair deals in all those areas will continue to thrive.
I’m also excited about new possibilities of algorithms helping new artist’s break through. Will there be an alternative to TikTok’s power to discover new music? Will we see another tool to take your message out there and how long will it take before it becomes global?
Why do you subscribe to so many video streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, etc…? It’s because each of them offers exclusive content that you would like to watch. There is a big challenge to music streaming services in general, as all of them provide the same content. If you are an ordinary music listener, you probably don’t care about features, user interface, suggestions,…You just want to listen to music and pay less for it.
This challenge to DSP’s is a big opportunity for artists and labels. As we can see, services like TikTok are working directly with artists to promote their services with exclusive content. Also, artists like Garth Brooks released his catalog exclusively to Amazon Music. Spotify is investing in podcasts with famous artists.
There are too many music services in the market, and to survive they will need to differentiate themselves from others. But this is excellent news for independent artists! In the end, these streaming platforms offer something that only artists can provide — music. Artists must open their eyes to all these services to identify opportunities and take advantage of it for themselves.
As more streaming platforms allow artists to pitch and promote their music on-platform, consistent releasing will continue to be important for any artist trying to maintain and grow their fanbase. I believe this to be a positive shift that puts musicians’ efforts in the right place.
Being comfortable on camera will continue to be an important part of your music career. Meaning, the future of an artist’s music career will be a combination of IRL events/concerts and online efforts.
We’ll hear the term NFT a million time before we even get to February of 2022, but it’s still unclear if this will develop into something useful for the average indie artist or their average listeners in the coming year.
My predictions versus my desires for the future of music are quite different.
My desire is that we go back into a world of intentional live performances (albeit safely and with public health taken into consideration), where fans are real people we see in person and not numbers on a screen, where artists make meaningful physical media for consumption and collection, where you release more cohesive albums over releasing a consistent dribble of non-related singles.
My predictions, unfortunately, are that people will be even more interested in participating in all areas of their creative life and community via a screen — or they’ll at least feel they’re required to participate in that increasingly digital world. AI will continue to take a heavy toll on craftsmanship, and artists will concern themselves with things like NFTs as cash grabs.
There’s a lot of “one fine day” and “we’ll see” attitudes about NFTs and Web3, which I understand. It’s still the Wild West and no one knows who’ll end up holding the deed to Deadwood. But I do think for curious and motivated artists in 2022, there could be a big benefit to getting in the mix and messing around in that realm today. Uncertainty be damned (because isn’t failure supposed to be a great teacher?)
Anyway, in 2022, tech-savvy labels and artists will attempt to take greater ownership of their audiences — or rather, SHARE greater ownership — via DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations). Whether entry into these communities is driven by speculative interest or altruistic enthusiasm will depend on the artist, culture, and deployment. But it’s gonna be fun (and probably confusing) to watch.
The “tech” around NFTs, crypto wallets, and so forth may not be any simpler for the average music fan to adopt in 2022 (at least not without an intermediary, which sorta ruins the point), but a mix of curiosity and FOMO should bring more artists, labels, and audiences into the Web3 environment, as each tries to reduce their platform dependence.
Of course in 2022 we’ll hear mostly about the sensational Web3 successes covered in the news, but many smaller online communities will emerge around niche genres and obscure artists. Most will fail. Some will light the way. Just like every other endeavor in life.
In a global marketplace that determines value based on volume, DIY artists often get drowned out. I can wrap my head around DAOs as a kind of digital “local.” And that feels healthy for independent musicians who already view themselves as cottage industries — but who perhaps want to explore what happens when you turn a cottage industry into a co-op.
The other thing I’m thinking of, and I don’t really have an eloquent way to say it, so this might sound clunky: but I predict a further splintering of HOW or WHY music is created — not based on genre or production techniques, but on artistic temperament.
On the one side, you’ll have an awesome amount of music driven by the constraints and tastes of the most massive medium (which has always been the case): even shorter tracks with maximum hooks for TikTok, lots more features and collabs for Spotify discoverability, more “sync”-able songs for streaming TV, etc.
On the other side, you’ll have, well, the “outsiders” you always have — and I don’t mean that pejoratively. The world will always need… experimental music, hyperpop with bagpipes, noise-rock for birthday parties, any kind of jazz, murder ballads from the 1500s, trap about failed NASA missions, 9-minute singer-songwriter epics about meteorologists…
Basically, more and more of the beautiful people who create stuff not ONLY to be heard and seen, but to be heard and seen by the RIGHT audience. I think we’re in this strange time where the global marketplace intersects with small community management through a host of Web2 &Web3 tools and IRL events — and suddenly it doesn’t feel like a stretch to say, “no matter what kind of music you make, your audience is out there.” In 2022, that will be true-r than ever. Keep being you, and keep making YOUR music!
How will music creation and monetization shift in the coming year? Let me know in the comments below!