We Predicted The Ways Music Will Change In The Next Decade
The past decade has transformed the music industry - and the next one will do the same again.
Squinting back at 2010, the entertainment landscape seems almost unrecognisable.
People are reading news on large sheets of chip wrapping, movies are kept on discs, MP3s are worth actual money, people shrug when you say the word ‘podcast’, emojis are still being called emoticons. Technology in all areas of our lives moved at a more rapid clip this decade than any preceding it. So, it only stands to reason that this pace will be accelerated in the roaring twenties.
Looking at where things seem to be heading, we’ve made what will go down as some scarily accurate predictions about what the next decade has in store for all us. Act surprised!
Apple And Spotify Will Begin To Sign Artists
Netflix discovered early in the visual streaming wars that merely having distribution rights wasn’t enough. They needed to become a production house, building up their own catalogue of content.
They did a sweep of the stand-up comedy scene, offering specials to anyone that was standing within a hundred metre vicinity of the Comedy Cellar, and completely cornered the market. They gave lauded networks like HBO a run for their money with original television content, and signed up Adam Sandler (who still does huge box office numbers) to a five-film deal on the proviso that he yells the phrase “taaake it eaassyy” in every movie.
Apple have followed the lead of Jay-Z’s Tidal service and started to do exclusivity deals with artists; they paid Chance The Rapper half a million dollars for a two-week window in which the album could only be streamed on Apple Music. Tidal had Beyonce’s Lemonade for three years before she added it to Spotify and Apple earlier this year.
The logical next step is, rather than paying the big bucks for exclusivity, to instead sign and nurture such artists, using their huge platforms to launch them. It makes sense for Spotify and Apple to own the rights to the masters and, crucially, keep them off competing services. The artists will jump at this opportunity, realising the might that these streaming companies possess.
Major Labels Will Launch Their Own Streaming Hubs
The major labels sold out their artists and negotiated paltry royalty rates with the streaming services like Spotify, which they also owned a piece of.
But soon the major labels will realise that they have the actual power — in the form of close to a century of recorded music — which could, in theory, all be streamed from their own streaming service, effectively taking back the large slice of the streaming pie that Apple, Spotify et al. stole.
If Universal was to remove their catalogue from Spotify tomorrow, it would decimate that company’s fortune.
In this way, labels will become like television networks: you’ll need to subscribe to the big three (Warner, Sony, Universal) and who an artist is signed with will become more and more important to the consumers, as they decide whether a label’s catalogue is worth the subscription cost.
If Universal was to remove their catalogue (over 50 percent of the market) from Spotify tomorrow, it would decimate that company’s fortune. Additionally, someone will invent an app that houses and quickly searches all these streaming services, all in one place.
There Will Be A Flood Of Music Biopics
Now, if you had asked me in the ‘90s whether I thought that the actor who played Spike on Press Gang would go on to direct two films in quick succession that successfully revive the music of Queen and Elton John for the kids of the late ‘00s, I would have said, “Of course that’ll happen.”
I guess I’m a lot more perceptive than most label and studio heads, because the unlikely success of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman means that a flood of similar music biopics are already in development, and you better believe we are about to see glossy films made of everybody who’s ever picked up a guitar.
These films are a no-brainer for all involved: the record labels get to inject life into recordings they paid for half a century ago (both steady and sudden sales of catalogue music are the only reasons that the major record labels turn a profit) and the film studios get a shiny new fad on par with all those superhero movies grown adults keep telling me I absolutely have to see.
Of course, as with everything, we will hit critical mass way too soon, hopeful studios will be pumping $100 million into a glossy film about The Proclaimers, and the bottom will fall out of it.
Vinyl Production Will Be Quicker And Cheaper
A few months ago, Wired featured a nifty gadget that allows you to make your own 10 inch vinyl records at home, a format fondly remembered by those who adopt phrases such as ‘nifty gadget’.
The Phonocut isn’t cheap — at USD $1,100, you need to be fully into this idea — but it is a cinch to use, being much like hitting record on a cassette player, and it’s a vital step towards the widespread affordability of home vinyl pressing plants.
The price of technology always dips sharply once it becomes mainstream — in 1982, CD players cost USD $900, and now you have to pay the council to remove them from your house. The technology is there, the sales of vinyl have been steadily increasing since MP3 became king and people realised they missed album artwork and were hardwired to collect tangible things, and the price of pressing up small quantities of vinyl will no longer be prohibitive for local bands.
Plus, once you can make your own vinyl compilations, the humble old mixtape/CD-R mix will be back to a physical format where it belongs, and you’ll finally be able to show Debbie how much you love her by carefully selecting the songs that best express your exact feelings.
A New System Of Artist Payment Will Become Dominant
As it stands, the way artists’ streaming royalties are paid out only benefits the very top tier that enjoys hundreds of millions of listens a month. Basically, all the subscriber fees are placed in one large pool, stirred with a giant bronze spoon, and divided based on how many streams each artist got in the previous payment period.
While this makes some form of intrinsic sense, it also means that you, as the listener, are paying money each month to artists that you would rather rupture your own eardrum than listen to. Do you have Spotify? You are funding Justin Bieber’s new Ferrari, whether you choose to or not. You are giving money to Chris Brown. Many industry experts have floated the idea of a user-centric model, which means that your subscription costs are divided between those artists you actually stream, rather than pooled and paid out accordingly.
As it’s December, I can only assume this month you will stream ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ 40 times, and ‘Kokomo’ 10 times. For the sake of divisibility, let’s assume the artists get $10 of your subscription money (they most certainly don’t). This means that Mariah would get $8, and The Beach Boys would get $2. What you stream will directly impact how artists are paid, meaning that if you choose to only listen to local indie music, you can feel as if you are directly supporting these musicians, rather than stealing from them — or some murky, uneasy feeling that resides next door to stealing.
This will mean the monetary value of each stream is weighted differently depending on who is listening, which is an argument against this method of payment. However, physical formats were never priced in a standard way. I once bought The Mavis’s ‘Pink Pills’ from K-Mart for $2, and have paid $40 for Stone Roses imports, and I enjoy both equally.
Sync Deals On TV Shows Will Become Vital
We truly live in the golden age of television. And with all these amazing shows beamed into your house for your to watch and complain about at will, comes huge opportunities for musicians to capitalise on the fact that Netflix is now an integral part of the mating process between humans.
While a well-placed song in a film has been able to skyrocket an artist to fame since The Goo Goo Dolls rewrote ‘Piano Man’ for a Meg Ryan film (and probably well before, too), the ease of streaming, and the constant flood of television shows means these sync placements will be a major focus of the major labels, leading to major paydays for major and minor musicians. Major!
CDs Will Make A Comeback
In the year 2000, 943 million compact discs were sold in America, some of which didn’t even feature Eminem rapping about his mum, or Fred Durst rapping about your mum. This was the very peak of compact disc production, sure, but between 1989 and 2012, that number was over 200 million CDs sold a year, with over 600 million a year between 1994 and 2002.
This is in America, alone. All of which is to say, there are billions, and possibly bazillions, of those shiny little discs floating around in the world, and considering they are aggressively non-recyclable, this isn’t going to change anytime soon.
Another thing that was prominent from the mid ’90s through to the late ‘00s is once-shiny, now-shitty cars fitted out with CD players. As the next generation of kids save up their Subway wages to buy beaten up bombs, these cars will have CD players, and no hope of connecting to anything that contains the internet.
These kids will be able to buy the history of recorded music at 20c a pop, which will lead to the huge resurgence of Stain’d, Korn, Limp Bizkit and Creed (the kitsch Christianity of Creed won’t be off-putting to the kids of the future). And so the ‘20s will end the same way the ‘90s did — hordes of kids with frosted tips, wallet-chains, cargo shorts, and misplaced anger.
The future is a remarkable place.