Fine. I am being overly dramatic. But, if I can accurately predict the future then I belong in the same pantheon as John the Baptist, Nostradamus, and Cassandra.
Here’s my latest attempt at predicting the future of the music business, circa 2011.
- Consumer brands investment in new music talent will overtake record label investment. Just today I was reading in the Wall Street Journal that investment by US consumer brands in music related activities will top $1 billion. This doubled in the past 6 years. By contrast, global investment by record labels in new artists was $5 billion. Remember, for one this is a core activity, for the other, this is a fraction of their marketing spend. With record sales declining and consumer spending finally picking up, you don’t need to be Nostradamus to figure out this one. Companies to watch: Diesel and Red Bull.
- More artist-fan funding collaborations ahead. The RIAA likes to treat consumers like they’re thieves. Don’t touch this, don’t steal that, it belongs to us, not you and not the artist. Smart artists know that the future is all about direct collaborations with fans. Check out Amanda Palmer who funded her Radiohead covers album exclusively with fan donations. Music fans want to help artists. They just don’t want to spend $15 buying music albums any more. Expect creative funding partnerships ahead. Companies to watch: PledgeMusic and Headliner.fm.
- App Stores will become the new record stores. We’ve seen all kinds of mainstream artists release apps in 2010 (Jay Z and Phish are just two) and a host of app developers get more and more business from artists. When the album shrank from a 12 inch (30 cm) LP to a byte-sized file on your computer, with it was lost the experience of touching, feeling, seeing and discovering the artist in that tangible way that only vinyl offered. Apps bring that interactivity back. Companies to watch: MobBase and Mobile Roadie.
- Smartphones are the new… automobiles. Most of us listen to radio when we drive (I don’t know about you but I can’t recall the last time I turned on the radio at home; late-80’s maybe?) With a host of online radio apps available, more and more people will experience radio and new music discovery from the comfort of their own… subway, stroll to work, gym, dog walk. The iPhone has enabled Pandora to finally make the jump from niche to the mainstream and many other companies are coming after it. Company to watch: Rdio. Wild card: Clear Channel.
- The word Indie becomes obsolete. Back in the day, indie meant independent. As in, I have no major label behind me because I’m not main-stream enough. Indie was punk. Or speed metal. Or name any genre that did not fit into the neat radio formats of the day. Indie was The Ramones. Or Wendy O. Williams. I have no idea what indie means anymore. NARAS considers even artists like Paul McCartney to be indie this year. Most artists don’t even want to be on or need a label the way they had/used to. So, an artist is independent of what? The end of labeling is a good thing. 2011 will be the year when we stop talking about indie music and indie artists but about new music and emerging artists. Or, just about MUSIC.