While it’s difficult for anyone to accurately predict the future of the music business, it is important for all of us—musicians and industry professionals—to participate in the ongoing conversation about it. Whether we like change or not, the music industry will constantly grow and evolve, and we must all grow and evolve with it to survive and thrive in this business.
In parts one and two, topics such as copyright law revisions and expanding product lines were discussed. Here are five final predictions from industry insiders about what the music business in 2020 holds for all of us.
1. "Captured" musical performances, not "manufactured"
"In 2020, I believe that music lovers will no longer accept the mediocre quality of the music they listen to. Recorded music of great sonic excellence and dynamic emotional artistic substance will now be an attribute worth discovering and paying for. More artists will rediscover the fundamental joy of performing live, together, in the recording studio, as they would onstage, and the ensuing musical collaboration will result in an explosion of emotion that will weave its way into the core fabric of the listener. In 2020, we will capture the performance, not manufacture it. Real music, played by real musicians, in real time." —Jeffrey Weber, Grammy Award-winning record producer, music industry professional, and author
2. Fair compensation for creators
"As consumer participation on streaming sites (like Pandora and Spotify) continues to grow, a revenue model will eventually develop that compensates creators for their work in ways that will dwarf the micro-pennies being paid today. Keeping creators fed is the only way to keep artists creating, and it is essential that those payments increase for musicians and the music industry to survive. Perhaps by 2020 we’ll see this happen." —Steve Winogradsky, attorney
3. Opportunities for smart entrepreneurs, not for artists
"In 2020, an ever increasing number of digital aggregators, social networks, and streaming services will provide tools and services for artists to bypass the record companies and release music independently—and we’ll see more and more artists releasing music into the already competitive marketplace with hopes of success.
"But this doesn’t mean that success will come any easier for young artists. None of these service companies will provide any of the help that the 'evil' record companies provide. They won’t cover recording costs, hire a talented producer, make a great looking video, hire a radio promoter, book you to appear on TV, offer an advance so you can quit your day gig, or take any of the other countless risks associated with a building a successful music career for an artist. Yet these services will take a percentage of the artists’ sales and/or ask for upfront fees.
"Make no mistake, in 2020, the music business will be ripe with new opportunities, but it will be mostly for the services and smart business entrepreneurs, not so much for artists." —Steve Gordon, attorney at law
4. The industry’s salvation: memorable song melodies
"Melody is the salvation of the recording industry. I am reminded of this every time I hear Paul McCartney (who clearly knew the 'melody secret'), and I see 10-year-old girls giddy with delight singing 'She Loves You,' 'Yesterday,' and 'Hey Jude' right along with their moms and grandmothers. The Beatles’ songs are timeless because of their melodies and their hooks.
"When the music industry collectively decides to get off this 'it has to be edgy' jag and returns to moving millions of people with strong songs comprised of hummable melodies with great lyrics, rhythms, and beats, millions of their dollars will once again flow back into the coffers of the music industry. Technology won’t be the forefront of the discussion; it will once again be the music. Will this happen in 2020? We’ll have to wait and see." —Samm Brown III, film composer, host of KPFK 90.7 FM radio in Los Angeles
5. Unique and innovative products and services will prevail
"In 2020, the musical marketplace will be more saturated than ever with artists from all walks of life taking advantage of new tools and technologies to create. But only those artists who are able to push the lines of creativity will rise to the top and get heard and seen. Whether it’s that new production technique, that new blend of musical styles, or that new live performance presentation, musicians more than ever will have to think like entrepreneurs and how to strategize their careers rather than just throw it in the wind and hope that they’ll be successful. If you think it’s tough to get heard today, it will surely be more difficult in the future for the 'me too'/copycat artist." —Bobby Borg, musician, author, consultant
Bobby Borg is the author of Business Basics for Musicians: The Complete Handbook From Start to Success (published by Hal Leonard) available at bobbyborg.com/store. As a limited-time special offer, you can get the book, CD, and DVD for only $21.99 (a $70 value).