What an utterly bonkers year 2018 was on all fronts. But, rather than look back at the political clusterfuck that was last year, in this column I’m going to examine what I think 2019 will hold for the music industry…
1. YOU’VE BEEN AD
We are about to see a wave of tools rolled out to artists from streaming services that go way beyond analytics, although that data will be used to help drive the tools’ capabilities and targeting. I strongly predict these will include the ability to place ads off-platform and they won’t be alone; self-serve distributors are going to do the same (if they know what’s good for them).
2. PAPER’S YESTERDAY
We will see ticketing make big moves into paperless (about time!) and the continued fight against touting will step up a level (if our government can get enough of a backbone to make Viagogo comply with regulations... And if Viagogo actually bother to listen!). In secondary’s place, we’ll see new forms of dynamic pricing roll out. I’m also aware of several facial recognition software trials currently taking place in our industry for everything from security, identification, age verification and more. Will this go wide or will the public see it as a privacy invasion? We’ll find out in 2019.
3. AGE OF THE MACHINES
This is unquestionably the biggest digital shift in our industry and one most people fail to grasp the true scale of. AI and machine learning is everywhere already. It’s in the algorithms behind playlists, it’s the look-a-like audience behind ad placements, it’s the machine driving dynamic pricing capabilities and the decision-maker on which of your social posts are shown in news feeds, and which are thrown under the algorithmic bus unless you throw cash at them. And all that before we look anywhere near AI-generated music, which will continue to grow. Expect UGC sites to offer more scope for music inclusion in content to users, without the licensing fees associated with major artists’ work.
4. COPYRIGHTS & WRONGS
Talking of licensing, you’d be a fool not to be concerned about YouTube’s behaviour last year. Tech giants throwing their weight around to avoid being held accountable for all manner of things is an increasingly worrying trend we see in our industry and beyond. Ignore it at your peril and know when to stand united.
5. ARTISTS TAKE BACK CONTROL
Many of you will have had a taste of this in the last 12 months, but established artists will increasingly step away from traditional label deals in order to control their catalogue and careers. Deals will of course still exist (anyone who says they won’t is living in fantasy land) but labels will have to fight the lure of direct distribution on a better percentage, using your own hired team. A label’s ability to deliver a decent marketing campaign and a strong streaming plot will be key factors in managers and artists’ decisions, as will who owns the data any such campaign generates...
6. CRAZY RICH ASIAN MARKETS
We’re about to see huge waves of revenue coming from previously badly-monetised markets. Tencent has made a lot of noise about looking at paid tiers and is already testing holding some content behind paywalls. If successful, that could potentially increase revenue from China to astronomical levels.
7. THE NAME OF THE GAMES
Some years ago, I was the first person (in my capacity as head of digital at Cooking Vinyl) to license a track to Twitch. We saw a huge uplift in interest in The Prodigy from that young demographic but, beyond the direct placement of music, gaming and live streaming sites present numerous monetisation routes. It’s a world the industry has been slow to look at, but I know several artists who are surviving off income from live streaming sites. We’ll only see this increase if the industry wakes up.
8. THE WINTER OF THIS CONTENT
Streaming services are already heavily investing in making content including podcasts and video. For the likes of Netflix and Amazon this isn’t anything new, and has undoubtedly helped define their services. But we’re about to see music streaming services do the same in a big way. I also predict we’ll see the likes of Facebook moving into long-form video after years of asking for short sharp clips, in order to drive ad revenue.