Throughout 2022, Deviate Digital founder and Music Week columnist Sammy Andrews guided us through the ever-changing digital landscape. Here, she reflects on the 10 trends that defined life in the digital realm lasr year…
1) DIGITAL BURNOUT
It’s no surprise that people’s mental health suffered during the pandemic, but for many artists and industry executives the added pressure to move their entire life online was just too much. We’ve seen many social accounts close and tours cancelled this year off the back of mental health issues. Yet many industry sectors have also stepped up and offered support and recognition for these issues. Massive shout-out, then, to Help Musicians who got thousands of artists and songwriters through these unprecedented times with various means of support. And we should also acknowledge platforms including TikTok and Meta who focused time, money and resources this year on teaching how to avoid digital burnout, as well as the record labels and organisations who offered their teams in-house support. Digital burnout is not going to disappear. I hope everyone takes it seriously and provides suitable support going forward.
2) BALANCE FORGIVENESS
In late 2021, we saw Sony waive unrecouped debts for many artists, but it wasn’t until 2022 when it really took hold across all of the major labels. This has had a profound impact on so many artists and songwriters in the digital age and has made many re-engage with a catalogue they had once left for dead. It has also provided many with a new remuneration opportunity to sell rights that may not have existed while they were beholden to old deals. Led by the likes of Hipgnosis, the rise of rights buyouts is rife and with new funds appearing quickly, we will undoubtedly see an incredible amount of talent benefit not only from the original balance forgiveness but also the commercial ramifications that action presents.
3) SHORT FORM CONTENT REIGNS
The age of short form content is fully upon us. 2022 saw TikTok become the most downloaded app in the world and one of the most used social platforms globally behind Instagram and Facebook. With so many of TikTok’s videos being soundtracked by music, this offers both an opportunity and a threat for the business given current licensing deals. Chartmetric tracked the TikTok/Spotify correlation, which jumped from 17% to 40% from 2020 to 2021 and is expected to be even higher once 2022’s closing figures are in. These platforms offer significant opportunities for discovery and promotion, but the remuneration model is not yet optimal. As some of these platforms still benefit from safe harbour, expect the conversation around the UK implementing a form of the EU copyright directive to gain steam from here...
4) INTO THE METAVERSE
You would have to have been lying under a rock to miss the rise of the metaverse in 2022 and it shows no signs of stopping in 2023 with the likes of Mark Zuckerberg betting everything on the potential for all things Meta. At the 2022 MTV VMAs, Eminem and Snoop Dogg delivered a metaverse performance of their track From The D 2 The LBC via a partnership with Yuga Labs, best known for the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Elsewhere, we’ve seen the likes of Coachella go live in the metaverse and too many gigs to name take place in Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft. One thing’s for sure, the potential for musical experiences is now far more interactive and immersive, and increasingly taking place in purely digital spaces. This is undoubtedly a trend we’re going to see well into 2023 and, once again, will require attention in terms of licensing and remuneration.
5) ME, MYSELF & AI
From audio recognition, song recommendation and contract generation to creator assistive tools, AI is making serious waves right now and will undoubtedly continue to do so. The industry is as yet unsure of how to wrestle with AI-generated tracks from a remuneration perspective – and let’s face it, can barely get its collective head around audio recognition. But it is very much starting to understand things like trend recognition to aid, or, indeed, sometimes replace entirely, A&R scouts. The business is starting to fully understand the value of algorithmic recommendations across all platforms, whilst all major platforms and labels are investing heavily in AI.
6) A NEW DIGITAL CODE OF CONDUCT
What a year it’s been for potential legislation. Off the back of the UK government’s streaming inquiry, CMA investigation and the Intellectual Property Office research, we are at the dawn of a new age of agreed conduct across the digital landscape in our business. The IPO set up several industry working groups off the back of their findings and they’re currently hard at work trying to negotiate what will hopefully become a new code of conduct across the music business, especially in relation to a long overdue industry transparency code and metadata code. The trend last year, whilst on the whole being forced by powers way beyond our business, was to find a new way through and has been very much at the top of every stakeholder’s agenda to ensure they can try to protect their own corner. I have no doubts that 2023 will bring more deliberation, but I sincerely hope it will bring less public slanging matches and more fairness for all.
The rise of social media has always resulted in the need for authenticity, but post-pandemic the digital generation will not accept anything less. If 2022 was the year of authenticity realisation, digital platform consumption in 2023 is very much going to be the epitome of a ‘be genuine or be gone’ approach. That goes for artists, brands, celebrities and everyone else in between.
8) PRIVATE EQUITY
Ask many record label industry execs what the biggest threat to their business will be in 2023 and they will say private equity. Private equity funds are looking to increase the yield from their investments for their investors and are being more aggressive in digital deals. Whilst most are in receipt of income managed by others, over time rights will revert to them so they all want a seat at the table for negotiation and representation. What they’re taking right now from the industry in evergreen income that traditionally sits with the labels and publishers, they’re adding back in best in class marketing of catalogue which often provides benefits way beyond their shareholders.
9) EVERGREEN ADVERTISING
In 2022, the music business widely woke up to the need and potential of an ‘always on’ evergreen digital advertising approach. Perhaps it was a direct byproduct of the pandemic, but it’s been great to see so many industry stakeholders understand the need for and ROI of clever advertising campaigns way ahead of and far beyond a specific product release. As a potential global recession bites, you can be sure big brands are about to remove hefty sums from the advertising space and in doing so any ad-funded remuneration. But you can be equally sure ad prices are about to drop as a result, making opportunities to push to paid platforms aplenty for those brave enough to grasp them.
This was the year the music business started to truly not only realise the potential for Web3, NFTs and blockchain, but to take action on it. Whilst there have been various applications that I’ve covered many times in previous columns, 2022 saw the first new format born out of NFTs: the chart-eligible digital pressing from Serenade, launched onto the market by Muse and used by labels from all genres since. As such, 2022 marked a new dawn for formats and fandom. Expect to see this bloom.