Throughout 2023, Deviate Digital founder and Music Week columnist Sammy Andrews offered up her tips and opinions on the ever-evolving world of technology. Here, she reflects on the 10 digital trends that have defined the music industry in the past year…
1. UTILISING DIGITAL FOR GOOD
If 2022 was a big step back into shows, the live business is truly a game of two halves this year. In 2023, we saw a return to rude health for live events in some parts of the market and now it seems the entire world is deciding to tour in 2024. In the grassroots live music sector, the year was very scary and in some places catastrophic. Slammed by rates, the cost of living and changes in consumer behaviour, we’ve lost so many of our beloved grassroots venues. However, this year saw a swathe of companies and artists incorporate digital donations to Music Venue Trust, including FreeNow, Skiddle, Ticketmaster, Swansea Arena and Enter Shikari, and whilst an overall enforced levy for grassroots may be a while away, 2023 was clearly a huge turn in the tides of what’s possible and what’s needed.
2. THE RISE AND RISE OF AI...
It’s hard to compile a list of 10 pivotal developments in 2023 without prominently featuring artificial intelligence. While it is not a novel technology, AI has truly permeated the mass market this year, captivating the world with its assistive and generative capabilities. I have chronicled the rise of AI extensively in my monthly column throughout the year, and for good reason. The transformative potential of AI now empowers individuals to generate a wide array of content, a trajectory that promises to enhance both quality and accessibility in the days, weeks and months ahead. This year, everyone in the entire industry has been compelled to contemplate their stance on AI.
3. ...AND THE ASSOCIATED ISSUES
The intricate web of challenges surrounding AI warrants its own dedicated discussion. These challenges are multifaceted, and at the time of writing, there exists no consensus on a unified path forward for our nation or humanity as a whole. The complications AI has posed [for everyone] have loomed throughout the year, prompting every sector of the music industry to grapple with its impact, for better or worse. In 2024, we will stand at a turning point that will not only redefine our industry but also reshape the global landscape. The magnitude of what lies ahead and the means by which we navigate, harness and monetise it are topics that will undoubtedly occupy our collective attention. The anticipation for what is to come in the future is palpable, but we must exercise caution and recognise that we have merely scratched the surface with this technology.
4. THE YEAR OF THE ‘EVERYTHING APP’
This year really has seen the consistent attempting of the ‘everything app,’ and the TikTok-ification of any social app you can name. Platforms all moulding into one monotonous copy of each other, trying to be everything to everyone, means there are more formats for artists to keep up with and a bigger burden than ever on teams and artists. Whilst there is definitely innovation in places, platforms have been so quick to be each other that some seem utterly lost in the chaos of their own identity crisis. Next year will be a big year for people breaking that mould and, as controversial as it might sound, I bet on Elon Musk having the best go at it.
5. NEW ROYALTY MODELS
Whether you support their concept and realisation or not, the emergence of new royalty models, with the spotlight on artist-centric payment systems, are a noteworthy mention. Following years of calls for user-centric payments, Universal Music Group spearheaded the artist-centric model throughout 2023, announcing a partnership with Deezer to pilot its implementation. There are a few parts to this structure but one of them is around the push and pull of tracks, an idea I’ve covered here for many years. But 2023 was the year some of the businesses seem to have really got behind a two-tier licensing system. There has been uproar from some parts of the industry and praise from others, as well as other platforms like Spotify appearing to dip their toe in the water. I’m excited to see where a new dawn for streaming goes, but I hope all stakeholders will be at the table to determine that outcome.
In 2024, we will stand at a turning point that will not only redefine our industry but also reshape the global landscape
6. FRAUD PREVENTION
Streaming platforms have waged an aggressive PR campaign in 2023 to combat streaming fraud, a persistent issue that has simultaneously plagued and benefitted segments of our industry for years. Encouragingly, there is a glimmer of hope for genuine change, as Spotify commits to diverting $1 billion in royalty payments to ‘legitimate’ artists and rights-holders over the next five years. This commitment underscores the industry’s collective resolve to address long-standing concerns surrounding the integrity of streaming revenues.
7. MANAGING MENTAL HEALTH
Amidst the proliferation of platforms, formats and workload, 2023 witnessed a commendable drive in some quarters to support the mental wellbeing of workers and artists – a response to the challenges faced in 2022. It is worth noting that while some have embraced this positive change, there remain segments of the industry whose leadership has yet to adapt, continuing to place excessive burdens on their already exhausted teams. To those leaders who recognise themselves in this description, the dawn of 2024 offers an opportunity to restore balance and prioritise the wellbeing of your teams.
8. SOCIAL COMMERCE
This year was truly the year that the post-pandemic digital switch became fully commonplace. Mobile commerce stats are through the roof and only expected to go further. Despite global inflation and the cost of living, e-commerce and, more specifically, social commerce is thriving. I’ve flagged social commerce opportunities here many times over the years, but 2023 was the year many platforms, including TikTok, went big on it. And it’s only the beginning. If your business isn’t yet selling on social media, you should change that immediately – and get ready for an extension on social commerce [in the form of] live shopping in 2024.
9. SHOW ME THE MONEY
Business is booming and the music industry is currently experiencing a remarkable resurgence. Recorded music is achieving unprecedented success on a global scale, with labels adopting a truly global perspective in the digital world. This year witnessed significant investments across South America, Asia and Africa. While the music industry has always operated on a global stage, 2023 epitomises the period in which substantial investments were made to build actual teams, infrastructure, partners and support networks, enabling it to thrive on a global scale.
10. THE CONTINUED RISE OF TIKTOK
I couldn’t round up the year’s trends without mentioning TikTok specifically. Whilst not new, 2023 has been a huge year for the platform and, outside of their user figures, their sheer rate of innovation is a sight to behold. At Deviate this year, we’ve certainly seen even the biggest sceptics flock to the platform and seen some distributors taking a ‘social first’ release strategy, testing tracks on TikTok before they release them to streaming services. Any platform that redefines how music is being made – the sounds, its length – and changes the bones of how it’s released, A&R’d and marketed, definitely deserves its own mention here. With the announcement of TikTok Music, shopping and live gigs, 2024 looks set to be an even bigger year for the ByteDance-owned app.
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