Undoubtedly, 2019 was a big year in music, not least because of the revenue being generated and emerging markets plugging into (and paying for) streaming. But for my first column of the year I wanted to look ahead to the trends and challenges facing the industry in 2020 and beyond...
1. Ad tech
Last year at Deviate, as part of our advertising arm, we ran paid spend on some of the biggest tours and festivals in the UK. In doing so, we’re beta testing partners with many platforms. While I can’t get into specifics, I can say with certainty that some big advancements in ad tech are coming across the board. We will also see streaming services expand their current offerings (both TV and music) and some of it will blow your fucking mind.
2. Dynamic ticketing
No sooner have we kicked secondary to the curb than ‘dynamic’ ticketing is here to take its place (it’s been hiding in the wings and on CEOs’ investor updates for some years). As the ticketing world continues its climb into airline-like procedures and add-ons, this, coupled with supply and demand, will play a big part in pricing. But we must be careful not to price out real fans...
3. Songs for the streaming era
We will continue to see shorter tracks pumped out en masse for 2020 to game the system. Many of the Top 100 come in under three minutes, and most of them have choruses and massive hooks within the first 30 seconds in an attempt to save them from the skip button. As content starts to get shorter, I sincerely hope we’ll still see artists putting out a song because it’s good, at whatever length, not just feeding the cookie cutter conveyor belt machine. We also really need to look at the way the charts work, or don’t...
4. Eastern promise
I have penned many articles about the continued rise of the East as a serious player in the music business and Beijing’s government recently declared it wants to become the international music industry capital of the world. Aside from tech advancements and exports, there is every reason to keep an eye on, and indeed trust, this pledge as the next few years progress.
5. Artificial intelligence – in all its forms
Our industry is already full of AI-fuelled tech but we ain’t seen nothing yet. From ad tech, to facial recognition, smart assistants, biometrics, content creation and recommendations, we have only scratched the surface of what’s possible. With so much innovation, the industry will face many challenges along the way, which we as a collective will need to grapple with.
6. Streaming wars
Expect 2020 to be an all-out war of both existing and emerging services with some big players throwing their hat in the ring. They all face similar challenges, a big one is their USP and unique content. Some are making major headway already (Spotify and podcasts) and others seem to be folding into bigger bundled offers on services. But you can be sure the fight for international success is just getting started. Aside from this, it’s imperative that DSPs work with the industry on finding ways to nurture fandom properly by utilising their data.
7. Paying writers and artists
I think 2020 will be a big year for tech advancements in paying artists quicker and more effectively. Those that fail to adapt and utilise tech for this will be left by the wayside. Innovate or die.
8. Buying in app
I’m confident this year we’re going to see increased land grabs to keep people in app and on search (which will generate affiliate revenue for the hosts). Google has recently extended its shopping features, as has Facebook in the USA with various partnerships and tools. We’re going to see a lot more of this and I hope it can be used to good effect for all music industry sectors.
9. The changing face of power
The news of Tencent investing in UMG ringing out over the New Year is one of many incestuous investments and ownership bids we’ve seen the last 12 months. The concept is far from new, but there are concerns around many of these acquisitions and it’s not just labels, publishers and streaming services. Last year, GEMA bought a distribution company. The landscape for the music industry in 2020 is a new frontier for all of us and one that must be navigated carefully and challenged when needed. There are some serious questions around all of this and I am 100% sure we’ll see some of those battled out in the months to come.