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6 Important Music Industry Predictions For 2020

The music business may be notoriously unpredictable, but that won’t stop us from staring into the industry crystal ball and making some at least informed, if not guaranteed predictions for 2020.

Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

What does the future hold for the music industry? No one knows for sure, but we have a few ideas of what people can expect in the new year.

The business of music is changing. The industry today looks nothing like it did in generations past, and that’s mostly a good thing. There are more opportunities than ever for exposure, more platforms to share music on, and more people than ever discovering new artists regularly. Music has always been a tool for bringing people together, but it has never done so as efficiently as it does right now.

All that said, the industry is far from perfect. The war over streaming royalties seems never-ending. The lack of diversity in festival lineups and corporate staffing is better than it has been, but still far from any sense of equality. There’s also a growing demand for content creation and fan engagement that often pulls artists away from their creative output.

To say there is room for growth in the music business is an understatement. Growth is needed, in more ways than one, if there is any hope that those starting today can have sustainable careers. We don’t know everything the future holds, but we have some guesses about what we may see happen in 2020.

Increased focus on mental health

In May 2019, Billboard ran an article about a study that found 73% of independent artists struggle with mental health issues. That post continues to circulate on music forums and Facebook Groups to this day as a problem the industry is failing to address. However, we are optimistic that 2020 will be a period for change. After losing several promising young stars to addiction and mental health struggles, the industry seems more self-aware than it has been in years about the crushing stress life in entertainment often entails. People are finally comfortable discussing mental battles, and that openness is the first step to change. How it comes and what it looks like is something we cannot know, but the demand is deafening.

What we know for sure is that many songs and videos will address these issues, as well as many panels at music conferences across the country. It will then be up to companies and individual professionals to find ways to improve the industry environment for everyone. If you have an idea, speak up! We’d love to hear from you.

Everyone has a podcast.

The podcast marketplace is booming. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of shows creating new content regularly. The art form has grown so popular that some worry the consumption of podcasts is harming the music industry.

Comedians are masters of the podcast. Virtually every major stand-up has a podcast or regularly appears on them, and the content they create is causing a surge in ticket sales. Comedians that were struggling to sell tickets for club appearances before their podcasts are now selling out theaters thanks to the audience they’ve harnessed through podcast-related content.

Musicians are starting to follow suit. Several artists have launched shows on topics that interest them, but few bands have created shows explicitly focused on their music and craft. 2020 will likely see that niche begin to populate with musicians looking for new ways to engage and develop their audience. Podcasts feel more personal than social media posts, and they allow for more depth in conversations than any social media platform. Audio, as always, is the key to success.

Niche Festivals on the rise

If you think there are too many festivals, you’re not wrong. Festivals used to be primarily confined to the period between April and September, but these days, music festivals happen all year long in virtually every state. That overcrowding the festival marketplace has led some events to shutter or take years off, to try and find a way to lure in consumers overwhelmed with options for live entertainment.

In 2020, the key to success for many festivals will be finding a niche market that is underserved by the more significant, more internationally recognized events. Too many festivals have tried to duplicate the success of Coachella or Bonnaroo by booking supersized lineups consisting of artists from all areas of music in hopes of casting a wide enough net that consumers cannot resist buying a ticket. The smarter approach is to find what genre is most popular in the area of the event and cater to it. Give rock fans the rock lineups so stacked with talent that buying a ticket is a must. Give hip-hop fans the legends they long to see, as well as the young stars going viral online. Give country music fans the artists that are played on the radio around the clock.

Festivals looking to outmaneuver the competition need to deliver something their competition cannot, and developing a diehard following from one or two areas of music is a great way to build consumer retention.

More music, less social media

Social media demands too much of modern musicians. It is hard to imagine anyone being able to consistently create content for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube on a daily or weekly basis. It’s even crazier to expect that level of effort from musicians who also need to be writing and recording music, as well as touring.

Musicians have spent the last decade fiercely focused on developing online followings that may or may not support their creative output. In 2020, we believe more musicians will place a priority on fans over followers. That means artists will spend less time screaming into the void on social media and more time focusing on their craft. Mailing lists will be significant, as will fan clubs. This year is a time for harnessing the power of community instead of the unreliable chatter of a following. Don’t get sucked into social media and the false sense of ego it can create. Build your audience, give them what they want, and keep going.

Increased Interest in Non-Traditional Media

Have you watched Hot Ones? Hosted by Sean Evans, Hot Ones is a series on YouTube where celebrities are interviewed while eating hot wings. It’s a simple formula that creates great viral moments while also giving viewers unique access to a person they admire. Hot Ones is a hit because there is nothing like it anywhere online, and in 2020 the demand for original promotional content is on the rise.

Traditional music blogs will never die, of course, but we’d be lying if we said they were still the best way to gain exposure as a musician. Good publicists and savvy, independent artists are now looking for unique and engaging ways to reach new fans. That means, podcasts with a specific focus, niche YouTube series, Twitch streams, and more. PR in 2020 is all about thinking outside the box.

Streaming Royalty Debate Rages On

Not so much a prediction as it is inevitable, the conversation around streaming royalties and what is considered fair compensation will rage throughout 2020. The current average of $0.006 per stream is deemed to be laughable by many industry professionals, but no clear solution or change is on the horizon. After all, how much should artists expect to make per stream when fans are paying just $10 a month to listen as much as they want?

Some argue that the best solution is higher prices, but that is an unlikely outcome. Video streaming services, such as Netflix, can demand individual prices because they offer content that is exclusive to their platform. In other words, they have something their competitors cannot provide. Music is a different story. Every music streaming service has the same music, which makes pricing a competition. The lowest price service is often the one that wins, and artists are the ones left feeling the pinch of the savings given to consumers.

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company’s podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

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