Live & Touring

9 Music Business Predictions For 2021

To say the past year has been a wild ride for the music industry would be to understate things, and while 2021 will likely be similarly unpredictable, we have a few ideas for how the music business might look in the coming year.

Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix

The last twelve months were an unpredictable rollercoaster that taught us a lot about the music business. 2021 is going to be similarly wild, but we have an idea where it’s headed. Here’s what to expect.

We’ll be the first to admit that 2020 took us by surprise. There were so many twists and turns that nobody saw coming, and most of the predictions we made were wrong. We’re pretty sure it did the same to every other music and business analyst as well, so we don’t take it personally, but it did make us think long and hard before preparing the video you’re about to see.

It’s a wild time to be alive. Between the global pandemic, shuttered music venues, and a release calendar that’s far from reliable, predicting the future is a tricky proposition. Still, we couldn’t let a new year begin without taking a stab at what awaits in the months ahead.

Our music business predictions for 2021 include the return of live music, shifting release schedules, emerging release strategies, new income streams, the continuing importance of TikTok, and more. Join us as Music Biz host James Shotwell peers into his crystal ball and outlines the optimistic possibilities of a unique and exciting year.

Music business predictions found in the video above include:

The return of live music. There is no doubt that fans want to see their favorite artists again, but several things need to happen before its safe for full-scale events to return. As much as we want summer festivals to happen, the data currently available points to fall is the most likely season for concerts to return at scale. Of course, the speed of vaccinations and consumer confidence in their effectiveness will play a large role in determining the future.

TikTok remains the hub of music discovery. Another big lesson from 2020 is that TikTok reigns supreme in the world of music discovery. Both emerging talent and legacy acts can benefit from their music going viral on the popular video-sharing platform. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram have failed to create a similarly beneficial tool for artists, which leads us to believe TikTok’s influence will continue well into the new year.

Guitars are cool again. After years of promoting the idea that guitar-driven music is dead, the music business is singing a different tune. The success of legacy acts such as Fleetwood Mac and OMC on TikTok is partially responsible for this outlook, as is the impressive success of Machine Gun Kelly’s latest album, Tickets To My Downfall. As the SoundCloud rap era continues to fade, guitars seem positioned for a new age of popularity, and we look forward to seeing the way emerging artists embrace the instrument in 2021.

There are a lot of new albums on the horizon. The ban on live music in response to the COVID-19 pandemic scared labels and artists of all sizes, and for good reasons. Most artists depend on touring to make money, and most record companies rely on their cut of an artist’s touring income (and the exposure concerts generate) to cover expenses. Countless releases are sitting on hard drives because the industry believes touring is an essential component to an album cycle’s monetary success. As live music resumes in 2021, we’re anticipating an avalanche of albums, singles, and EPs recorded over the past 18 months to see the light of day. That, coupled with artists working on material right now, sets up a jam-packed release calendar.

Release strategies are changing. The current backlog of new music, coupled with consumers’ increasingly short attention spans, gives the music industry a chance to move away from traditional release strategies. We’re expecting more artists to emphasize singles over records in the new year, with each track receiving a full-force promotional effort. Songs will see teasers released in advance of the full track, followed by the song premiere, song visualizer, lyric video, and the official music video, not to mention additional snippets and behind-the-scenes content. Artists will make each track an ‘event’ that may or may not build up to a proper album. The risk of releasing ten or more tracks at once only for fans to move on in a matter of weeks is too risky. 

Brand partnerships are on the rise. With touring on hold, artists and their teams have gotten creative with revenue streams. 2020 saw a record number of musicians partnering with brands of all sizes for engaging content opportunities, and we feel that trend will continue in the new year. 

More artist collaborations. Hip-hop has long understood the power of artist collaborations, but in 2021, other genres will follow suit. Much like brand partnerships, collaborations can bring together music communities to benefit artists and fans alike. More artists than ever are working on new material from home, and without live music, many have more opportunities to experiment with different sounds and ideas. Seeing more collaborations arise from this moment seems inevitable, leading to exciting new music for audiences.

Jobs are coming back, but there is a twist. One side effect of COVID-19’s impact on music was the loss of countless jobs. While some will return as vaccine distribution rises and concerts resume, others are gone forever. We see an industry hiring spree starting by summer, but considering the number of current professionals looking to replace jobs they lost and the overwhelming amount of aspiring workers, competition for each position will be at an all-time high.

We cover all of this and much more at length in the video above. Enjoy!

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.

Share on: