The world had to face an unexpected surprise – and that was the deadly Covid -19 virus which began to spread all across the globe. Ever since then, it has turned the world upside down, as well as the daily routine of the society. It’s amazing how it has changes the lives of the people – to live in fear, and to be more careful about self-hygiene. An entire world is in turmoil, and as for us Sri Lankans, most of us doesn’t seem to have understood the gravity of the situation yet, despite the increasing number of covid deaths and patients. Instead of accusing and blaming others, it is our responsibility to follow the necessary health guidelines and adhere to travel restrictions etc., and not to be wandering about even when the travel restrictions are imposed!
Apart from the pandemic, the entertainment industry is going through a turbulent time, and has to face a challenge such as this, perhaps the first time in history. Be it Cinema, Art, fashion or music, everything has been put to hold for a considerable time, and one knows how long it will take the industry to make a positive comeback. Music festivals, concerts, and other events have been postponed till further notice, and gone are the days when enthusiastic fans got the opportunity to meet their favorite artistes on backstage after a concert and take a selfie, or attend crazy after parties after a concert and enjoy till the break of dawn. According to the latest trends in music, fans and well-wishers will have a less physical interaction with the musicians, and of course, will be a relief on their wallets. Despite these circumstances, Covid gave us a few things to think about, to think about our health and survive before anything else, also bringing new trends such as zoom meetings, virtual events, and doing most of our daily activities via online, and technology has been given the priority under these circumstances. And creative initiatives have come to the spotlight amidst all this hullabaloo.
The global music scene has gone to the extent of holding virtual concerts, streaming online, via Spotify or Netflix, and even in Sri Lanka, a few creative people in the industry have held virtual concerts and have received a successful response. But still, the virtual /online concert subject in Sri Lanka is still on a ‘’trial session’’ and might take some time to be established. However, it might seem a bit odd to be seated in front of a computer and watching a live performance for the audiences, and for the musicians to be performing to an audience via zoom. Things have changed and times have changed. Sri Lankan musicians seem to be divided on the aspect of virtual concerts – some like to experiment with it while some are still on a ‘’not sure ‘’ level.
Well, now that’s enough dilly dallying about the pandemic situation, and let’s take a look at what trends the global music industry has gone through since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and due to an online research, even in the international arena, this is how the pandemic will change the industry.
For decades, the majority of the popular music consumed by a world audience originated in North America and the UK. Most decisions were made in these countries. Artists from elsewhere had to base themselves in the US or UK to be globally competitive. This is now rapidly changing thanks to streaming and social media platforms – creating new opportunities for global artists.
Democratization and the rise of the indie artiste
The rapid growth of streaming services has been great news – it’s now possible for any artist, from anywhere, to make their music available to a potential global audience. Home recording is now cheap and easy. It’s no longer strictly necessary to find a label that’s willing to invest in your career and add you to their roster. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of artists are now choosing to work independently.
3. Artists will gravitate towards more artiste-friendly streaming platforms
As the world’s largest subscription music streaming service, Spotify has the audience and the muscle to give artists the opportunity to grow their career and fanbase. Where the service falters, however, is on the payout side of things. Using a simple calculation, 100,000 streams on Spotify will net an artist, on average, $437. The Spotify per-stream rate is a static rate. Compare this to the artist-friendly Audiomack platform where artists in its AMP (Audiomack Monetization Program) earn per-stream payouts from $.0007 – $.001. The revenue pool model of Audiomack ensures that as the platform’s ad and subscription revenue grows with the per-stream payout rate.
As the world of touring changes and the live concert revenue stream likely to be a challenge for many more months to come, artists are gravitating towards more artist-friendly platforms that provide a stronger link to the fan as well. Take for example Band camp’s initiative: One day a month, platform waives its revenue share on music and merch sales raising over $4 million for artists on the platform. Due to it not being a subscription-based platform, Bandcamp has the flexibility to reward artists in a way that Spotify and other streaming services don’t.
During the pandemic, the livestream business has boomed, rapidly becoming more sophisticated. Originally conceived as an alternative to a live concert experience, the race is now on to develop platforms that deliver a sensory, multi-dimensional experience. It now appears likely that livestreaming technologies will continue to surge post-pandemic, in the same way that sports TV exists alongside live sport.
The rise of data
One the bright frontiers of the global music industry is data. The industry already runs on metadata – ISRC is the unique identifier embedded in each recorded work – but audience data is a different matter. A decade ago, the music industry barely had any understanding of their audience. Today, we have the ability to understand audience behavior in granular detail – allowing us to make better creative and commercial decisions.
There will be a need to bring tangible value back to music
In the early days of the global pandemic, data showed that music streaming was down. And while the argument can be made that this was a product of people confronting a once-in-a-lifetime situation that no one had lived through before, there was something else at play as well. In the world of streaming — and an almost evaporated physical music product world (vinyl aside) — music is more important to our daily routine now than it is an integral part of the functioning of our lives. But the emotional hold music once had on its listener has waned as music became a thing you heard rather than held.
Those early declines that show the emotional and physical attachment to music has changed. The music industry needs to figure out new, innovative ways for people to feel and touch music again. Is it vinyl that will ultimately carry the flag forward? Or a new format that will better speak to today’s TikTok audience? Or something nostalgia related like CDs that make a ferocious comeback? The full story is yet to be told but the pandemic has been a hard lesson for the music business that without a true anchored attachment to people’s lives, a business may fall by the wayside.
* A new relationship between artist and fan: Patreon, NFTs and more
The most sacred relationship in music is the one between an artist and their audience. Unfortunately for artists and fans, there are a lot of other intermediaries trying to get a piece of the action – whether they’re record labels, publishers, concert promoters or broadcasters, streaming services or managers. We’re now seeing the emergence of new platforms that can facilitate a more intimate relationship between creator and fan. Right now there’s a lot of talk about Patreon and NFTs – but what’s next?
Attention will be challenging once things “Open Up”
The music business needs to figure out now how they will compete and win customer attention post-pandemic. One thing remains true and that is great music always breaks through, especially from established artists. More than ever the music industry will need to hang its hats on its stars to ensure at least a portion of the entertainment spotlight.
It’s also very likely that the major labels and industry as a whole will need to strengthen strategic partnerships with sports leagues and entertainment to ensure that an overwhelmed public will keep music top of mind in forthcoming times of overwhelming choice.
There will be new live concert experiences
Even when a coronavirus vaccine is available, it’s very likely that live concert experiences will have changed forever. Denmark recently brought concerts back although with a different twist as music fans drove-in to assigned parking spaces for a drive-in concert from an artist by the name of Mads Langer. And while the idea seems out there, even gimmicky today, the merits of a drive-in concert for both the artist and concert-goers are real. Many people don’t enjoy the experience of being shoulder to shoulder with others watching a concert, and we’ve seen countless examples in the past where cramming thousands of people into a confined space can have dire consequences. And then there are the food and drinks. Famously overpriced and in some cases, in limited supply, such was the case at the infamous Fyre Festival. The drive-in idea potentially solves those issues but also introduces interesting partnership opportunities with companies like Uber.
So this is what the global music industry is all about these days, and some of these trends also affiliates to the Sri Lankan music industry as well. Perhaps there has never been a better time for those involved in the music scene to come up with new ideas & inventions, and introduce new trends adapting to the new norm. It’s very unlikely that we’ll see live music concerts and artist – fan interactions for some time, but the concept is to make use of this time and try to being in new innovations, and change the entertainment scene for the better.