Eight percent. The music industry grew 8.1 percent to $3.4 billion in the first half of 2016 and is on pace to expand for the second straight year. That is fantastic news. That means that after a six-year lull we are on track for a comeback. And America loves a comeback.
Maybe that’s why the streaming music revolution is raising the waters of the music industry and lifting all ships in the process. This year we saw more tickets were selling. More shows were happening. More shows were selling out. More fans being created and more money being made and everyone in the music industry should be happy about that.
The year two thousand and sixteen saw the launch of new streaming services, worldwide record-breaking albums, innovative and divisive album launch strategies and music sponsorship hit an all-time high. And that is not even to begin to discuss the massive upswell of content created by fans in the form of live videos, Snapchats, Musical.ly’s and more.
In 2016 we saw that there are less barriers for entry to fans and creators. Where a meme can go from a video, to the charts, to your mom’s email. This year we saw brands and artists learn to work better together. Those fruitful partnerships caught the ad-world’s eye and caused more endorsement and brand money to pour into the music industry.
Brands are looking for a competitive edge, to cut through noise, and reach their consumers. Music does that, and as streaming takes over more of the mainstream we will see the continued dividends of music partnerships paying off. The music industry is an exciting place to play and a beneficial place to spend money, 2017 looks to be even better.
Here are my ten predictions to watch for in 2017:
Prediction 1: Spotify IPO defines the year in music
Spotify has built a worldclass product that is defining mainstream culture due to its catalogue, data, and leadership team. In 2017 expect Spotify to double down on their strengths (playlists, marketing, insights) and expand into new territories (podcasts, video) to grab even more market share. I think we’ll see an IPO in late spring as investors look to finally profit off of this cultural juggernaut.
Prediction 2: Snapchat IPO also is a huge driver of social innovation
Watching Instagram copy every part of Snapchat just proved that Snapchat is the current king of the social media (and camera and fashion) world. The hype for Snap, Snapchat, and their coveted first toy Spectacles, will probably come together nicely when their IPO hits in 2017. Musicians and artists have already found uses for Snapchat bringing in fans like never before but without a more quantifiable way to measure views, fans, and engagement the ad world will still funnel more money to IG and FB.
Prediction 3: Smaller players will sell to compete with Spotify & Apple
Tidal, SoundCloud and Musical.ly are all likely targets acquisition in 2017 because they’re making an impact and pushing culture forward in the music space. With Tidal we have an artists’ voice, Jay Z, Beyonce, plus Prince’s catalogues. SoundCloud has a product that the underground scene worships. And the luck and timing Musical.ly stumbled upon with Vine’s death and their focus on the post-YouTube generation isn’t something that any company can plan for. All three companies are important to the music ecosystem but in order to thrive, they need a bigger partner to invest in their growth and expansion.
Prediction 4: Merch is new creative canvas for Artists
In 2016 Kanye and Bieber crushed it with their tour merch causing delayed concerts and resellers making a ton of cash. Concert merch is the cool item to wear as fashion cycles through again. In 2017 more artists will try a similar approach partnering with designers to create new and niche merch that sells at shows and at stores as merch, once again, becomes a critical piece of their revenue.
Prediction 5: Click to Buy and Consumer Focused fashion shows grows — big opportunity for music
The fashion business is being disrupted by the digital revolution too and music is the perfect vehicle for bringing the revolution to the people. Amazon has normalized the buy it on the spot idea and smart retailers are going to capitalize on that as everyone becomes a potential consumer not just the traditional buyers in the fashion world. Expect to see more artist partner with fashion events to bring the crowd out to buy on the spot.
Prediction 6: More niche artist music festivals
Niche festival culture is a great experience when done right and we saw a lot of that in 2016. Chance broke every record at U.S. Cellular Field with his Magnificent Coloring Day Festival, Tyler’s Festival, Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival, is landing amazing acts and The Roots Picnic expanded flawlessly into Bryant Park. But the fact that Kanye and Snoop Dogg will allow themselves to be billed under or support much more emerging artists like Chance and Tyler is what allowed these festivals to be such big successes. That’s an attitude and collaboration that puts egos aside and helps artists with a vision put together some of the exciting new festivals of the year.
Prediction 7: AR > VR in music and culture in 2017
VR is an amazing, futuristic story telling device but it’s very expensive and tough to recoup on so the budget brands are putting toward it is different than real growing marketing. Meanwhile AR makes a lot more practical sense and in 2016 two break out AR examples happened with Pokemon Go and Spectacles. I think we see way more augmented reality in 2017 as Apple’s Ear Pods become more readily available and brands like Bragi and Doppler get more mainstream adoption.
Prediction 8: Google Home and Amazon Echo — next content frontier
The numbers aren’t in yet but from my social feeds I see that a lot of people are making their homes smart this holiday season. Amazon Echo and Google Home are transforming the house and with more users there will be a need for content and Google and Amazon have a huge appetite to build out these products with the budgets to match. I believe these products can change storytelling and the way content is listened to which should mean that studios will be racing to be first movers on these platforms.
Prediction 9: Facebook Live breaks even bigger with more upscale production
Facebook is pushing live video and they’ve empowered and funded a bunch of content platforms to get their Facebook Live programming together. With the built in Facebook fan audience, their algorithm that can juice attention from the social graph, and a production budget from Facebook, there is no question this space is going to be a hot one and I expect music to lead the way. I think a little bit of production goes a long way here, but I’m sure we’ll see the opposite end of the spectrum where raw and authentic, mixed with the right occasion is going be engaging too.
Prediction 10: Artists are the new creative directors
Brands are realizing that artists are a special way to help build brand identity and connect with consumers. More brands are understanding that they need a music strategy and they are realizing that partnering with a artist in a meaningful way, requires a very high level of service. In 2016 brands like Adidas, Bacardi, Puma, have huge wins partnering with artists with many brands starting to realize they can get even more buzz when they align with artists beyond just a spokesperson mentality and in a more true creative director angle.
The next twelve months will be a period of growth and focus for the music industry. With Spotify setting the standard for innovation, we can expect more companies to use artists and music culture to make an impact on our culture. That’s why all of the major players in the music industry will be consolidating their power and looking to build out their product value because the streaming world will soon become a winner takes all game. With Apple losing a lot of culture cache as they lose their once ultimate cool.
In 2017 we will see the continued power of music. We’ve already seen that the power of music has helped some huge industries. Kanye helped Adidas crush 2016 and the collaboration of fashion and music has proven successful again and again as the social sharing generations stampedes over themselves to share their latest sneaker collaboration.
That’s the power of music and that’s why we’ll continue to see music lead as a cultural creator wherever it is dropped. Facebook’s Live Video will be the next to benefit from it and soon Apple will again bring us back when the mainstream sees the amazing AR benefits of their ear pods. Showing us again that music and the artist have that connection, that trust, that good will with their audience that they can move the dial. But unfortunately it’s not always as simple as mashing a brand and a band together. Thought and strategy needs to be put into every step of the process. You can tell when this is done right because everyone is talking about it. If you’re not being shared you’re not engaging with people. In 2017 we will see a growth and engagement with music fans in new and unprecedented levels. On scales that no one in the music industry has seen before and when you have a strategy to harness some of that energy then you can do some amazing things.
Also published on Medium.