Thoughts On What’s Next for Music

In Beats + Bytes by Nue Agency

At Drexel last week, I guest lectured on the topic of Web3 and music. At the end of the session, the professor, Monika Julien, asked me what I thought was “next for music.”

It got me thinking. What is next for this industry? The game is changing as rapidly as the world. We’re dealing with global chaos; information overload; misinformation; post-Covid health and supply chain issues; huge shifts in consumer habits; inflation run amok; market and economic reconfiguration; “crypto winter”; political uncertainty; civil unrest and the fear of a nuclear attack (not in our backyard, but still). Somehow, through it all, we’re at the dawn of a digital revolution and a new era of technical innovation. So I gathered a few of the ideas noodling around my head.

Please note, this is not a trend report. For our AdWeek readers, we did a Q1 and Q2 recap and we’re thinking about doing something more formal to round out the year. But here goes…

I’m having conversations on a regular basis with founders, project leads, artists, philosophers, tech wizards, and CEOs who have different perspectives on where things need to go. One thing is clear: Music is leading the charge for Web3, just as it did for Web 1 (Napster) and Web 2 (social media). The stars that break in this new space will see exponential growth and real success, and projects that incorporate the best of what Web3 music has to offer – fractional IP ownership, digital collectibles, elevated fan club experiences, community discourse, VIP access IRL and online – will have the best chance of making an impact.

For a lot of companies, it’s all about growth-hacking through star-making right now. Most of the people buzzing about the intersection of music and Web3 are A&R’s and managers at heart. Will they find and develop stars for their platforms? That’s their big bet. The companies and projects that incorporate community, artist discovery, and brilliant marketing will do well in this era.

The intersection of content and commerce is only going to grow. What Amazon is doing – buying the streaming rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football and adding a concert series at the end – is fascinating. They’re announcing guest hosts like Lebron and Maverick Carter with The Shop hosting an additional stream during the game on November 17th. Combining these new formats with Amazon Prime is genius in terms of click-to-buy opportunities. This is where fashion shows and concerts are going, too. Livestream shopping isn’t trending in the U.S. like it is in China, but it’s clear to me that the future of shopping is entertainment.

Speaking of the NFL, they’re creating a “Marvel universe model” around their heroes, villains, content creation, merch, and licensing. It’s fascinating how deep the NFL rabbit hole can go. I think music has that same potential. The stars, their personalities, their products, their passions…these will be the “labels” and great music companies of the future. They’ll be able to create ecosystems and synergies to cross-promote and profit from flywheel content.

Another sports touchpoint is the college athlete. Now that college and high school athletes are allowed to monetize their brands, the opportunities for music and brand partnerships are unlimited. Influencer marketing and music partnerships have a new crop of talent with which to go wild.

In this golden era of streaming, where there’s so much content being made, interactivity will be a difference-maker. Choose-your-own adventure for TV and music is feasible. Personalization of mainstream content will thrive. Imagine a song or content series speaking directly to you thanks to AI.

AI, for its part, is quickly becoming the shiniest concept in music and art this year. It has a ton of potential for good and bad. The AI conversation between Joe Rogan x Steve Jobs is positively freaky. The deep fakes are going to get harder and harder to see through. The barrier to truth and critical thinking is growing, not reducing. But in music, AI seems like an inevitability for scoring, commercials, and songwriting. Like it or not, the data suggests AI can and will compete in the creative arena.

Let’s come back to community. Web3 and DAO ecosystems are important when thinking about the future of personal and corporate brands. Do you remember the last bull market when ICO’s and crypto tokens were all the rave? Then came NFTs and DAOs. The next wave will synthesize all of this in the form of digital tokens. My friends at FWB have it right. Their organization is the most inspiring when it comes to bridging the gap between URL and IRL. Everyone who contributes earns their share (token). As more people buy into a given ecosystem, the share values grow and raise all of the members’ initial investments. I can see this for artists’ social networks and fan clubs next.

The micro contribution to invest is also fascinating. Fans and artists can co-fund projects. The harder you work, the more social currency you earn. That currency is tradable for value in so many undefined ways. This is how we move from the age of social fandom (web 2) to the age of fan ownership (Web3).

This makes the next big component the crypto wallet. Ease of use must increase for mass adoption. Whoever builds the social network where I can showcase and trade my NFTs, POAPs, digital ticket stubs, and merch is going to win big. The wallet as digital identity is the endgame, which is why so much money is moving toward making them frictionless. People want new ways to craft their online personalities and digital swag will be central to this experience.

This opens up a new world for the creator economy. Artists speak the universal language of music and swag. As artists get savvier about their brands, their fan bases, and their products, music will be the ultimate conduit to unlocking success in a wallet–as-identity economy.

While we wait for this Metaverse to materialize (baby steps), we’re seeing a type of “Web 2.5” develop. A lot of new music projects are not fully on blockchain, but they’re dabbling in it. Web 2.5 is a fix for inefficiencies like digital collectibles, ticket stubs, fan artwork, livestreaming, and more. Personally, I’d like to see us all on firmer digital footing before the Web5 conversation starts (as exciting as it sounds).

Now, who’s ready for some musical pie in the literal sky? We’re hearing about cell service on the moon, which obviously means Steve Aoki will be spinning unreleased Dillon Francis in his DJ sets there, right? And what about holograms? They’ll make Facetime feel a bit 8-bit, won’t they? Once we have that, we’ll get 3D ringtones that don’t just ring…they have the band performing the song itself.

Look, I’m just getting started here and we’re having some fun. Artists are being pushed to release more music than ever and I’m not sure our brains know what to do with it all. Besides the prospect (threat?) of Neurolink installations (I’ll wait for gen 2 or 3 on that one), mental health is a serious concern. Many of us need support in that capacity, so I’m glad to see more conferences, organizations, and tools like Hollywood & Mind popping up. Even on this subject, music and entertainment, as always, are leading the way.

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Also published on Medium.