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Expert Insights
August 12, 2020
3 min read

The Music Industry: Past, Present, Future

Daniel Murch

We recently got together with three music industry professionals to learn more about how consumer and business trends affect what we listen.

Randy Nichols: Principle at Force Media Management, working closely with artists & record labels

Shawn Prez: Former VP of Bad Boy Records, founder of the Global Spin Awards

Ian Roberts: Former manager of famous artists and festivals;  former director of communications at Warner Classics and Jazz 

At Arbolus, we view conversations with distinguished experts as the best way of understanding subject matter. The decades of experience these specialists bring to the table are invaluable when building a holistic understanding of complex and rapidly changing industries.

Gone are the days of multi-million dollar music videos and big budget marketing campaigns to promote artists and albums. But why? The answer lies in the advent of music streaming services. The likes of Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music have changed the way in which we consume music and in turn, the manner in which the industry operates. Let’s take a closer look. 

Streaming services have made music more accessible than ever by providing a practically endless supply of music at a monthly price of less than what a CD would have cost in the 90s/00s. As a result, consumers are less influenced by marketing and advertising and prefer to listen to the tracks they discover whilst browsing, says Shawn Prez, former VP of Bad Boy Records.

Historically, multi-million dollar music videos and plastering artists’ names on billboards created excitement and a sense of fandom around artists. However, Prez explains that the once exorbitant marketing and promotion budgets have been cut. This is thanks to the way in which “technology has leveled the playing field. There is a lot more money coming into the game with streaming. We don’t actually have to put the same amount of marketing dollars towards it in the way we once did”. Streaming services put the music in front of listeners.

This change hasn’t necessarily been positive for musicians though. Although streaming services present great opportunities for lesser-known artists to be heard, because of the quick, selective and often dismissive behaviours listeners have adopted, there is now little loyalty towards artists.

Ian Roberts, former director of communications at Warner Classics and Jazz, explains that this increasingly translates into a waning loyalty from the label to the artist too. In short, the “shelf-life” of artists has been reduced and is constantly up for review. 

Whilst all agree that the future of the recording industry will be shaped by streaming services, the streaming market itself is changing. Randy Nichols, Principle at Force Media Management, predicts that Amazon will soon join Spotify and Apple as a dominant player.

He is seeing his clients’ listeners’ preferred streaming service slowly shift in Amazon’s favour. He sees this trend continuing thanks to Alexa encouraging consumers to use Amazon’s voice controlled services. This is important information, as “different platforms speak to different audiences”.

The future of the live music industry is facing altogether different challenges according to our experts Covid-19 has presented obstacles that will require innovative solutions.

Nichols explains that predominantly live performance musicians will shift their focus towards revenue through recording. This said, he is hopeful that virtual live concerts which imitate the experience through VR headsets will soften this blow; Oculus already offer this to customers. This could be a vital lifeline for genres of music that depend more on live performances. 

So what are the takeaways?

As streaming continues to entrench itself in peoples’ daily lives, the music industry will continue to change. Our experts have shown this to be the case.

In many ways it has already streamlined the industry; music is now consumed on the basis of instant gratification, reducing the need for overindulgent music videos and advertising campaigns.

The transition to streaming has also presented lesser-known artists with the opportunity to share their music to a large audience, although their shelf-lives have been shortened. In the future we can expect to see Amazon Music’s popularity increase, whilst in the live performance department, musicians will turn to technology to support themselves. 

These valuable insights from industry insiders like our experts will be vitally important in any effort to keep up-to-date with this rapidly changing environment.

Click here to discuss how Arbolus’ expert platform could help you access those insights.

Daniel Murch

Dan is a Lead Associate at Arbolus, in his role he helps freelance consultants collaborate on projects with some of the world's largest organisations. Dan is account manager for some of the largest management consulting firms in Europe.

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