Musical Trends in 2019
1. Both mainstream and independent artists, as well as brands, are focusing more on giving back to the community via charity, sustainability and education.
That’s something we’ve been seeing for a few years already, however in 2018 companies have decided to go big on sustainability: from Starbucks announcing its straw ban to adidas and Parley for the Oceans designing sportswear made from marine plastic waste. Brands are also partnering with artists to launch community-minded programs, such as the youth music program developed by Levi’s and Skepta.
Talent incubators, such as Red Bull Music Academy or Berlin Community Radio, have been proven to give back organic and genuinely positive exposure to brands. New initiatives are flourishing like NTS Work In Progress, and many independent labels are releasing charity-focused compilations, such as Discwoman’s Physically Sick or Houston label Majía’s Exhibition.
2. Messaging bots and tools are building an industry to help artists with direct-to-fan communication, as more musicians seek interactivity with audiences.
We’ve seen the massive results of direct interaction between artists and fans on social media, which has turned K-Pop into one of South Korea’s biggest cultural exports. Musicians, brands, music festivals and news platforms are making use of messaging apps on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp to directly engage with audiences while creating new marketing scenarios.
As music and communications academic Nancy Baym declares in this interview with Forbes: “One interesting trend to watch is people trying to get away from hypervisibility – whether in open, public community spaces or on heavily-monitored social networks like Facebook and Twitter – and toward messaging and small-group platforms like WhatsApp.”
3. Blockchain technology, AI and VR will keep disrupting the music industry with the development of companies such as Audius, AI Music, Choon, Inmusik and Resonate.
These are some of the most groundbreaking and momentum-building advances that are happening in music right now. Just like blockchain technology companies in 2018, artificial intelligence and virtual reality music-focused businesses are about to explode (if they haven’t already) in 2019. From virtual reality music festivals to AI-composed musical pieces, investors are going strong on technological developments in these areas of the industry. Watch out for Melody VR, Amadeus Code, Music Life and Music Messenger.
4. Regional artists are experiencing success in diverse territories as music styles continue to merge, as seen with Latin music influencing the US mainstream.
We’ve already mentioned the huge success of K-Pop, but this isn’t the only musical export we’ve been witnessing in 2018. Latin music is steadily taking over the charts, while influencing several major mainstream acts, to the extent of Spotify organising its own Viva Latino tour. Nostalgic reissues from Africa and beyond have already made an impact, and eyes are on Nigeria and Asian countries such as India and South Korea to inspire the next big music trends. The increasing accessibility of long-haul travel and music-making software is also inspiring the sorts of musical collaborations that would have previously been impossible.
As this Mixmag article about ‘musicians sans frontières’ demonstrates, it has never been easier for artists to travel to studios overseas and work with artists on other continents, while the ever-increasing speed and sophistication of communications technology means those relationships can continue to spawn and develop even with thousands of miles of separation.
5. Physical formats: vinyl sales continue to grow (19.2% in the USA), as does cassette (90% in the UK), while live music attendance is enjoying a global boom.
While some of the technological developments detailed above may seem alarming to some, this news may comfort them. Vinyl collectors are increasing around the world, with cassette sales and live music attendance enjoying similar spikes. So while VR glasses are a nice alternative to the physical attendance of concerts, at present we’re still enjoying a balance between the old and the new, the nostalgia frenzy and the tech-startups boom.
Having said that, streaming remains the new king of music consumption. Even CD-loving Germany recently saw streaming become the most popular form of listening, leaving Japan as the only major music market where physical formats still dominate – albeit not for long.
Expect the fight for digital supremacy to heat up even further as the likes of Spotify, Apple and Amazon vie to become top dog, and perhaps we’ll see some experimentation on both consumer offerings and licensing models. Deezer experimented with user-centric licensing last year – could that still turn out to be the fairest way of distributing the money earned from premium subscriptions? And could 2019 be the year blockchain technology finally facilitates the much longed-for ‘global repertoire database’ revolution? We shall see…