NFTs in music

This is perhaps the most dramatic shift in the music industry in recent years, offering artists with unprecedented opportunities for branding and selling their music. If you’re unfamiliar with NFTs (or non-fungible tokens), the idea is that you can create an asset that is uncopyable — its unique ID protects from theft or unauthorized reproduction, and inherently assigns a greater value to the digital item being sold than it would have otherwise. As a result, digital downloads, which were more or less stripped of their value with the advent of file sharing, could be a viable source of income for artists once again. NFTs aren’t limited to music, either; they can be used for a nearly endless variety of digital transactions, and the sky's the limit.

That said, it’s advisable to proceed with caution in regard to NFTs. They’re designed with the ability to be resold, and while this allows you to reward your fans with something of monetary value, that value is linked somewhat to that of the specific cryptocurrency on which the NFT is built. There is no physical value involved, which inherently introduces an element of uncertainty where trading is concerned. NFTs can also be expensive to create, and there are many illegitimate companies that falsely claim to offer this service. The opportunities involved may be enormous, but this is an area that merits extreme care. — if you want to dive in deeper, check out this article from Forbes on NFTs in music.

Venues reopening ... and higher ticket prices

After a nearly 2 year shutdown of all large concerts, venues are reopening to the public — and ticket prices are at an all time high. A large portion of this could certainly be due to the higher demand from eager live event enthusiasts finally able to rejoin the scene, which is excellent news for touring musicians and anyone who makes a significant portion of their income from the stage.

Another consideration in certain countries and locales (though this is inconsistent across the world) is the added expense of having health authorities present, along with costs associated with upholding any necessary health regulations. Since this is somewhat uncharted territory, there’s also the factor of increased risk of cancellations on the part of both the venues and the musicians.

Opening back up is proving to be expensive for all parties involved; if you prefer to keep your musical work at home and stay behind the scenes, it’s still important to keep tabs on where the money is going in the music industry! That’s how you find the right opportunities and pivot when necessary.

The influence of movie streaming on music streaming

One of the featured songs in Season 4 of Netflix’s Stranger Things is Running Up That Hillby Kate Bush. While it was a notable song when it was released in 1985, Kate Bush didn’t remain a dominant public figure in the musical world to date ... that is, until the most reason season was released and brought more attention to the song than it had received in years, culminating in over 226,000,000 plays on Spotify at the time this article was written. While the show likely played a significant role in the recent rise of synthwave’s popularity, it’s almost unheard of for one song to receive so many plays more than 35 years after its release!

The biggest takeaway here is that mediums such as movies and video games now have the power to impact the music industry in a big way, almost immediately. You don’t need to watch or play the most popular new releases, but you should be aware of them — if a movie becomes a hit and its soundtrack can only be described as “retro cowboy scifi” ... it might not hurt to add that flavor to some of your music for a bit and ride the wave (if the style is on-brand for you, of course).

TikTok and the trend toward short-form content

If you’ve been present online at all in the past year, this might be obvious enough to make you roll your eyes ... but the existence of TikTok isn’t the important takeaway. It’s the overall trend toward shorter, punchier content that delivers an idea in less time. The platform Vine did this years ago, though its success was short-lived. A very similar trend has taken place on TikTok, and while whether it sticks this time remains to be seen, the opportunity to take advantage of it is here right now.

A huge portion of the successful content on TikTok right now is humor-focused, including content from music producers. Artists sample funny phrases and household sounds, sample existing TikToks and create full songs around them, document and dramatize their production processes and deliberately make them absurd; there’s no shortage of angles you can take, but what’s important is that you create content that showcases who you are, not what’s working — with so much content freely available, it’s more important than ever to offer a unique reason for people to engage.

Other trends

While there are many other trends currently in the works, covering them all could fill tens, if not hundreds of articles. Here are a few honorable mentions to note:

  • The continued rise of R&B and hip hop in popular music
  • Increased demand for lossless audio streaming
  • More artists reconsidering the importance of loudness and opting for less overcompression
  • Listeners are becoming increasingly less faithful to a single genre, and artists are following suit
  • Artists are finding more opportunities monetize on their own, which may strip more power away from record labels in the near future

Wrapping up

The pandemic brought about a number of rapid changes, largely due to the massive increase in global screen time. While it pays to be informed about the industry as a whole, the number of changes is staggering and offers no shortage of rabbit holes to go down. Rather than attempting to master everything, it’s worth focusing on a few trends that genuinely interest you and seeing how you can use them to grow your career in the music industry.

Spend some time diving into a few trends from the list above or find others you feel have potential — be curious, look for opportunities, and you’ll find there are countless new ways emerging all the time to grow your income, brand and enjoyment as an artist!