As the current year slowly grinds to a soft and mellow halt, it’s a good time to gaze into the crystal ball to see what possibilities the music business might have in store for us in 2014. Here are nine predictions for the upcoming year (in no particular order) that are anything but safe, but are still based on the events that 2013 bestowed upon us.
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1. The tipping point finally comes for streaming music. Users discover the convenience of streaming as more and more convert to paid subscriptions. New streaming services cause confusion in the marketplace at first, but there are clear winners and losers by the end of the year.
2. Spotify turns a profit. The company fights off advances from new and old competition alike as it expands its global footprint and increases its active users. The service finally becomes barely profitable by year’s end.
3. Musicians earn more, complain less. As the number of streaming users grow, artists and songwriters discover that those hundredths of a cent payments are actually adding up into real money. Plus, with new streaming services coming online, money flows from more sources than before, causing more smiles than frowns.
4. And they concentrate on YouTube. Record labels discovered YouTube as a revenue source in 2013, musicians and songwriters discover it in 2014, as they monetize their channels either manually or via multichannel networks, and post more videos in order to create a new revenue stream.
5. The major labels hire out their services. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis set the precedent of hiring the radio promo services of Warner Music Group for a small piece of the action. In 2014, more indie artists will try the same strategy as major labels decide that a small piece of the pie is better than none.
6. Las Vegas music residencies run their course. Britney Spears brings an end to the trend as she starts out strong, then falters badly, making artists and casinos alike think twice about giving it a try in the future.
7. One indie label starts to look like a new major. An indie label will gather enough market strength to begin the challenge for the title of the fourth major label. The three existing major labels take their eye off the ball with their own artists in order to fight the new threat, leaving open the door for even more competition from other indie labels that grow larger by the month.
8. Musicians online marketing expands to new platforms and away from old. Acts that cater to a sub-age 21 audience switch their efforts away from Facebook and Twitter to lessor known networks like Snapchat, Instagram, Ask.fm, WeChat, and Vine to follow their audiences. The major social networks continue to grow steadily in the first half of the year, but seem like they’ve peaked by the end.
9. The next new trend in music surfaces. While EDM stays strong with its core audience, it’s influence on music begins to decrease as the next trend in music starts to take hold toward the end of the year. As always, the trend begins underground and gestates, but comes to the public forefront more quickly than usual, as artists who’s careers are based on older genres see their popularity begin to wane in favor of the latest flavor.
Yes, some of these predictions are far out, but more than you think actually have a chance of occurring. Crystal balls are always somewhat foggy, and they’re difficult to successfully gaze even with glasses (or Google Glass for that matter). We’ll just have to wait until this time next year to see how these predictions turn out.