The future of music: 10 predictions from industry professionals
© James Hines
From the changing face of clubland to the promise of wearable technology and virtual reality, we speak to music business movers and shakers to see where the scene is headed.
The last couple of decades have delivered a series of seismic shocks to the international music industry – from the advent of file sharing and the dwindling of digital media to the democratisation of music-making technology.
Yet despite this – perhaps because of it – music keeps evolving into exciting new shapes. What lies just around the corner? We asked 10 industry experts where they expect to see things going in the next five to 10 years.
1. Hits will last for longer – or forever
Austin Darbo | Senior Editor, Spotify UK
"For the first time ever you’ve legally got the history of the entire music industry at your fingertips, so especially if you’re a young person, your access to musical history is more powerful than it’s ever been before. If you look at a hit record from three, four or five years ago, you have a eight to 12 week window to smash that record, get it in the charts and it might never be as successful again. Whereas now, the life cycle of a record can live forever, so in the future I think we'll definitely see hits lasting for longer.”
2. The image of a global superstar is changing
Jamz Supernova | DJ, 1XTRA/Founder, Future Bounce
“Back in the day, to make it as an international star you had to have the backing of a huge label, millions in investments and look the part. But nowadays with high-speed internet, universal access to smart phones, the development of streaming and our understanding of social media, new stars are being born everyday – and a majority of them self-made. I predict that as internet speed, streaming, smart phones and social media evolve, even more grassroots artists will have the chance make money off their craft and be successful artists. It will be easier than ever to share your music far and wide, gain a fanbase and tour. That being, said the market will be saturated – will we have another Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Drake or Ed Sheeran who dominate the top spots?"
3. Virtual reality will become the new normal
Arun Chamba | Music Manager, Shazam
“The rise in augmented reality and virtual reality can’t be ignored within the music space. We’ve already seen 360-degree music videos and basic augmented reality marketing campaigns but expect full immersive experiences as technology progresses and the costs of production fall. Attending concerts and festivals without physically being at the venue, interactive billboards, posters or packaging… as clichéd as it sounds, I think the possibilities truly are endless within this tech space.”
4. London nightlife will again be for the many, not for the few
Amy Lamé | London Night Czar
“I want London to be a 24-hour city that meets the needs of everyone – whether partying all night, or working to keep the city ticking around the clock. Protecting venues and opening up night-time transport is a key priority, to ensure people can make the most of everything London has to offer and get home quickly and safely. As a woman who really loves going out at night and who has always worked at night, I understand the challenges and I want London to be the safest city for women, which is why I’ll be publishing the Women’s Night Safety Charter. We are also introducing the Agent of Change principle, to protect venues from new developments and to ensure residents are not disrupted by pubs, clubs and live music in their area. This way residents, developments and venues can co-exist peacefully and we can make sure London is, and will always be, the nightlife capital of the world.”
5. Everyone will become a content creator
Rashid Kasirye | Founder, Link Up TV
“When I started doing videos, we were using Sony Z1 [handi-cams], DV tapes, etc. Now everyone’s using Canons, Lumixes. Getting footage onto a computer, getting things edited – it's getting easier and quicker all the time. This means there are going to be more creators. Videography is getting quicker and easier to learn. I recorded the Drake appearance at that Section Boyz show, and I got that online in two hours – it could have been immediately, if I’d had my laptop there. The kids getting involved are younger and younger. But now you've got people like [Link Up TV cameraman] Kaylum Dennis, who is only 20 but has shot an enormous amount of videos already.”
6. Music will become more global – and more local
Chris Carey | Founder, Media Insight Consulting and FastForward
“More global: The spread of steaming in non-English speaking markets has led to a much more diverse music charts. In June last year, Despacito set a new record for the longest time atop the UK charts by a foreign language single.
"More local: Meanwhile, Dutch artists – who for years felt obliged to perform in English – have returned to performing in Dutch and seeing an incredible resurgence in their hip-hop scene as a result! Looking ahead, we will see more breakout success for a variety of languages, in the UK and globally, as well as seeing stronger local language scenes develop.”
7. Wearable tech will transform music-making and music performance
Remi Harris | Co-Founder, Buzz Jam
"We’re predicting a deeper collaboration between music and tech creators that will enable audiences to enjoy music in new and groundbreaking ways. Our Buzz Jam events at Red Bull Studios London explored how coders and musicians can work together to create bespoke new ways of performing using tech/engineering interfaces such as wearable tech – for example a playable tattoo, or a shirt with samples built in. We predict that artists and coders will experiment with ways of making products and experiences that move music beyond the commodity that it has become in the age of streaming."
8. The live experience is going to get madder – much madder
Victor De La Serna | Booking director, elrow
"I believe the future of live music lies in the experience. I believe the customer expects a bit more for their money than just being in a dark room watching a DJ play. I believe the interaction with the crowd, the way you welcome your customers, how they spend the night, the decoration, lights… the experience should be key to make a memorable night. For example, last year we produced an event called Skyfest just outside of Barcelona, the event featured a fleet of hot-air balloons hovering above an urban decay-themed site, with DJs performing from inside the hot-air balloons. This doesn’t take anything way from the music – that’s why we are all here – but we need to find ways to complement it."
9. Artificial intelligence will play a role in pop songwriting
François Pachet | Director, Spotify Creator Technology Research Lab
I have been working with the artist SKYGGE on a new record, Hello World, which employs artificial intelligence programmes built by the research team Flow-Machines at SONY CSL in Paris. This technology is new, and specifically designed to build interactive tools for composition. We feed the AI with scores and audio stems, and it uses them to produce music. Most of it is good, but we keep an eye out for the remarkable productions, the compelling ones. Perhaps my favourite of the songs is Sensitive, which is the most beautiful, melody-wise – it borrows from the melodies and harmonies of ‘70s bossa nova, yet sounds very original. I think more songwriters will be working with artificial intelligence techniques in years to come.
10. Radio will be about way more than just radio
Tom Lea | Head of Media and Marketing, Radar Radio
"I'm a strong believer that quality radio will always be important, but being a radio station in 2018 feels about much more than just radio. Radio stations have essentially turned into multi-format creative agencies – at Radar, for instance, the events we throw, the community work we do and the video series we're developing feel just as important as the shows we broadcast, and often reach 500 times the people. Radio isn’t dying any time soon – in fact, underground radio in the UK feels healthier and more competitive than it has been in a long time, and Radar's right at the heart of that. But it's evolved in a lot of different directions, and I don't see that stopping."
Want a hit of new music every Friday? Follow our 4pm Finish Spotify playlist
Listen to Red Bull Radio for in-depth interviews, exclusive mixes, live broadcasts and more