As we begin a brand new decade TMV peers into its crystal ball to see what the future holds for the music industry. Last year saw us score a modest 6/10 on our 2009 predictions. Will we do better in 2010?
1. Labels Will Bounce Back
Well, not all labels (has anyone under 21 ever been heard to say “You’ve just got to check out this new band on Universal/Sony/Warner”? Forget the bland corporate motherships, we’re talking about the cool indies and maverick sub-labels. There’s still a lot of juice to be squeezed out of these once iconic music brands, and it’s about time they realised it.
Labels like Matador, Domino and Atlantic need to recover the middle ground between retailer and artist and have strong enough websites to sustain and extend their brand. Digital schmigital – if labels take more care in identifying their core sound and values, and build better communication channels to their passionate audiences then the trust and loyalty will also return. For example, look out for more digital subscriptions à la Third Man Records that offer gig tickets and vinyls along with many online goodies.
There’s no reason why labels can’t reclaim the ground they have lost in the past 4 years to the tech and mobile nerds. Nobody actually gives a damn what the nerds at Apple consider good music, and don’t even get us started with the mobile operators. Why follow what iTunes and Nokia recommend? They’re IT nerds, hollow vessels for PR people and the vacuum for music recommendation is steadily growing in scope.
Yes, this will be the year that we see labels come out of their corners fighting with better websites, improved social networking strategies, intelligent brand and live music partnerships and the willingness to stand for something musically, socially and even politically that people respect. That’s why we loved many of them in the first place.
(let’s also hope that song recommendations lifted from social networks and dropped into in Google and Bing search results, as has been announced, enhances the healing process of digital music recommendation).
2. Facebook Music & Lala Will Blow Up (in a positive way)
While MySpace’s visitors continually are dropping off, this year will see Facebook gaining even stronger ground with music applications. With apps such as My Band allowing artists to easily showcase their profile and music, it could very well usurp MySpace’s rank as the number one go-to social network to listen to music. The partnership with Lala to ‘gift’ music was a great start for making money from Facebook, but this should be taken further in 2010 with a full on partnership to create a streamlined app for streaming music. iLike, currently Facebook’s most popular music app, is clunky and convoluted. There needs to be a better way for users to explore music and Lala should create an app similar to its website and get more users turned onto music streaming…and call it FaLala?
We believe that Facebook could be the brand that will carry music streaming services (and the cloud in which they live) into the mainstream. Facebook brought social networking to the masses so this could be the year that the 25+ crowd will finally get their heads around the concept of music streaming through a partnership with Lala. Other recommendations, perhaps Facebook will finally allow music to play freely on profile pages? It would also be great to see an official Last.fm partnership and a Spotify or Vevo app.
3. Spotify Will Drop Its Prices (and subscriptions will skyrocket)
After an investment/buy out from a massive global parent, Spotify will finally accept that monthly music fees for a music service should not amount to twice the cost of the broadband subscription that delivers it. They will realise that the average person, who at present spends something like £5 per year on music, is simply unwilling to part with £10 ($15 USD) per month. When they do this, their premium up-take will sky-rocket and everyone can be happy with a smaller piece of a massively large pie.
There is also some stiff competition in store when/if Spotify does launch in the states. Pandora radio already has a strong hold with over 40 million subscribers, and for unlimited on-demand streaming MOG has an All-Access service for just $5 a month. On top of that just last week Dada Entertainment and Thumbplay both introduced on-demand streaming services for $10 a month for both mobile and online . Lastly, Rdio is another app soon to be revealed, from Skype and Kazaa. So far the app is unlimited, unrestricted (yes no ads) and free, although a subscription fee will most likely follow at the launch.
4. Mobile Music Will Remain Sluggish
Nokia‘s Comes With Music and Sony Ericsson‘s PlayNow Plus services have yet to prove to be a successful option Comes With Music recently announced 10m downloads in Brazil in 7 months but being a subscription service and not having user numbers, they may be losing out to the industry with royalties. With stronger customer loyalty to smartphone brands rather than mobile networks, handset manufacturers should stop trying to get consumers to care about their brand and instead focus on how to work with Apple and Google and RIM…although good luck with that.
Regardless, apps are where it’s at. Spotify’s iPhone app appears to be doing well in getting them subscribers, Pandora reported 20% of its million tracks a month being bought were from the iPhone app, and with the potential for Lala’s iPhone app to offer 10 cent songs, there can be a lot of money made…for the app providers. One thing to consider is all of these services were online first and most mobile music app programmes are still relying on an online version as well. Symbian-based music services will prove to be a footnote in digital music history. It’s a noble effort to bring everyone in “all the rest of us” (read: non-smartphone people) but the monthly prices and the hidden OTA download costs and data charges are shockingly still not luring people in.
5. Live Nation+Ticketmaster = LiveMonster!
The inevitability of this merger going through (despite recent posturing in Washington ) depresses many in the music industry, but will shock few when it finally happens. Therefore, rather than rubber-stamp the inevitable, we’ve decided to make a prediction on the name of the resulting megalith. The safe money is on Live Nation, of course, but we’re going to go out on a limb and say that because Live Nation’s CEO Michael Rapino is a Canadian, and Cannucks are known to be hilarious (your humble author included), that they will turn the tables and pre-empt the haterz by adopting a portion of the ticketing merchant’s former nickname (that would be ‘Ticketmonster’) and opt to go with LiveMonster.
“LiveMonster presents Monster Truck Madness at LiveMonster Place with their newly signed act Monster Magnet”. Can’t wait.
6. Spotify Will Purchase Songkick
From the interesting and useful music start-up file we’re going to single out UK-based (but globally footprinted) gig engine Songkick as an acquisition target by Spotify (this reminds us: is Last.FM simply destined to be the Friendster of streaming music services, or are they lying in wait, planning something really clever that will amaze us all?). I’ve been recommending/hinting at such a deal for some time now, but this year I feel it in my bones. Just hope I have the buyer right.
7. Coca Cola Will Buy Your Local Music Bar
Recently there’s been a spate of panic-buying going on for venues primarily associated with live music. Mobile phone companies and record store chains are probably just the beginning, but what’s left to buy? With LiveMonster! and AEG owning the biggest and best non-sports multi-purpose entertainment, and the aforementioned phone companies and music industry victims snapping up the rest, what does that leave the big brands? Well, your local music club/pub, that’s what. Not content with the sponsorship of mega-sports stadia, global brands like Coca Cola and Starbucks want to bring the tradition inherent in those venues of over-priced beer, plastic cups, obnoxious security staff and mediocre entertainment value to your local rock bar. Actually, it should be a seamless transition.
We jest of course…but we do wonder what will become of the independent music hall. It might very well be that municipally-owned venues will be the last bastion of non-corporate music left in a few years’ time.
8. Marlboro Will Manage The Killers
Why not? The right brand and the right band name are a match made in heaven. Ok, we’re basing this largely on Bacardi’s recent stint as Groove Armada‘s record label for a year, but make no mistake, the brands are coming. With labels struggling to replace the cash lost to declining track sales and big brands pocket’s simply overflowing with the stuff, what’s next?
Vaseline managing the Strokes?
Doritos Sponsor The Next Hot Chip Tour?
The Twilight Saga and Vampire Weekend joining forces?
Baby Gap doing a “fashion-forward” toddler clothing line with Lady GaGa?
9. ISPs Will Launch Music Services
No new devices driving sales. Darknets. Overpriced digital singles. Is recorded music destined to become a free commodity?
Instead of being the legal bagmen for 3 strikes laws, ISPs (starting in France with Orange) will decide that if they need to chastise their customers for the content their accessing that they might as well be the ones to provide it in the first place (and make some money in the process). There has been some slow growth in the UK with Sky Songs and constant speculation about Virgin Media’s upcoming unlimited MP3 subscription service…but not all are keen on working with the industry.
There has been some recent feather ruffling from Bono, in his newest op-ed article for the New York Times, he accused internet firms of profiting from copyright infringement and refusing to take technical measures against it (bear in mind U2’s manager Paul McGuiness has been starting arguments with ISPs for the past two years). Andrew Heaney from British ISP TalkTalk responded with “Bono obviously does not understand how simple it is to access copyright protected content without being detected. P2P filesharing can be spotted (albeit at great cost) but there are dozens of applications and tools out there which allow people to view content for free and no amount of snooping can detect it”. Albeit should ISPs have the right to sell access to the superhighway and not regulate user behaviour on that broadband superhighway? Business without regulation…mmm and we all know where that leads (just look at the credit crunch fiasco we are all paying for)!
Perhaps, ISPs would not mind if we started to steal the vans they use to connect users broadband (or we just flatly refuse to pay for their service en masse)? Anyone up for some free BT Openreach vans (there on your street corner quite regularly in the UK)? Just because its easy to steal does not mean it is right to turn a blind eye. Ignorance is not a defense in any court. This issue for TMV is about businesses that make money off selling broadband usage taking some societal responsibility for what society and our laws like em or not, deem to be illegal. What is wrong with that?
TalkTalk is also known for being a vocal opponent of the Digital Economy Bill, which will surely be a controversial issue for the industry in 2010.
10. Someone will do something really embarrassing and awkward with Michael Jackson’s Memory
Most likely his own family (hey, throw us a bone here, we need to do better than last year’s 6/10!) The ill-fated memorial concert keeps getting cancelled and rescheduled…but the rest of the Jackson brothers are attempting a reality show in the states so fingers crossed!
Chris and Cassie will now be hermetically sealed until December 31st when the accuracy of their clairvoyance skills will be assessed publicly.
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