As we progress through 2022, we find ourselves smack in the middle in an exciting, dynamic, and ever-evolving creative landscape. After years of traditional music industry dominance, power is now moving back into the hands of the individual creator, with new tools constantly emerging to help musicians (and artists of all disciplines) get the most out of their careers, on their terms.
However, as the famed philosopher Ben Parker once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” To get the most out of the modern digital landscape, not only does it behoove us to use these tools – we must be willing to understand them in the first place. Then (and only then) will we get the most out of these tools, and find ourselves in prime position to locate bigger and better opportunities.
To Find New Listeners, You Must Meet The People Where They Are
Back in January, I referenced this study which uncovered that 75 percent of TikTok’s U.S.-based users have discovered new artists on the platform. A deeper dive also uncovers that 63 percent of those surveyed discovered music they had never before heard while using the platform, while 72 percent associate certain songs with the platform itself. That same survey also contains tons of other interesting nuggets pertaining to the greater marketing landscape; namely, more than half of those surveyed are more likely to remember a brand they’ve uncovered on TikTok – if the brand’s content features a song that resonates with them.
Across the board, social media platforms account for an increasingly large share of new music discoveries among the general population. A YPulse survey from December 2021 revealed that more than half of the 13-39 year-olds surveyed used YouTube (57%) or another social media platform (55%) to discover new music. Those two figures account for the largest audience shares, when it comes to new music discovery. Nearly every other category saw year-over-year decreases from 2019 through 2021, with streaming platforms experiencing a whopping 22 percent decrease, from 58 percent of those surveyed in 2019, to just 36 percent in 2021.
This data suggests a couple of key ideas. First, and most obviously: the ways people discover music are ever-changing. The fast-moving digital space shows no signs of slowing down, in terms of the new and innovative ways that folks will continue engaging with your art in the months and years ahead. There will always be emerging new platforms for music discovery and, along with those, there will always be new tips, tricks, and algorithms to learn.
The Digital Age And Increased Collaboration
Outside of connecting artists to new listeners, modern technology has done much more to change the very landscape of the music industry – right down to the ways artists discover and collaborate with each other.
Chartmetric released an elaborate study in January of 2020 that observed collaborative trends across genres throughout the 2010s. The study shows that, as streaming platforms came to prominence throughout the decade, the number of collaborative tracks (i.e.; tracks featuring two or more artists) released to those platforms increased steadily. And, while the percentage of collaborative tracks released varies from genre to genre, the fact remains that every single genre included in the study experienced an upward trend in collaboration throughout the decade.
As it turns out, using the internet as a means of new music discovery isn’t just for the listener. Artists – who are consumers in their own right – use these tools to derive new inspiration and build new relationships with their peers.
The best news of all? New, collaborative digital platforms for musicians are emerging all the time. If you haven’t yet, consider this your invitation to use Muze to meet your next creative partner!
So, What Does It All Mean?
The above referenced studies point us toward a certain reality: to build a career in the music industry in the 21st Century, it is important that musicians (and creatives at large) remain open and receptive to the ever-changing digital landscape.
Change can be scary, can’t it? It is in our human nature to seek comfort and, when confronted with ideas that will fundamentally change how we approach our careers and lives, it’s easy to resist those notions in favor of what is comfortable.
We all have that friend who laments the current creative landscape as one that draws us away from our art; this well-oiled tech behemoth that steals our souls and stacks the deck against creativity, in favor of pleasing the algorithmic gods. We’ve all seen the complaints about underpayment from streaming platforms. Perhaps, we’ve even griped about these things ourselves.
However, no system is perfect. For all of the systemic bugs that have yet to be properly addressed, the digital landscape has – and will continue to create – more than its share of benefits for musicians and creative entrepreneurs. While new technologies bring new challenges, they also push us forward. They put the potential for growth more into the hands of the individual – whether that’s the artist or the listener – and less in the hands of traditional music industry tastemakers, including record labels and terrestrial radio.
As creators, we can now publish music, videos, and other content whenever we’d like. We have nearly unlimited access to share our work with individuals and organizations all over the world. These people may become new fans, or they may become our next co-writing partners. Not to mention, the tools at our disposal can connect us to brand partners and businesses of all shapes and sizes. When we combine our forces, we have an unprecedented opportunity to develop new revenue streams and create a rising tide to raise all of our boats. In the long run, these valuable opportunities enable us to create our own tastemaker communities, by directly connecting us with one another, without the need for third-party facilitation.
These changes in the landscape may seem intimidating at best, and overwhelming at their most extreme. However, they remain the only constants – and the new standards – in our industry. The sooner you work to understand and embrace them, the sooner you will build the career of your dreams.