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digital-music-downloads-collectors-thefutureparty

Music downloads become a collector’s treasure

digital-music-downloads-collectors-thefutureparty

Music downloads become a collector’s treasure

 

Future. Digital-music collectors are amassing libraries of hundreds of thousands of songs instead of relying on streaming platforms, hoping to keep a culture of ownership alive in an era where everybody is just renting in good faith. Many of these collectors are also online music curators — a skill that streaming services may soon pay top dollar for in order to elevate worthy but under-marketed artists above the noise.

Download to power
Millennials may remember the good ol’ days of paying $1.29 for a song on iTunes, burning CDs, or ripping from Limewire (in retrospect, not a good thing) to create the ultimate library.

For some, those days aren’t over because, according to collectors like Pitchfork’s Matthew Ismael Ruiz, downloading music offers four things.

  • Better access. Music on streaming services is decided by the labels and platforms. By owning the music, it can’t just disappear one day if a contract isn’t renewed, which happens.
  • More control. Collectors can rearrange the music however they want and put in the album artwork they prefer. All that it takes is the time they put into it.
  • Richer support. Top streamers like Spotify and Apple Music don’t have high payouts for artists… but a purchased and downloaded song puts way more coin in artists’ pockets.
  • Sharing the love. No matter what, everyone loves getting a personalized mixtape. Collectors pride themselves on being a community that can share music they love on places like Hollerboard or Dropbox to create discoverability.

When the stream dream ends
Whether you think collecting music is a waste of time and money (it takes a lot of both), concerns over leaving music in the hands of digital platforms aren’t without merit.

  • Neil Young recently pulled his music from Spotify in protest against COVID misinformation on The Joe Rogan Experience.
  • Frank Ocean’s famous Nostalgia, ULTRA mixtape still isn’t available to stream anywhere because of rights issues.
  • De La Soul’s battle with their label makes their early music unavailable.
  • Aaliyah’s discography just recently became available to stream after a legal dispute was resolved.

The key thinking here is that, yes, music may be available at your fingertips now… but it could all go away in the future, temporarily or even permanently. Don’t you want to make sure you at least have your favorite albums saved on a hard drive just in case?

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Artists turn to TikTok creators to launch new music

Artists-TikTok-Creators-New-Music-thefutureparty
TikTok new music // Illustration by Kate Walker

Artists turn to TikTok creators to launch new music

 

Future. Forget radio DJs and renowned music journalists, TikTok (and its deep bench of influencers) has emerged as the most important platform for music marketing. Now, labels and artists are working hand-in-hand with creators to best strategize a way to turn singles into bonafide trends. In order to make sure it’s not just the biggest names in pop that benefit from the strategy, record labels may start to pinpoint subcultures on the platform that can push a variety of genres to fans.

Viral strategy
Popular TikTokers may be the most influential music curators today.

  • Recently, artists and labels are recruiting TikTok creators  to host livestream concerts, moderate Q&As, and use pieces of new songs in videos.
  • They’re even bringing in non-creator accounts, such as those that smash things with hydraulic presses or fill glasses with slime (they have a lot of followers), to use songs in videos.
  • Buck to creators: marketing teams are also hosting big, virtual listening sessions with several creators at once, giving them a chance to connect with artists.

How in demand are TikTok creators to push music really? Influencer Ari Elkins, who has 1.8 million followers, told Insider that he receives 30-40 emails a day from artists sharing music they want him to promote.

Groundswell tastemakers
How big are the artists turning to TikTok for help?

  • Miley Cyrus held two listening sessions with 15 creators for her 2020 single “Midnight Sky.”
  • Tiësto held a concert and release party in October that was attended by influencers and livestreamed on TikTok.
  • Demi Lovato and Marshmello held a brainstorming session with influencers to see how best they could use their song “Ok to Not Be Ok” in videos.
  • Daddy Yankee met with creators to debut his music video for “Problema.”

But here at TheFutureParty, we have one pressing question: when is slime getting invited to the listening parties?

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Concert tickets reach new price heights

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Concert tickets // Illustration by Kate Walker

Concert tickets reach new price heights

 

Future. Concert ticket prices are soaring thanks to a variety of factors, but mostly because the music industry wants to capture sky-high sales on reselling platforms like StubHub and Vivid Seats. But as prices soar on those sites, the music industry may find itself in a vicious cycle of upping prices… eventually out-pricing younger fans that are at the heart of hyping culture.

No showstoppers
It’s not just you — concert tickets are going through the roof.

  • Last year, ticket prices increased 14% in North America and 11% worldwide compared to 2019, per Live Nation.
  • Why the price increase? A little to account for inflation, a little to cover upgrades in production quality, and a whole lot to keep pace with the secondary market (more on that in a sec).
  • Ticket sellers are also charging more (and making more) by offering VIP frills (sound checks, Q&As, etc.), and dynamically pricing seats based on demand.
  • Still, those prices aren’t slowing people down. Concert ticket sales were up 45% in the first two months of the year in comparison to the same time in 2019.
    • And merch and food and beverage sales have gone up 10%.

To give an example of the price surges, a Tame Impala ticket will run you $74.10 compared with $52.23 pre-pandemic, while Billie Eilish hits the wallet at $118.89 this year, up from an average of $70.50.

Scalp trap
Back to secondary market shenanigans: Jay Moss, senior vice president, and agent at Wasserman Music, says ticket providers are also aggressively raising prices to be more in line with how much scalpers are selling them for on the secondary market. “If a fan is willing to spend $400 on StubHub and the tour is selling those tickets for $100, there’s a pretty big gap there […] You don’t have to start charging $400, but there’s a lot of room in between those numbers.”

That’s terrifying news for anyone on a budget and who relies on hitting that “enter queue” button on Ticketmaster like they’re in a Wild West duel. It’s already hard enough that ticket prices have increased 55% over the decade prior to the start of the pandemic, even while the average revenue generated per show has more than doubled.

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Snoop Dogg is launching his own streaming service

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Death Row Records // Illustration by Kate Walker

Snoop Dogg is launching his own streaming service

 

Future. Snoop Dogg is creating a streaming platform exclusively for his label, Death Row Records. The hope is that by controlling the economics of streaming revenue, coupled with the exclusivity of NFTs, Snoop and the artists he backs will be able to make a lot more money from far fewer listeners. But, for artists not as popular as Snoop, will the idea that their music be accessible to a very small number of fans in exchange for bigger payouts hurt them in the long run?

Death Row+
According to Billboard, Snoop Dogg is becoming a streaming mogul.

  • After taking control of Death Row Records in February, Snoop has taken all of the label’s music off traditional streaming services (except Tidal).
  • That’s because he plans to launch a standalone “Death Row app” where all the music will exclusively live.
  • When the app will drop is still TBD.

Also, Snoop doubled down on the plan for Death Row to be a metaverse-first company, with it existing as “an NFT label.”

Trade up
Snoop didn’t mince words when he explained why he’s starting his own streaming service in an interview on REVOLT’s Drink Champs: “Those platforms get millions and millions and millions of streams and nobody gets paid other than the record labels. [As an artist] you get 100 million streams and you don’t make a million dollars. So what the f— is that?”

Instead, Snoop said he wants Death Row to “create our own trade where we engaging with our own fans, that’s my own music that’s making money off of the music and then making us money off of the music by being traded and sold.”

And here’s the thing: he already proved that it could work. Snoop’s latest album, BODR (Bacc on Death Row), was released as a collection of limited-edition NFTs and was able to pull in $21 million in sales… despite only amassing 16 million streams and 34,000 downloads (the NFTs cost thousands of dollars each).

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Anatomy of a one-hit wonder

Singer-Success-One-Hit-Wonders-thefutureparty
Illustration by Kate Walker

Anatomy of a one-hit wonder

 

Future. One-hit wonders are a phenomenon that have been around forever. Now, researchers are digging into what separates one-hit wonders from consistent hitmakers. Their findings may spark inspiration for creators (from musicians to painters to writers) who are trying to hone their craft.

Never gonna give you up
Why do some artists become one-hit wonders, never to hit the charts again? Stanford psychologist Justin Berg thinks he may have cracked the code.

  • Berg scraped data from over 3 million songs (released between 1959 and 2010) and parsed through sonic features such as key, tempo, and danceability.
  • He then quantified these features on two scales: novelty (how similar a hit was to the music at the time) and variety (the musical diversity of the artist’s body of work).
  • After analyzing patterns, Berg concluded that musical variety was useful for new artists before they broke out. But if the artist had already found success with a song, those who stuck to their style were more likely to make consistent hits.

Meanwhile, one-hit wonders tended to continue experimenting and switching up their sound.

Never gonna let you down
Berg’s analysis holds many similarities to a model of creativity pioneered by Dashu Wang, an economist from Northwestern University. Wang dubbed his model “explore-exploit,” claiming that artists tend to have “hot streaks,” where they experiment with a bunch of ideas (explore) and then hone in on an area they find that resonates (exploit).

The two researchers’ work suggests a potential formula for creators everywhere. When you first start, aim to innovate and be as original as possible. Then, once you’ve found a niche that you can exploit, double down on it and just create, create, create.

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Nostalgia festivals rule the post-COVID era

music-festivals-niche-nostalgic-thefutureparty
Music festivals // Illustration by Kate Walker

Nostalgia festivals rule the post-COVID era

 

Future. Music festivals are getting niche, nostalgic, and flexible in an effort to craft an identity distinct from the big long-weekend extravaganzas like Coachella and Bonnaroo. The new era of hyper-narrowly themed festivals could bring out the force that makes any cultural moment break through the noise these days — the stans.

When we were all young
With events finally coming back, music festival organizers are focusing on nostalgia for a simpler, very pre-COVID time… and audiences are all about it.

  • These include When We Were Young (emo/alternative of the Myspace era), Cruel World (80s-focused goth rock), and Smokin Grooves (old-school hip hop).
  • Many of these fests, which fans thought at first were Fyre Fest-level scams, quickly sold out all their dates.
  • And these fests aren’t bootstrapped indie productions — they’re organized by the likes of Goldenvoice and Live Nation.

Stan bands
These festivals are meant to capture a very specific sound or era that can drum up a lot of passion, whether it be just for a single day or weekend. And they don’t even occur annually or in the same location. These fests are meant to be the antithesis of blockbuster events like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza that are focused on getting all the biggest acts that money can buy — a strategy that has left them feeling a bit too similar.

Dave Brooks, the senior director of live music and touring at Billboard, said that these niche events represent a “second stage of the festival experience,” moving past those other behemoths to “find what draws people.” He continues that “While the value isn’t as much in terms of a brand as a Coachella, there’s less risk as well, so they can be more flexible.”

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Snoop Dogg is building the "Snoopverse"-thefutureparty

Snoop Dogg is building the “Snoopverse”

Snoop Dogg is building the "Snoopverse"-thefutureparty
Snoopverse // Courtesy of Death Row Records

Snoop Dogg is building the “Snoopverse”

 

Future. Snoop Dogg is launching a metaverse project called the “Snoopverse,” which will give fans exclusive access to the rapper’s digital home and virtual concerts. With Paris Hilton launching her own metaverse experience inside Roblox, the new celebrity revenue stream may be found in creating worlds of your own, that your fans can experience whenever they please.

Drop It Like It’s Hot

How bullish is Snoop Dogg on the metaverse? He’s making his own full-fledged metaverse experience.

  • Dubbed the “Snoopverse,” token holders will be able to explore Snoop’s mansion in The Sandbox (modeled after his real mansion) and attend virtual concerts.
  • The Early Access Pass to the Snoopverse is already on sale… but it’ll run you around $2,000 at current rates (crypto fluctuates, y’all).

Snoop even dropped an accompanying music video for a song called “House I Built,” showing off what fans can expect inside the rapper’s blocky digs.

Fire up the Web3

Snoop has been all-in on Web3 applications for the past couple of years.

Snoop is also redesigning the newly acquired Death Row Records to put out artists “through the metaverse.” Looks like he’ll have an entourage in both the real and virtual world.

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Bad Bunny is music’s biggest act

most-streamed-spotify-artist-bad-bunny-thefutureparty
Bad Bunny // Illustration by Kate Walker

Bad Bunny is music’s biggest act

 

Future. Bad Bunny’s (real name Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio) current tour is expected to generate $100 million in sales (after his past few albums have pretty much broken every record). His popularity shows that Latin music may currently be the biggest genre in the world and that Bad Bunny — who is expanding into acting, design, and business — may be the biggest artist in the world. So, why is Latin representation in popular media still so dismal?

Tour hopping

After multiplying on the charts, the world is Bad Bunny’s carrot.

  • He released three(!) albums in 2020 — YHLQMDLG (most streamed album on Spotify that year), Las que no iban a salir, and El Último Tour Del Mundo (first all-Spanish album to top the Billboard 200).
  • But the top streaming act on Spotify (for two years running) couldn’t start touring the new music until last April.
  • When the tickets finally went on sale, it became the most in-demand tour in the world, selling out in minutes and leaving hundreds of thousands of fans in ticket-provider waiting rooms — millions of dollars left on the table.
  • The Puerto Rican rapper sold 300,000 tickets alone last month and regularly plays in front of 16,000 people a night (in both arenas and stadiums). 
  • The arena tour alone is projected to generate $100 million in sales when the dust settles.

Bad Bunny’s 2019 tour grossed $36.9 million and was especially popular in Latin America, North America, and Europe.

Latin love

Bad Bunny’s historic rise shows the exploding popularity of Latin music around the world. According to Bloomberg, his shows were the most in-demand in key Latin strongholds such as Mexico, Spain, Chile, and U.S. cities like Miami, L.A., and Dallas. Latin artists have been topping both YouTube and Spotify charts for the past several years. And in 2020, the RIAA reported that Latin music was the fastest-growing genre in the U.S. music market.

Toni Wallace, co-head of global music brand partnerships at UTA, said that “Latin is at the forefront of every conversation right now in the brand space,” …and that is something Bad Bunny has been keen on tapping. After signing with the agency, he created a shoe line with Adidas, signed a partnership with Airbnb, and booked roles in both Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico and Sony’s upcoming Bullet Train… all in roughly two years.All that to say: Is Bad Bunny only going to get bigger?

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Kanye makes Donda 2 a Stem Player exclusive (wait, what’s that?)

Donda 2 // Illustration by Kate Walker

Kanye makes Donda 2 a Stem Player exclusive (wait, what’s that?)

 

Future. The always surprising and controversial Kanye West announced last Friday that his upcoming album, Donda 2 (which comes out today), will only be available on his remix device, the Stem Player. Even if it’s the only place you can find the music now, don’t expect the album to stay only there for very long — 2016’s Life of Pablo was a Tidal exclusive for a mere two months before releasing on every platform. But expect Stem Player sales to skyrocket in the meantime.

Hardware as a service
Kanye sure loves to experiment.

  • The rapper claims that Donda 2 will only be available today (but we know how Kanye is with his release dates) via his Stem Player.
  • What’s a Stem Player, you ask? It’s Kanye’s puck-shaped gadget that is pre-loaded with stems (independent tracks of elements like vocals, bass, and drums) of his music so that people can remix it.

The device (which costs $200) was unveiled last October — it was pre-loaded with the first Donda album and came with three exclusive songs. Kanye is probably hoping that putting Donda 2 exclusively on his very own YePod will send sales way up.

All of the Revenue
In his announcement, Kanye called out Apple, Amazon, Spotify, and YouTube and said, “Today, artists get just 12% of the money the industry makes. It’s time to free music from this oppressive system. It’s time to take control and build our own.”

It’s not the first time that he’s taken the music industry to task over (relatively) paltry payouts, battling with Universal Music Group in 2020. In the wake of that spat, he dropped a song for free on Twitter and announced that he would give artists under his G.O.O.D. Music Label 50% of their masters, and even spelled out a vision statement for the future relationship between artists and labels.

Whether the Stem Player-only release plays out or not, Kanye is on a warpath to change how the industry pays its artists.

las-vegas-live-music-capital-thefutureparty

Las Vegas gambles on live music

las-vegas-live-music-capital-thefutureparty
Las Vegas music // Illustration by Kate Walker

Las Vegas gambles on live music

 

The Future. Las Vegas is becoming the capital of live music. Music festivals are migrating over, top artists are booking months-long residencies, and even the Grammys are now taking place in Vegas. In a digital world where music can travel everywhere without the physical presence of a touring artist, Vegas might provide a stable, safe harbor for artists that still want to put on a big show.

Up in lights
Vegas is booking a different kind of show.

  • Several top acts still in their prime (or just past it) are booking residencies on The Strip, including Lady Gaga, Silk Sonic, Katy Perry, and Adele.
  • It’s also become the home of many big music festivals, including Life is Beautiful, the iHeartRadio Music Festival, and the upcoming Where We Were Young.
    • It’s also the longtime home of EDM acts and the Electric Daisy Carnival.
  • And, for the first time, the Grammys are even heading to Vegas and will be held at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

All signs point to Celine Dion’s extremely successful (and extremely long-running) A New Day residency for bringing a sense of glamour back to the Vegas stay-put concert lifestyle — a far cry from when Justin Timberlake called it “planning your retirement” back in 2018.

Here for a good time
However, Kyndall Cunningham at The Daily Beast says that the uptick in residency stays of reaching-middle-age stars goes beyond just money.

  • It’s a sort of active lifetime-achievement celebration in an industry that’s running out of them (see the declining viewership of awards shows and complicated process of booking the Super Bowl Halftime Show).
  • It helps them stand out in an increasingly digital world (what’s bigger: TikTok or the MGM Grand?).

Maybe Vegas residencies are really just the “old” guard’s way of sticking it to intangible Gen-Z habits.