Imagine it’s 2025. The global music business has been radically transformed and disintermediated.
Over 100 million new songs have been uploaded to DSPs in this one year. This extraordinary growth, up from the 22 million songs in 2021, largely comes from legions of new developing artists in Africa, India and the Middle East and their exponential acceleration of streaming.
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Other factors in the surge include the boom in music creation, now a ubiquitous hobby made infinitely easier with machine learning based tools. AI generated music is also hitting its artistic stride. It’s almost impossible to distinguish between a HA (human artist) and VA (virtual artist) at this point.
While it’s challenging for career artists to emerge in the midst of this overwhelming competition for ears, there is an ever-expanding DIY financial ecosystem: supported by the blockchain, which has bridged gaps in rights management especially in emerging markets.
Creators can also accelerate their careers in the music metaverse, expanding into game-ified alternate worlds in which they can build audiences, accrue cred, perform and make real income. Yes, live music has returned after the pandemic, but performing in wildly creative ways and virtual spaces is not going away. To the contrary, it’s the future of the concert-going experience. New and name artists, liberated by avatars, can transcend cultural biases and economic limitations and exist only in the metaverse.
Music Production has become a spectator sport as collaboration has increasingly moved online. Beat, loop and sound marketplaces have opened the door to creators, linking newcomers with major producers and allowing hopefuls to peer into their process, get feedback and get discovered. These interactive creator hubs have become the most valuable A&R source for music companies and producer brands continue to dominate the booming creator tools business.
At the same time, controversy around a glut of AI-generated music rages. Artists’ rights organizations fight to stem the tide, and progressive governments have even intervened, but as it exponentially increases in quality, music providers and content companies have to ride the line between its benefits for their business models and the backlash it creates. Artists have responded with more and more creative ways to monetize fan engagement, live and persona rights.
Major music companies have been globally distributing their creative teams for the last few years and have stacked them with multilingual, Gen Z digital citizens. Streaming services tackled the overwhelming content tsunami by adopting a hyper-local strategy. Global charts and legacy superstars have been displaced by micro scenes and regional artists — a new kind of localism amplified in user’s personalized feeds. This has dinged western dominance of pop music and global hits in English are much less ubiquitous.
A&R no longer need to be record makers, but increasingly look like data science-savvy, multilingual world travelers who are studying and immersing themselves in regional cultures. To find the undiscovered, data departments scrape local DSPs for micro-anomalies in engagement, and interns can be found hanging out in digital creator communities or scouting metaverse festivals. Musical collaboration is built on smart alignments between established artist brands from different regions that can cross-pollinate their audiences. The success of these arranged musical marriages, and their hybrid hits, have created an undefinable, all-genre world. Global No. 1s routinely feature Middle Eastern rappers collaborating with UK pop stars backed by Latin producers — all trading verses in their native tongues.
Audience and Discovery
Emerging markets have well-established indie streaming services that blend music creation tools, crowdfunding and distribution into a one-stop, localized shop. An authentic connection to local culture attracts the grassroots audiences DIY artists depend on, so it’s no wonder most global hits break through on these regional services first.
Decentralized platforms also compete heavily for exclusives with the most cutting-edge creators. Creative control and audience ownership drives them and fan engagement is rewarded through their crypto-based social tokens — which become like ‘fanvestments’ funding the artist’s development. Early fans can even see income as citizen A&R when their artists blow up, the rising value of the tokens giving them a stake in the bets they made. One thousand true fans, connecting in community, evangelizing and trading tokens can financially sustain the most forward-thinking artists.
In the 2025 that I imagine, the future of music is being shaped by the most innovative, culturally resonant creators and the fans most passionate about them. Charts are a technicolor expression of identities and languages. Music creation is deeply woven into society, dynamically interacting with technology, fashion and gaming and is accessible to almost everyone.
This ancient artform, so central to our humanity, is exploding with innovation and taking us on a journey of global discovery. A new youth movement of creativity and cultural curiosity has taken hold, an antidote to our hyper-digital snackable content world. Its center of gravity is great music, and the magicians that make it, creating a global community anchored with the spiritual power only music has to belong us to each other and ourselves. What’s happening in your Music 2025?
Maria Egan is an award-winning music executive and cofounder of Reboot, an inclusion advocacy group focused on the music business. A U.K. native, Egan was formerly vice president of A&R at Columbia Records, president/head of creative Pulse Music Group and now serves as the first chief music officer at leading creator tools platform, Splice. Alongside her role leading Splice’s interface with the global music community, the Los Angeles-based Egan is dedicated to the Reboot mission of empowering under-represented creators and leading innovations in artist development using technology.
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